After a year rife with scandal and resignations at the state Commission on Higher Education, the agency’s new, temporary head wants to get through the legislative session without last year’s drama.
The state’s higher education oversight body announced Wednesday it had named Mike LeFever the agency’s new interim-president and executive director.
LeFever said his primary goal was to “repair some relationships and build some bridges with core constituencies: the public colleges, the General Assembly and the general public.”
LeFever, who received his bachelor’s degree from Presbyterian College and his masters from the University of South Carolina, had recently retired as the president and CEO of South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, an advocacy group for the state’s private colleges.
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LeFever’s appointment comes after a rocky year for the commission, in which interim executive director Jeff Schilz and board chair Tim Hofferth resigned after Hofferth awarded Schilz a $91,500 raise last year.
That led Gov. Henry McMaster to appoint Wes Hayes, a former state representative and senator who served on education committees while in the Legislature.
“Mike has the administrative experience and knowledge of higher education needed to keep the Commission moving forward,” Hayes said of LeFever in a news release. Hayes added that LeFever has earned the respect of the Legislature.
In the last six weeks, the commission has seen changes to four of its top positions. In December, McMaster appointed Greenville utility executive Charles Dalton and Ben W. Satcher of Lexington to board positions. Satcher is a top official at the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity’s educational foundation and McMaster campaign donor.
LeFever reflects Hayes’ more collaborative approach between then Legislature, colleges and the agency. His predecessor took a more adversarial approach to college spending.
The commission’s primary roles are distributing lottery scholarship money, approving capital projects and collecting and analyzing data.
Although Shilz served for more than a year as interim executive director, LeFever stresses he doesn’t want to spend more than six months in the position. There, his salary will be the $176,256, which is the lowest amount allowed for an agency head, according to the commission and documents from the S.C. Agency Head Salary Commission. Before Schilz received his 54 percent raise, hiking his annual salary to $257,767, he was making the then-minimum salary amount of $166,280, according to a previous article from The State.
“I’m just coming out of retirement to help bridge the gap,” LeFever said.