South Carolina State University trustees signed off on a plan Thursday to erase a $3.5 million deficit largely with savings and surpluses.
Those sources are “a rainy day fund,” trustee Tony Grant of Columbia said. “We just tapped it.”
Savings, a surplus at the book store and money left over from other projects are estimated to generate $3.8 million – enough to cover the deficit through June 30.
The package is designed to cover a shortfall that school officials attribute mainly to an enrollment decline of 350 students this spring. The extra $300,000 is in reserve should the red ink increase.
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Less enrollment stems from increasing difficulty for students in obtaining aid, loans and other help to stay in class, school officials say.
An additional 11 staff members are now assigned to recruit and retain students to keep enrollment around 4,000, school president George Cooper said Thursday.
Doing that is vital “to remain competitive” as less state aid forces the school to depend more on tuition to pay a greater share of operations, he said.
Another step under consideration is moving more classes to later in the day to meet student preferences, he told the board.
That change seems likely to assure “optimal use” of facilities and faculty, he said.
This fall, school officials also may trim courses and reduce part-time faculty as other cost-control measures, though no decisions have been made.
Significant academic cuts could produce protests, trustee vice-chairman John Corbitt said.
But some reduction in 1,200 classes offered each semester in more than 50 majors is necessary, Cooper said.
“We’re trying to do too much,” he told the board. “We’ve got to do fewer things well.”
The package to deal with the deficit was accepted Thursday after school leaders refused to say why an unknown number of top officials were fired last week.
Corbitt said an “internal investigation” is under way but refused to provide answer questions, including what is being examined.
Cooper said the inquiry is intended “to insure that policy, state regulations, and state and federal laws are adhered to on this campus.” He declined to say more.
Trustees met privately for four hours with Reggie Lloyd, a former State Law Enforcement Division chief hired as an adviser for the school. He, too, declined to answer questions.
School officials refused to say who was fired. But in a report to the board Thursday, Cooper said interim vice presidents for academic affairs and student affairs are in place as well as a new campus police chief and chief deputy. It was unclear what happened to the employees who previously held those positions.
But The Post and Courier of Charleston, citing anonymous sources, said as many as eight high-level employees were terminated last week, including university attorney Ed Givens; Charles Smith, vice president for student affairs; and Michael Bartley, chief of police.