MONTGOMERY, Ala. ― Alabama State University students and supporters rallied in the rain outside the Statehouse on Thursday to make sure a big budget cut is restored to their university.
“Let’s let them know we have no fear and we will fight for our institution,” university President Gwendolyn Boyd told the crowd.
The education budget passed by the state Senate for the upcoming school year would cut ASU by more than $10 million, or one-fourth of the amount it got this year. Other universities would get about the same amount they are receiving this year or slightly more. Boyd told supporters Thursday to go inside the Statehouse and raise their voices for fairness.
Senate budget committee Chairman Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, included the cut in the budget and gave the governor the authority to restore the money. Pittman said Wednesday he wanted to give Boyd and the governor help in bringing changes to the university after critical findings by forensic auditors.
It turned out, the governor didn’t want the financial leverage, and Pittman said he expects the Legislature to reinstate the money.
The Senate-passed budget is scheduled for consideration next week by a House committee, and some House leaders are predicting the money will be restored. Boyd said she appreciate that, but students, faculty and alumni wearing the university’s black and gold colors were visiting legislators to make sure that happens.
ASU students said they are concerned that if the cut is not restored, faculty will be laid off, class sizes will increase and tuition will go up.
“It’s not fair at all,” said Karltonio Jones, a theater major from Detroit.
The chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, Democratic Rep. Napoleon Bracy of Prichard, told Alabama State supporters, “They are not going to treat you any different than they do the University of Alabama or Auburn University.”
While the Legislature works on the budget, the governor is awaiting the final report of a forensic auditing firm he hired to review Alabama State.
Forensic Strategic Solutions released preliminary findings in October that raised concerns about fraud and waste by some university officials. The university disputed the findings and sued the Birmingham-based firm. Bentley, who is an ASU trustee by virtue of his office, said last week he expects a final report by May.