March 4, 1997
The acronym ACHE sounds painful. Parents of college students will soon discover how painful and expensive ACHE can be.
ACHE, the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, was created in 1969 by an act of the state legislature to be a coordinating board for higher education. Last year the legislature granted ACHE new authority, in particular the power to shut down academic programs. Based on its "viablity studies" ACHE has concluded that nearly 50 percent of the academic programs in the state's colleges and universities graduate too few majors. Every one of these programs faces termination within the next three years.
Fob James calls for a commission that would have the power to "consolidate" colleges and universities in Alabama-- that is, shut them down. But James knows that such a commission cannot function in the hot political climate of Alabama. While James clowns around with handguns and basketballs, imitating apes and defending the ten commandments, ACHE is preparing to wage the governor's dirty war. Unless voters in the state stop them, ACHE will systematically weaken many of the Alabama's colleges and universities. When ACHE is done, some of these schools will have no choice but to close. Fob James will win his war. Students who can afford college only if they remain at home will lose.
The twelve members of ACHE have no significant academic qualifications. All but two were appointed by the governor. And like many bureaucratic boards ACHE is happy to use whatever data it can find. ACHE is basing its viability study on figures prepared for the federal government, numbers intended for a competely different purpose. Just how screwy are ACHE's conclusions? Only a single foreign language program in the entire state, a program in Spanish, meets ACHE's viability requirement. If you have a daughter or son hoping to major in French at a state university, you might consider establishing residency in Mississippi.
At a time when a high school education alone will not ensure a decent job, access to college education is a basic right. It is time to protest Fob James' dirty war against higher education.
-- Dan Silver