Historically Black South Carolina State University has made the decision to close its doors, amid financial troubles.
The State reports:
S.C. State University would not hold classes or athletics events for the next two years under a plan approved by an S.C. House budget panel Tuesday.
The plan, meant to the give the financially troubled school a “clean slate,” calls for closing S.C. State in July and firing its trustees, administrators, faculty and staff.
The school would reopen under new leadership in the fall of 2017. The 3,000 students at the state’s only historically black public college could get state scholarships to attend other S.C. public colleges or any historically black university.
The Orangeburg school has a $10 million deficit owed to food and maintenance vendors. Its enrollment also has dropped by more than a third since 2007 and just 14 percent of its students graduate within four years.
“We are looking at a bankrupt institution,” said state Rep. Jim Merrill, the Berkeley Republican who heads the panel that recommended suspending operations at S.C. State. “No one takes any pleasure in recommending this.”
The proposal approved Tuesday is a long shot to pass the Legislature.
Suspending operations at S.C. State would require the proposal pass the full House and the state Senate, where the college has powerful advocates, including Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman.
The Florence Republican is the architect of an ongoing recovery plan for financially troubled S.C. State. That plan included forming a panel of current and former S.C. college presidents to advise the school. That panel recommended a $12 million bailout of the school, approved late last year. S.C. State also received a $6 million loan from state budget leaders last year.
The House panel’s proposal does not address how the state would cover the costs of closing S.C. State temporarily, including paying off an estimated $100 million in bonded debt that the school owes.
Leatherman, who also leads the budget-writing committee in the Senate, said Tuesday that he was withholding judgment on the House proposal until he sees it. But he wondered if some S.C. State students might be left without a new school if the Orangeburg school suspended its operations. Even with state scholarships, some students might not qualify academically for admission to other schools, he added.
Even if the proposal to suspend operations fails in the Legislature, S.C. State is being damaged by it, school president Thomas Elzey said Tuesday.
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