It would be such a shame.
South Carolina has only one state-funded historically black university. South Carolina State University in Orangeburg has taken pride in its heritage of educating African-American students from across the state and nation and..as its mission statement says..prepares “highly skilled, competent and socially aware graduates to enable them to work and live productively in a dynamic, global society”.
As of late..money problems have put the university’s future maybe not in doubt — but certainly in question.
The school is more than $23 million in debt, has had six presidents since 1986, and has a campus which — for the most part — looks like you’ve stepped back in time a couple of decades (save a few renovations of dining halls and the football stadium). I haven’t visited the school in many years, but I’m sure the changes have been few.
The school’s leaders recently asked the South Carolina General Assembly to erase the school’s deficit. For the record..legislators only granted the school a bump of slightly more than a million dollars in its new budget.
School trustees have also recently passed a plan to kick off a $20 million fund drive. As my wife points out..with a $23 million dollar deficit, what makes you think you CAN raise $20 million?
There was also a plan in the works (and supported by some legislators) to shut down the school for anywhere from one to two academic years to allow it to financially reorganize (although there are signs of legislators backing off of that). Here’s a question: What happens to the current students…the FUTURE students? What happens if the school never re-opens?
Legislators want the current board of trustees out — lock, stock and barrel. That board would be replaced with a new overseeing board to be selected by Gov. Nikki Haley and legislative leaders
To me…the first thing that needs to be done is to stabilize the university’s leadership. And I would agree with one of SCSU’s most influential alumni, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, that someone one with solid financial acumen be hired for the job. Clyburn was quoted in The Herald referring to the Harvard-educated investment banker, Patricia Miller Zollar, that leads North Carolina A&T’s board of trustees:
“Put some people down there who are not political hacks,” Clyburn said. “Put some people down there who understand what this is all about.
Here’s another option to perhaps consider down the road (and I offer this without knowing how financially feasible and how fast it can happen). The University of South Carolina has seven schools in its system – among them USC-Upstate, USC-Beaufort, USC-Salkahatchie and the like. What about an eighth? If South Carolina brings SCSU under its umbrella, it can then use its resources to improve infrastructure, attract faculty and keep a tighter rein on the purse strings.
There is public relations benefit here. Imagine the positive press that will come with South Carolina — long mired in the controversy of flying the confederate flag over its statehouse — becoming the caretaker (and perhaps savior) of a historically black college.
There is also the economic benefit. An article from late last year in the Orangeburg Times and Democrat puts the annual economic impact of SC State on Orangeburg at $187 million. You can read that article here.
Something to think about. Like I said at the top…to let the problems continue would be a shame.