Permanent Leadership is a Must for SC State, Lawmaker Says

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South Carolina State University’s fiscal situation has apparently become more stable than last year this time, and putting permanent leadership in place may now be the institution’s most critical issue, Orangeburg Democratic Rep. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter said Tuesday.

She and other members of the S.C. House Ways and Means Higher Education Subcommittee met with university leadership on Tuesday and reviewed the institution’s budget requests for 2016-17 and other documents presented by S.C. State.

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Finances are a critical issue, and the subcommittee is very concerned about them, Cobb-Hunter said.

“That’s criteria for SACS, and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the SACS issue resolved,” she said. “The subcommittee … just wanted to make sure that the checks and balances, the internal controls that had not been in place are in place.”

S.C. State is currently on probation with its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, for concerns related to finance.

After discussions about finances, including vendor debt and students who had signed promissory notes to the university, Cobb-Hunter asked the board where it stood in its presidential search and what it had done with $2.5 million appropriated for its use by the Legislature.

S.C. State Board of Trustees Vice Chair James Clark reported the money had been spent to help pay down the university’s debt and that the board planned to discuss hiring a permanent president at its next meeting.

Cobb-Hunter said she is concerned about the board’s delay in beginning a presidential search. This interim board is limited to a three-year window of opportunity.

“I am really concerned that this board does not appear to have a fierce sense of urgency on identifying permanent leadership for the university,” she said.

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“You’ve got to get moving. You’ve got to step up to the game,” Cobb-Hunter said. “You’ve got to identify a process for bringing a permanent leadership to this campus because we’ve got a window right now.”

Cobb-Hunter said she has nothing against the interim president but feels the college needs permanent leadership. She also said she felt the board could work better with employees it had put in place.

The subcommittee made no decisions about the university’s budget requests that included the following:

  • $3.7 million for repairs and upgrades on Truth Hall.
  • $2.2 million toward decentralization of the old boiler system.
  • $2 million for air conditioning and heat control and a new roof for the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium.
  • $1.2 million for repaving roads and sidewalk repair.
  • $1.2 million for repairs and upgrades on Mays II.
  • $400,000 to upgrade Crawford-Zimmerman and $200,000 to demolish Mays I.
  • Forgiveness of a $12 million loan the institution received last year through the Blue Ribbon panel.

Following the meeting, Cobb-Hunter said the subcommittee “is aware of the loan and the fact that the university doesn’t have the resources to repay that loan.”

“I’m sure we’re going to address that,” she said. “I’m sure there are going to be some strings attached.”

S.C. State is also asking for a net increase in recurring appropriations for its general fund and $1.3 million for expansion of its Nuclear, Industrial and Civil Engineering program and the S.C. State/Savannah River Site Field Station.

The funds would include $321,000 in salaries and fringe benefits for three new faculty members, $330,000 for scholarships, $60,000 for advertising and promotion of the programs and $45,000 for operating costs for the university’s academic program.

More than $545,000 would go to pay stipends, salaries and scholarships for the field station.

Additionally, the 1890 program is requesting $837,773 to match federal funds for areas such as agriculture/natural resources, family life, health and nutrition, youth development, community economic development and education and technology for an underserved clientele.