USC may get $15 million from the state to relocate its medical school to Bull Street

South Carolina has an extra billion dollars. Here is how Governor McMaster wants to spend it.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster announced his proposed budget. It focuses heavily on funding education and public safety.
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South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster announced his proposed budget. It focuses heavily on funding education and public safety.

The University of South Carolina may be one step closer to moving its school of medicine to Bull Street.

S.C. lawmakers included $15 million in next year’s budget for USC’s $285 million project to relocate the medical school to Bull Street at the site of the former state mental hospital, according to budget documents.

USC says it needs a new medical school because the existing building on Garners Ferry Road, which USC is leasing from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, needs $75 million in repairs and “simply does not meet the needs of a modern medical education,” spokesman Jeff Stensland said in an email. What’s more, USC’s lease with the VA will run out in 2030, and if they want to extend the lease, rent will cost $7.8 million per year, as opposed to $1 per year, which USC is currently paying, Stensland said.

It’s a project USC’s governing body, it’s board of trustees, has deemed a top priority.

“The situation is, our lease is running out with the VA, so we’re going to have to do something,” USC Board of Trustees Chairman John Von Lehe said. “We need to move somewhere and my hope is to have a new (medical) campus.”

The $15 million, which is in addition to the $11.4 million lawmakers want to give USC in exchange for freezing in-state tuition, still needs to survive a vote by the full House, the Senate and approval of Gov. Henry McMaster.

Aside from moving the medical school, USC needs millions of dollars to repair or renovate its buildings. In order to restore all of its buildings to perfect working order, USC needs $411 million, according to 2017 Commission on Higher Education data, the most recent available.

Moving the medical school has made slow progress with a few setbacks along the way. In 2017, Greenville developer Bob Hughes donated five acres of land to the university’s foundation to develop the land, which is enough to complete the first phase of moving the medical school, Stensland said. Last year, the legislature set aside $5 million for the new medical school, according to USC budget documents.

But when Pastides called for lawmakers to approve a $50 million bond bill in February 2018 to fund the building’s construction, the bill did not pass. USC is still seeking $50 million in taxpayer money to fund the project, which the university will combine with donations, bonds and tuition funds to complete the project, Stensland said.

Lucas Daprile has been covering the University of South Carolina and higher education since March 2018. Before working for The State, he graduated from Ohio University and worked as an investigative reporter at TCPalm in Stuart, FL. There, where he won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for his political and environmental coverage.