By Mike Cason

Alabama A&M University is eyeing a possible purchase of Birmingham-Southern College’s campus. AAMU school leaders are expected to submit an offer to buy BSC’s campus.

Alabama A&M University is planning to extend an offer to purchase the campus of Birmingham-Southern College and operate it as the Birmingham branch of the university, which is based in Huntsville.

Shannon Reaves, vice president of governmental affairs and external relations at Alabama A&M, said the university is conducting due diligence to prepare to extend an offer.

BSC, a private, liberal arts college with roots reaching back 168 years, announced in March that it would close May 31 after efforts to obtain a loan from the state Legislature failed.

BSC issued a brief statement Monday in response to a request for comment about Alabama A&M’s plans.

“Birmingham-Southern College is having conversations with several interested parties about the sale of the campus,” said Virginia Loftin, BSC vice president for advancement and communications.

Reaves said Alabama A&M began conversations with BSC President Daniel Coleman immediately after BSC announced it was closing. Reaves said that if things fall into place and an offer is accepted by the BSC Board of Trustees and approved by the A&M Board, the campus would become Alabama A&M University at Birmingham.

Reaves said Alabama A&M sent a team of leaders in academics, student affairs, facilities, and finance to the BSC campus a few weeks ago for due diligence.

“In the coming weeks we’re looking to make a formal offer to the board at Birmingham-Southern for consideration,” Reaves said.

Reaves said the goal would be to retain some of the BSC faculty and academic programs along with academic programs that A&M would bring.

Alabama A&M is seeking some state funding to help with the purchase, Reaves said. The Legislature is still working on the state education budget and related spending bills for the upcoming fiscal year.

Reaves said Alabama A&M is growing, with an all-time high enrollment of 6,600 and its largest ever freshman class of more than 2,100.

“Our numbers are up,” Reaves said. “Our concern is trying to house these students. We’re projected to go over 7,000 in the fall. So the demand for our academic offerings and what we’re doing at Alabama A&M, the demand for students is there.”

Reeves said the university has a strong relationship with Birmingham, home of the annual Magic City Classic football game between A&M and Alabama State University. Ten percent of A&M’s students are from Birmingham, he said, and Jefferson County has more A&M alumni than any other county, Reaves said.

An Alabama A&M campus would be important as the first public HBCU in Birmingham, Reaves said. Jefferson County is home to Miles College, a private HBCU located in Fairfield.

Miles College adjusted its application deadlines to accommodate BSC students after BSC announced it was closing. Miles College President Bobbie Knight said in late March the college had no formal plan to pursue that BSC campus but did not rule it out.

If Alabama A&M buys BSC, Reaves said the plan is to maintain ties to the alumni and long history of the college.

“We’re not going to come in and wipe away the legacy of Birmingham-Southern,” Reaves said “It will be well recognized. It is a part of the fabric of that community. So you want alums of Birmingham Southern to still come back annually and have class reunions and the like.”

BSC’s enrollment dropped below 700 this year amid doubts about the college being able to continue to operate. Reaves said he believes Alabama A&M could boost enrollment to 1,000 in a year and 3,500 after five years. He said he believes Alabama A&M could reinvigorate the surrounding neighborhoods as well as the 192-acre campus.

“Our plan is for it to be a full-service, robust opportunity where students can have a great four-year education and benefit from graduate programs that we have in Huntsville as well,” Reaves said.