S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster disagrees with the state’s largest universities over whether a college oversight board should be digging into how they pay for construction projects.
The University of South Carolina and Clemson University this year lobbied state lawmakers to cut the review board out of the process, calling the commission’s oversight burdensome and unnecessary.
In response, commission leaders have said the state needs an agency overseeing its higher education system to ensure colleges’ efforts are in the best interest of S.C. students and taxpayers.
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A graduate of USC and its law school, McMaster said he supports the higher-ed commission’s role.
“Every building, brick, fixture and square foot of our public institutions belongs to the people of South Carolina,” said McMaster, who served on the commission’s board in the early 1990s. “The CHE must be allowed to exercise its oversight authority.”
Spokesmen from USC and Clemson on Monday expressed disappointment in McMaster’s veto.
“It’s unfortunate that support for public higher education in South Carolina continues to take one step forward and two steps back — ultimately increasing costs for students and their families,” USC spokesman Wes Hickman said. “After a win in the General Assembly, the governor’s veto is a setback for higher education and the state.”
“Clemson firmly believes the commission’s role in these projects does not add value to the oversight process or further protect the taxpayers of South Carolina,” Clemson spokesman Mark Land said.
Commission chairman Tim Hofferth, however, applauded McMaster’s decision. “At a time when South Carolina ranks No. 1 in the Southeast and eighth nationally in cost of attendance, the commission believes that now is not the time to remove this important oversight.”
The commission’s relationship with some S.C. colleges has soured over the past year.
Earlier this month, the agency held a USC land purchase hostage over the school’s annual practice of awarding millions of dollars in tuition discounts to out-of-state students.
Last year, when the commission refused to approve an expansion of Coastal Carolina’s football stadium, legislators overruled the agency, permitting the expansion and helping to pay for it.