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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Miles raises $19 million for expansion

Miles College, the small, historically black liberal arts school with a place in civil rights history, has quietly raised $19 million for an expansion that would double the size of its Fairfield campus, officials said.

The school plans to add new student housing, a performing-arts center, a health center with an Olympic-sized pool and gymnasium, and a new School of International Studies that would teach Homeland Security courses and Arabic and Farsi.

Miles President George T. French Jr. said Friday that contributions from business and alumni have exceeded expectations, and the school likely will meet its $30 million fundraising goal much sooner than initially anticipated.

"We kind of underestimated our abilities," he said.

The $30 million capital campaign is part of a larger, long-term effort to raise $49 million for campus expansion and scholarships. It already is the most successful fundraising effort in the college's history, he said.

French said corporate support in particular has been impressive. The Alabama Power Foundation has agreed to contribute $1 million, the single largest contribution to date, and EBSCO International Inc. has promised $500,000.

The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, with which Miles is affiliated, has established a goal of raising $1.2 million.

In a prepared statement, Alabama Power Co. Vice President Steve Spencer said the company's foundation chose to back the Miles expansion because it believes Birmingham will benefit from a stronger, historically black college that serves students who otherwise might not pursue education after high school.

"It's a jewel that has been overlooked for far too long," he said.

Lloyd Noland site:

Most of the expansion would be on 41 acres just north of the existing 35-acre campus, said Miles spokesman Ricky Lee. The college bought the property, formerly occupied by Lloyd Noland Hospital, from HealthSouth Corp. last year. The old hospital will be demolished, Lee said.

Miles officials also are considering building a child-care center that would be open to students and the community at large. The expanded campus would straddle the Fairfield public-housing community now on its northern edge.

The college has 1,735 students now, and expects to have 2,000 in the fall, when work on the expansion could begin. Within five years the student population is expected to be 2,500 to 3,000, Lee said.

"We're going to need some place to put these students," he said.

Former Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington, a Miles alumnus and academic dean at the school 1966-70, said the expansion will help the college continue to raise its academic standards, and help recruit both students and faculty.

Of particular significance is the planned International Studies program, he said, because it is expected to have direct ties to the Department of Homeland Security and the Central Intelligence Agency.

"It will become a resource for those agencies, providing students who are potential employees," he said.

The expansion would mark the school's high point since recovering from serious financial problems in the 1980s, when enrollment dipped to just 400 and the school owed the federal government $4 million. In recent years the school, which hosted meetings and launched marches during the civil rights era, has established a much more solid financial footing, building an endowment of more than $12 million.

In addition to its place in civil rights history, Miles has produced numerous political leaders. In addition to Arrington, its alumni include Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid, U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon and current and former members of the Birmingham City Council.

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