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The College Experience:
A hundred ways to skin a parent

By Emmett Burnett
On March 26, University of Alabama officials were to discuss Coach Nick Saban’s pay increase. Because, bless his heart, last year he only made $4,683,333.33 - that’s $4 million, 683 thousand, 333 hundred dollars, and 33 cents. 

I have questions:

What is it like to make $4 million plus annually and demand a raise? And If Saban’s 2011 negotiated salary was $4,683,333 and 33 cents, was the 33 cents really necessary?

But these are not my first problems with the “Big A” and big money. I put daughters through college there. Forget the mascot Elephant; Tuscaloosa has a cash cow. Bama fans may bleed crimson but Bama parents bleed greenbacks.

Take textbooks for example. After reviewing receipts of my girl’s college bookstore purchases I shouted, “Two-hundred dollars for ‘The Works of Shakespeare?” She assured me at semester end, the college would buy the book back as used. Wrong.

On receiving word the school’s bookstore would not reimburse us, I telephoned, demanding answers. 

“Sir, we cannot buy it back,” an evil school merchant told me, “Because the Shakespeare book is discontinued. We are now using an updated Shakespeare book.” 

Updated! William Shakespeare died 400 years ago! What’s changed in 6 months? Does Romeo no longer love Juliet? Did someone else stab Ceaser? Is “To be or not to be” still the question? During the call, Tuscaloosa apparently experienced a telephone service disruption because my phone disconnected.

It doesn’t end there. In the shadow of Bryant-Denny Stadium stands a nondescript 13-story dormitory, Tutwiler Hall. Tutwiler houses 980 women who in unison turn on their hair dryers causing power surges in three counties.

But this dorm’s value to the university is not the building but the parking lot. Just feet from the football coliseum, Tutwiler is premium game day real estate.

On a football weekend home game, Tutwiler residents are forced to move their cars to anywhere, anyplace they can find throughout T-Town. From Friday afternoon to Saturday night, the girls cannot park at the dorm they live in.

The Capstone fills Tutwiler’s lot with parking fee football fan vehicles. I was one of the parents, paying for my daughter, to attend the school, which demanded she move her car, for you to park yours, to watch a team, coached by the $4 million dollar man. You’re welcome.

And don’t get me started about meal tickets. Their website says, “In recognition of the value of the living-learning experience, the University of Alabama requires first year students to participate in the ‘Freshman Year Experience Meal Plans.” In other words, freshmen must buy three meals a day from the school, if eaten or not. No college kid eats three meals a day, not as long as Frito-Lay makes Cheetos.

 Bama’s “Eat This and Shut Up” policy is so popular, a Birmingham law firm filed suit on behalf of students to stop it. Eat that Bama.

Some of these policies may have changed since my daughters attended Alabama. And I’m not just picking on UA. All colleges do this stuff. My kids just happened to attend the one in Tuscaloosa, the college I love even as it emptied my pockets.

On a recent campus visit, I walked by the iconic Denny Chimes. As the clock tower tolled the hour, I reminisced about our kids’ days here. Then I swelled with pride, shouting at Denny Chimes – My girls graduated! And I don’t owe this school one blasted dime! Roll Tide!

(Burnett has been a freelance writer in Mobile for more than 20 years. For more information, visit his website.)
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by Emmett Burnett