SC State says it needs additional $12 million to stay competitive

ashain@thestate.comFebruary 19, 2014 

The Hodge Hall Science Building Expansion on the campus of S.C. State University.

TIM DOMINICK/TDOMINICK@THESTATE. — The State

— S.C. State University wants to follow a game plan already in place to trim its $13 million shortfall through the end of June, according to a deficit-reduction plan given to state budget officials Wednesday.

S.C. State’s plan, ordered by the state, also says the college will need an additional $12 million over four years to attract top students and faculty, boost its graduation rate and improve academic programs, moves the state’s only public historically black college says it needs to make to become more competitive.

State budget officials Wednesday visited the Orangeburg campus to learn more about S.C. State’s financial woes, which date back several years.

“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 after the plan was released. “We owe it to them to give them some security that they have a college to go to.”

S.C. State’s leadership has gone through an overhaul in the past year, including a new president and several new trustees. Now, they face the challenge of repairing the school’s finances.

University officials warned state budget officials late last month the school would miss its budget by $4.4 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30. Overall, the school has $13 million in upcoming bills and loan payments through June 30, and wants the state’s help with its cash crunch.

Lawmakers have been leery about giving S.C. State more money.

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

The university’s deficit-reduction plan does not say how much the school will cut into this year’s $4.4 million deficit or its $13 million in liabilities by June 30.

The House’s main budget panel approved a deficit-monitoring team, made up of state budget officials, to work with the school on a plan to put it in a “structurally sound financial position “ by July 2015. S.C. State would have to submit a status report by Dec. 15 on its plan to balance its budget and meet monthly with budget officials to review its spending.

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

S.C. State also promised to make more cuts – including $1 million from academic and athletics programs.

The school would save $500,000 by eliminating or merging academic programs with low enrollment or a poor record of graduating students. The Bulldogs would trim another $500,000 from athletics spending to reduce the amount of money taken from the school’s general fund annually to pay for sports.

In the meantime, the college has hired recruiters to increase its enrollment, which has dwindled, a drop that is a chief source of the school’s money problems. In a letter to state budget officials last month, S.C. State officials said the college has based its budgets for years on projected enrollment levels that the school consistently has failed to meet.

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

Some efforts already are working, according to the report.

S.C. State said it has nearly doubled the number of new students admitted for the upcoming fall over 2013. The school also said its fundraising efforts brought in $1.3 million during the first six months of its fiscal year that started July 1, nearly what the school raised during all of 2012-13.

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