POLITICS: SC State University submits plan to reduce $13 million shortfall

Posted by ANDREW SHAIN on February 19, 2014 

S.C. State University President Thomas J. Elzey, far left, stands with S.C. State Police Chief Mernard Clarkson and other officials as Clarkson gives a evening briefing Friday and announces the death of 20-year-old Brandon Alexander Robinson.

BRANTIN@THESTATE.COM — BERTRAM RANTIN

— State budget officials are in Orangeburg Wednesday working S.C. State University after the school submitted a plan to reduce the school's $13 million cash shortfall.

In addition to wanting state help to dig out of the financial hole, S.C. State's plan calls for $12 million over four years to attract top students and faculty, boost graduation and improve academic programs to make the state's only public historically black college more competitive.

The college promised to make more cuts -- including $1 million to academic and athletics programs.

State budget officials are visiting campus to learn more about S.C. State's financial woes. The deficit reduction plan was given to lawmakers Wednesday.

"We all owe the 3,400 students at S.C. State (that) we will not turn a blind eye on S.C. State," House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, said. "I think we it owe to them to give them some security that they have a college to go to."

The school said it has already tighten spending by cutting 90 jobs and delaying new hires. S.C. State has shifted some maintenance money to operations, raised tuition and boosted fundraising efforts.

The college also hired recruiters to increase enrollment that has dwindled over the years and is the source of the school's money problems.

S.C. State warned state budget officials late last month that the school would need $4.4 million just to get through the fiscal year that ends June 30. Overall, the school wants a $13 million bailout to cover a number of upcoming bills and loan payments through June 30.

School leaders have said S.C. State will not run out of money immediately, but the college has not indicated how much longer it can pay bills and meet payroll. Efforts to reach school officials Wednesday were unsuccessful.

After alerting state budget leaders about the financial problems last month, S.C. State was asked to submit a deficit reduction plan.

The school said it would consider continuing some of the steps taken so far -- including raising tuition and housing costs, reducing administrative jobs and freezing hiring. S.C. State also would look at reducing overtime and ending all non-essential cell phone use.

The plan unveiled Wednesday also included:

• Increasing enrollment -- The school said it has nearly doubled the number of new students admitted for the upcoming fall over 2013.

• Increasing fundraising -- S.C. State said it has raised in six months of this year, $1.3 million, nearly what the school raised all of 2012-13.

• Eliminating "low-producing" programs -- Save $500,000 by ending or merging academic programs with low enrollment or a poor record of graduating students.

• Cutting athletics -- Save $500,000 in athletics programs to reduce the strain on the amount of money taken from the school's general budget.

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