Another HBCU in Jeopardy: South Carolina State University May Close
A panel of The South Carolina House of Representatives’ Ways and Higher Education Means Committee submitted a proposal to suspend operations at South Carolina State University (SCSU) for some two years (from July, 2015 to the of Fall, 2017). The panel’s proposal recommended that the funds that would be saved from the closing be used to defray the university’s large indebtedness, for which the state would assume responsibility. However, lawmakers opted not to act on the proposal; thus, keeping the only South Carolina public historically black college/university (HBCU) open—at least for the time being.
The panel’s proposal met swift and outraged opposition. Students said they were saddened by the proposal and called it heartbreaking. They shouted “Kill the Bill” as SCSU President Thomas Elzey assured students, staff and faculty that he would do everything within his power to keep the school open. The University’s Alumni, though in agreement with the legislative panel that the school should be held accountable for its debt, stated that the proposal to close the University was a bad idea.
SCSU owes $10 million to food and maintenance vendors and also has an estimated $100 million bond debt. Representative James Merrill, subcommittee chairman, said the House budget writers were frustrated with SCSU’s recent spending plan. He indicated that the university’s administration was unwilling to make needed cuts in curriculum, faculty/staff or athletics expenditures. Merrill said that the proposal submitted was intended to give the University a “clean slate, [not to] wipe it off the planet.”
Under the proposed plan SCSC administration and Board of Trustees would have been replaced; other employees would have been required to reapply for their positions. Students with a grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 or better would have been eligible for scholarships to attend certain other colleges or universities during the time SCSU was closed.
Merrell said, in so many words, “No one takes pleasure in closing SCSU, but the institution is bankrupt.” The House Ways and Higher Education Means Committee has made it clearly known that a pertinent and workable plan must be developed and put into place post haste or the worst case scenario could occur: the permanent closing of South Carolina State University.