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Summary of recent Alabama newspaper editorials

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Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Feb. 7

The Gadsden Times on universities pursuing out-of-state students:

Schools that bear a state's name traditionally have targeted and attracted homefolk.

That's changing dramatically, and ground zero of the shift is a couple hours' down Interstate 59 in Tuscaloosa, home of the University of Alabama.

The Washington Post recently conducted a study of 100 flagship or other prominent state universities based on federal student residency data, and found those institutions are enrolling a massive number of out-of-state students.

According to the data, in-state freshman enrollment declined at more than 70 percent of the universities studied — and the trend is present from coast to coast — between 2004 and 2014.

"Decline" isn't a strong enough word for what's going on in Tuscaloosa, however. In 2004, 72 percent of incoming freshmen at UA were state residents. Ten years later, that figure had been cut in half, to 36 percent.

UA officials admit they are deliberately recruiting students from outside the state, offering significant academic scholarships to those with strong résumés.

The reason? Well, some of those students have mentioned the university's No. 1 recruiting tool, its national championship football team.

But it's really another case of "the bottom line is the bottom line."

Public universities across the nation are seeing funding cuts as states struggle to balance their budgets.

A study by the Delta Cost Project at American Institutes for Research revealed a 28 percent inflation-adjusted decline in state and local funding per student at public research universities between 2008 and 2013.

According to the College Board, in-state students pay an average of $9,410 in tuition and fees to attend a public university. That figure more than doubles to $23,893 for out-of-state students.

It's pure profit, and universities sick of tightening their belts and watching every nickel and dime are unapologetically chasing it to get what they can't from legislators and taxpayers.

UA in particular has used the windfall to renovate buildings and raise faculty salaries.

The trend has drawn criticism over fears that universities will become so focused on gaining elite status and attracting elite students, they'll forget about the homefolk. UA officials say that won't happen and we take them at their word, but it's hard not to see another tick on the "colleges are pricing out the average Joe" here.

Still, given the financial realities, it's hard to blame universities for pursuing this revenue source, or out-of-state students for hitting the lures that are being cast.

And if they take home a good impression of Alabama, who knows what future benefits or dividends that might produce for the state?

Online:

http://www.gadsdentimes.com/

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Feb. 5

The Opelika-Auburn News on lighting at Interstate 85's Opelika exits:

It's not every day that the Alabama Department of Transportation and an Alabama municipality team up to handle a federal highway improvement, but that's what happened in Opelika this week.

It's a good move in this case, and for Opelika's sake, we hope it goes beyond what's on the board now.

The Opelika City Council approved a resolution at its Tuesday meeting to enter a deal with the Highway Department regarding the lighting at Exits 60, 62 and 66 on Interstate 85 in Opelika.

Under the terms of the agreement, the state will install the equipment and hardware needed to put up new lights at the exits, and the city will provide the electricity and maintain them.

This is not only a much-needed safety measure being taken, but it also provides a more-inviting option for out-of-town travelers trying to find their way to a local destination or simply looking for an exit to find services or refreshment.

Along those lines, all three exits are past due for attention.

Safety is the foremost concern. Adding the lighting will enhance visibility that is needed as more and more traffic fills the lanes of not just I-85, but also on the local roads to where it connects.

But what message do these exits send to visitors about the image of Opelika in the condition that they are now? Unfortunately, not a good one.

Businesses and residents alike in Opelika should consider ways to take the attention a step further.

Imagine how much more inviting Opelika would be, to guests and to perspective employers, if a new beautification effort was put into place at those exits.

The first steps might involve planting decorative trees and shrubs, erecting friendly welcome signs, or some other type of sharing in why Opelika is worth the attention and worth the stop.

The bigger projects would be enhancing the property appearance and thus the property values sitting at those exits, and while that could seem like merely wishful thinking, it can only happen when someone presents and champions a vision or strategy that can start such a movement.

That champion could be an industry, a civic club, local leadership, or come via some other channel, but it's a good time for ideas to be fostered.

Opelika has much to offer, and a thoroughfare of opportunity travels by every day.

Online:

http://www.oanow.com/

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Feb. 3

The Montgomery Advertiser on the results of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama's annual survey of public opinion poll for 2016:

The people of Alabama are savvier than the folks they elect to represent them in the Legislature.

That's the only conclusion to be drawn from the results of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama's annual survey of public opinion poll for 2016.

The people of Alabama see the obvious: Across the board, critical services are underfunded and infrastructure is crumbling. The state should raise taxes and other revenues to begin to fix the damage.

No kidding.

Crafted to reflect Alabama's demographic makeup, the PARCA poll on revenue and spending in state government revealed surprising results:

On education: 69.3 percent of poll respondents said schools are insufficiently funded.

On health care: 63.7 percent said health programs are insufficiently funded.

On public safety: 54.5 percent said law enforcement is underfunded.

On highways: 61.2 percent said roads and bridges are underfunded.

Another shocker: A majority of poll respondents said they'd be willing to pay higher taxes to protect education and health care from more budget cuts. 54 percent said the state needs more revenue.

Out of several options for how that revenue should be raised, poll takers were most amenable to making the state's income tax more progressive, as in raising tax rates for higher income individuals.

They recognize that Alabama's regressive tax system, with its heavy reliance on sales taxes, unfairly burdens the poor and gives the more affluent, including property owners and farming and timber concerns, a sweet deal.

Just about straight on down the line, majorities said state parks and state troopers and other needs are poorly funded. They weren't necessarily willing, however, to shell out more from their own pockets to better support them.

Another eye-opener: 53.5 percent say Alabama should take federal funds to expand Medicaid to cover more of the working poor who are currently uninsured.

Back in the classroom, 71.1 percent said the state should spend more on teacher salaries, technology, music and the arts, pre-K programs, and the list goes on.

Alabamians recognize what their elected leaders refuse to see. From the cradle to the grave, its residents are poorly served by state government.

An upside down taxation system, lowest in the nation overall for per capita state and local taxes, fourth highest in sales tax rates, is a direct cause of the shambles.

Given the predominant ideology on Goat Hill that taxes are anathema, that won't be easy to change.

But it's glaringly obvious change must happen if Alabama is to pull itself out of the bottom of the barrel on education, health measures, infrastructure and just about everything else.

Online:

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/

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