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A ‘historic’ influx of state funding will allow South Carolina State University to expand its student center, renovate the tallest building on campus and complete other much-needed projects to the tune of $33 million .
The state has also funded more than $6.6 million in initiatives for SC State 1890 Research & Extension. Among them are new youth cabins at Camp Harry E. Daniels, as well as funding for a limnology research center and the expansion of agribusiness programs.
“This year has been a year of historic funding at South Carolina State University,” said President Alexander Conyers. “This is one of the largest budgets ever as a student investment, and I am grateful to the Orangeburg Legislative Delegation for helping us secure this funding.”
The university’s $52 million budget for 2022-23 represents an increase of nearly $30 million from the previous fiscal year. The overall amount includes approximately $33 million for maintenance, expansion or replacement of campus facilities.
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Conyers’ two top priorities for the use of the funds are a $20 million expansion of the Kirkland W. Green Student Life Center and a $10 million renovation of Sojourner Truth Hall, the towering residence hall on campus.
The student center upgrade actually consists of two projects totaling nearly $25 million.
In the 2021–22 allocation, the university dedicated $4.4 million to completely renovate the existing center. This project, which is already in the design phase, includes a new facade and upgrades/reorganization of interior spaces.
“If we were to tear down this current student center and build a new one, that would be a $40 million to $60 million project,” Conyers said. “So we are good stewards of state funding.
“Our current student center is 68 years old,” he said. “It opened in 1954. We certainly need a new, modern student center to help us attract and retain students, but more importantly, to give students better facilities to hang out, socialize and develop new skills. new friendships.”
The Green Center’s administrative offices will be relocated to nearby Miller Hall, a former residence hall that will also be renovated.
“Miller is a historic building, and we can make good use of it as an office, but I don’t see us going back to Miller for a dorm,” Conyers said.
The $20 million student center expansion will be erected on the southeast side of the Green Center near Miller Hall and the campus rose garden. It will add 30,000 square feet, giving the university 62,000 square feet of modern space specifically for student life activities. It will include a new cafeteria.
During the renovation of the Green Center, the university will need to rearrange certain functions, such as student offices and the recreation room, as crews work in and around the building.
“There will be reshuffles, and we’ll try to minimize them, but in the end it will be worth it,” Conyers said.
Ken Davis, SC State’s associate vice president for facilities management, said renovations to the Green Center are expected to begin in the spring of 2023 with an estimated completion date the following January.
Following the design, tender and approval processes, Davis estimated that work on the new student center wing would begin the same January and could be completed in the summer of 2025.
Sojourner’s Hall of Truth
The $10 million project will see the university retrofit Truth Hall with fire sprinkler systems and make other upgrades. The university has only been able to house students on the lower floors of the tower in recent years because the upper floors are inaccessible to fire trucks.
Conyers said the all-online truth will be essential due to growing college enrollment as SC State needs more residential capacity.
The university recently moved upperclass students to rented accommodation adjacent to campus as nearly 1,000 new students enrolled for the fall semester.
“By renovating Truth, we can add 200 more beds much faster than we can build a new residence,” he said.
Davis estimated that work in Truth would begin in January 2024 and end in the summer of 2025, giving the university the additional hall capacity the following fall semester.
The president noted that the new student center wing represents the first time in decades that the state has fully funded a new building on campus. Other projects forced the university into debt.
The president noted that if the university is to continue to attract and retain more students, it needs top-notch facilities to compete with other institutions. Conyers has identified about $200 million in facilities needs on SC State’s campus, and he hopes the state will meet that need by providing full funding for at least one building each fiscal year.
“We must continue to articulate the need for greater investment in students. I will continue to champion this with our local delegation and board,” Conyers said. “It would truly transform our campus and the lives of our students.”
Washington Dining Room
The cafeteria in the new student center wing will allow the university to eventually renovate the J. Irwin Washington Dining Hall for other purposes when funding becomes available.
“We’ll bring in engineers and architects to tell us what repurposed use might work for our current cafeteria,” Conyers said. “I would like the experts to tell us that if we gut this building, we could turn it into a full-fledged fitness facility. Only athletes currently have access to on-campus fitness equipment.
The president noted that SC State First Lady Agatha Conyers’ focus for the campus is on wellness. So a fitness center would fit into that program.
The state budget includes $4 million for new facilities at Camp Daniels in Elloree, South Carolina: $2 million to build youth cabins and $2 million for a limnology research center. The projects represent a new phase in the revitalization of the camp.
Camp Harry E. Daniels
Since opening in 1949, Camp Daniels was the only 4-H camp in South Carolina for black youth in the state for decades, but closed in 1994.
SC State 1890 Research & Extension rebuilt the camp to restore it for youth and adult outreach programs, as well as research. A 15,000 square foot leadership center opened there last year.
The South Carolina Limnology Research Center will facilitate the study of the biological, chemical, and physical characteristics of lakes and other freshwater bodies. Camp Daniels has a large pond and is next to Lake Marion.
The state also provided 1890 Research and Extension:
• $1.6 million for the expansion of agribusiness programs.
• $585,000 for digital technology in small business development.
• $244,000 for nutrition and mental health awareness related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
• $262,000 for efforts addressing the effects of COVID-19 on the sustainability and capacity of small farms.
Keep tuition flat
The university’s operating budget also received approximately $500,000 more in tuition mitigation funds resulting from enrollment growth over the past academic year. This is in addition to the $1.3 million the university received for this purpose in the 2021-2022 budget.
“Most of our funding methodology is tied to (previous fall semester) enrollment,” Conyers said. “Tuition mitigation, deferred maintenance, and our core budget are all tied to enrollment.”
The president said keeping tuition fees flat is vital for enrollment growth because Pell Grants don’t yet cover tuition fees, resulting in debt for students who take out loans.
“One of my challenges is keeping tuition flat as we try to bridge the gap between tuition and the maximum Pell Grant award, which is a gap of nearly $4,000” , Conyers said.