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Nick Saban’s Alabama legacy: 3 BCS titles, a whole bunch of Jews

Nick SabanTom Van Riper makes the case in Forbes that Nick Saban is worth the mega-millions he is paid to coach football at the University of Alabama. Yes, there are those three BCS championships in the past four years. But more importantly, the on-field success is having an impact on enrollment:

Since 2007, Tuscaloosa has swelled its undergraduate ranks by 33% to over 28,000 students. Faculty count has kept pace: up 400 since 2007 to over 1,700. But it’s more than growth – it’s where the growth is coming from. According to the school, less than a third of the 2007 freshman class of 4,538 students hailed from out of state. By the fall of 2012, more than half (52%) of a freshman class of 6,397 students did. Various data from US News and The New York Times shows that the school’s out-of-state tuition cost – nearly three times higher than the rate for in-state students – rose from $18,000 to $22,950 a year during that period.

During the same period, Bama’s Jewish student population has soared, too, according to Daniel Odrezin, the assistant executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation. Here’s an excerpt from his report in the BJF’s daily email:

This growth has been accompanied by a remarkable new Hillel (Jewish student organization) facility and major renovations to the primarily Jewish fraternity Zeta Beta Tau’s chapter house. Another Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, has established a chapter at UA, and Temple Emanu-El, Tuscaloosa’s only synagogue, has moved to the heart of campus.

Based on the Forbes story, it seems fair to assume that Saban’s success and the prominence of Alabama’s football program have played a role in also attracting more Jewish students to the Tuscaloosa campus.

The dramatic growth in Jewish enrollment, however, also has been the result of a concerted effort by the UA administration, specifically UA System Chancellor Robert Witt and University President Judy Bonner; Jewish students and faculty at Alabama; and Jewish community members in both Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. Together, these parties have worked hard to make Alabama an attractive and well-respected campus for Jewish students.

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