Higher education has a rich history in the state of Alabama. The state has over 20 colleges and universities that were founded during the 19th century with the oldest being Spring Hill College and the University of North Alabama which were both founded in 1830. Many other institutions of higher learning have been founded in the state in more recent years.
The largest schools by enrollment are the University of Alabama's main campus in Tuscaloosa, Troy University and Auburn University. Each has over 25,000 students enrolled and the University of Alabama has over 30,000 enrolled at just its main campus. There are two other University of Alabama campuses located in Birmingham and Huntsville which have a combined enrollment of around 25,000 students. So the University of Alabama is by far the largest institution of higher learning in the state with a total enrollment of around 55,000.
Alabama fully funds higher education through an Education Trust Fund (ETF) that is earmarked for K-12 and colleges and universities. The ETF is the largest fund in the state and gets its revenue from a variety of different taxes. The ETF allocates the majority of its funds to K-12 education but a large portion goes to higher education.
Athletics programs have had much success in Alabama over the years. The Crimson Tide football program at the University of Alabama has been exceptionally successful over the years with two national BCS championships in the 2009 and 2011 seasons and 12 NCAA football titles before those.
Famous alumni that attended college in Alabama include authors Winston Groom (Forrest Gump), Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockinbird) and Kathryn Stockett (The Help). Numerous governors of Alabama attended a college in the state. Shaun Alexander, the 2005 NFL MVP and the player on the cover of Madden 2007, played football for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama continues to demonstrate that higher education is a high priority. The recession of 2007 drastically reduced overall tax revenues in the years that followed. The state had to reduce spending due to the smaller size of the Education Trust Fund but several changes were made to shore up the ETF and maintain funding for institutions of higher education in the state.