South Carolina State University is asking lawmakers for its share of the state’s projected $1 billion surplus so the university can, among other things, add a student center and fully rehabilitate Truth Hall.
Acting SC State President Alexander Conyers reported at a Feb. 3 meeting of the university’s board of trustees that he and his team of university officials had already held a budget briefing before the House Ways and Means. Committee.
“The budget submission was very well received. Our total request this year was $53 million, down from last year’s request of $100 million. We got less than 10% of that. So I went this year and asked for what I thought was a realistic request,” Conyers said.
The interim president said the university pushed for an additional $209 million for mostly capital improvements and new buildings.
Of the $53 million request, $20 million would be earmarked for a student center. Another $15 million would be allocated to Truth Hall. Conyers told the December board meeting that only a third of Truth Hall’s beds were in use due to “fire and safety issues” on its top seven floors.
Conyers said he told lawmakers the university had already exercised sound fiscal management by earmarking $5 million in federal funding for the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act for a contingency fund. / emergency. He said a principal payment of $1 million was also made for a $6 million loan the university took out from the state.
“Instead of programming this money, we made the decision to make an additional payment on the principal of the state loan. … After making this announcement in Colombia, the committee said it would now consider making ‘cancel the remainder of the loan ($3.2 million) due to our proactiveness,’ Conyers said.
“I want to thank our finance team, I want to thank the board and everyone for this situation we’re in, to be able to make this kind of commitment. It’s huge for the future, trying to get out of that debt so that if we had to ask the state for bonds for any construction of facilities, we would be in a much better position,” he said.
The acting president said Dr. Louis Whitesides, executive director of the 1890 Research and Extension Program, and his team also made a request for $10 million during the budget briefing.
“This budget requested by Dr. Whitesides and the university is focused on the statewide expansion of our 1890 research and extension, including the study of limnology at Camp Daniels on Lake Marion” , Conyers said.
Other work priorities
The interim president said the university would work to complete a review of academic programs, which has not been done since 2007.
“It will tell us what programs are developing. We need outside help for this because we don’t want any internal bias. We need to look ahead to economic trends and developments for the state and the country” , Conyers said. “At my last faculty and staff meeting, I sent out the latest academic program review to all faculty and staff so that everyone has a common starting point when this starts up again and we let’s start engaging with stakeholders.”
The university last commissioned a master plan in 2002, with an update in 2005.
Conyers also touched on the idea of a tuition review.
“It’s not a popular idea, but many universities across the country are reviewing and resetting tuition. That’s when you review tuition and in some cases reduce fees tuition….Currently…our tuition is $4,500 more than the Pell Grant.Every public HBCU in North Carolina has its tuition equal to or less than the National Pell Grant when the State of South Carolina is $4,500,” the acting president said.
He continued, “Our students who already come from some of the lowest economic divisions come to our campus, and from day one they’re in debt for $4,500 for tuition, not including room and board. You multiply that over four years.”
“I know it’s going to take enrollment…and we also need to look at what’s happening at the federal level as they increase the federal Pell grant this year to $7,000 at the same time. If we really want to consider keeping our students , we need to rethink tuition and we need to rethink how we do retention.”
He said the university must also conduct a fundraising campaign, which has never been done.
“You’re never going to get enough credits from the state. That’s something I believe the alum is up for. They’ve proven their ability to give,” Conyers said.