Politics & Government

July 10, 2014

SC State gets $1 million boost

Financially struggling S.C. State University said Thursday it will receive an additional $1 million from its main foundation to pay for scholarships, a move one school official called an “historic amount” as the college tries to boost its enrollment.

State University said Thursday it will receive an additional $1 million from its main foundation to fund scholarships, a sum one school official called an “historic amount” as the college works to rebuild its enrollment.

The news comes two days after a state inspector general’s report criticized S.C. State for diverting some rebates from school contracts to two school foundations, which have little public oversight of their spending. That diverted money — $2.3 million over a three-year period — should be returned to S.C. State’s coffers, the report recommended.

S.C. State president Thomas Elzey asked the Orangeburg school’s foundation for more money last month after administrators identified about 1,400 students who have been accepted but need financial aid.

The S.C. State University Foundation, which typically gives the school about $1 million for scholarships each year, gave the school an extra $150,000 for the 2013-14 school year and an extra $300,000 in 2011-12. The extra $1 million for 2014-15 could give 1,333 students an average of $750 in aid.

“It’s a historic amount,” S.C. State spokeswoman Sonja Bennett said.

In a statement, Elzey, who was attending a funeral Thursday, said he was grateful to the foundation for the added aid.

S.C. State’s enrollment has shrunk a third in recent years to 3,100.

Elzey, who joined the college a year ago from The Citadel, has worked to boost enrollment, visiting college fairs, for example. Applications are up more than 50 percent from a year ago and 2,400 applicants have been accepted.

“This is the time when students and their parents are making their final decisions about where to go to college,” Elzey said in his statement. “For many of them, that final decision comes down to whether they have the money or not.”

Efforts to reach foundation chairman Edward Williams were unsuccessful Thursday.

The foundation had almost $6.8 million on hand at the end of 2012, according to tax returns.

In addition to other fundraising, the foundation received money from rebates that vendors paid S.C. State as part of contracts with the school. The foundation did not have authority over the accounts containing the rebate money, the inspector general’s report said. The accounts were assigned to the president and other administrators with the foundation acting as a bank, the report said.

State Inspector General Pat Maley declined to comment when asked Thursday about the timing of the foundation’s announcement, made soon after his report was released.

S.C. State has $13.6 million in unpaid bills earlier this year. Citing its financial woes, academic accreditors have put the state’s only historically public black college on probation.

The state loaned the school $6 million to pay vendors but about half of that money was needed to cover salary, debt and utility payments. About $3.5 million of the loan went to pay down the $13.6 million in outstanding vendor bills, according to S.C. Budget and Control Board documents.

S.C. State trustees are working with Elzey to cut the school’s budget. The college has cut 180 employees and trimmed spending, including on employee cellphones, but has not approved a new spending plan for the budget year that started July 1. The school is operating on last year’s budget plan.

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