This came over the transom during the last hour:
BINGHAM-MITCHELL OFFER PLAN TO SAVE S.C. STATE
Two S.C. House Members, a Republican and a Democrat, have offered legislation to keep S.C. State University open and to return the institution to financial solvency.
S.C. Representatives Kenny Bingham (Rep-Lexington) and Harold Mitchell (Dem.-Spartanburg) are filing a bipartisan bill to rescue S.C. State from its current crisis. Bingham and Mitchell said they believe their plan is the best way to keep the institution’s doors open, protect students and replace the leadership that has brought the school to the verge of ruin.
Bingham and Mitchell’s proposed legislation follows an unprecedented letter The S.C. Executive Budget Office sent to S.C. State University President Thomas Elzey last Friday, February 13, informing him that the University has not provided the State with a budget plan and is ending the fiscal year in a deficit which the University cannot eliminate on its own.
“Declining enrollment and financial mismanagement have created a deficit of at least $18.6 million,” Bingham said. “A clear indication that students and parents know how bad things are is the shocking 40% decline in enrollment.”
State Government was recently forced to loan S.C. State $7.5 million to pay bills and make payroll. Mismanagement has placed the institution’s national accreditation at risk. Last June the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC) put them on probation for non-compliance with standards on finances and governance.
“We are witnessing a free fall at S.C. State, and something must be done,” Mitchell said. “Losing national accreditation would devalue diplomas, undercut the investment students have made in their future, and devastate one of the oldest Historically Black Colleges in the nation.”
The Bingham-Mitchell Joint Resolution would:
- Remove all current S.C. State Board members
- Put S.C. State under the control of the State Budget and Control Board (SBCB)
- Direct the SBCB to remove the current president and appoint an interim CEO
- Direct the SBCB to make recommendations to the Legislature on how to get S.C. State through its financial crisis and secure the institution’s accreditation.
S.C. State has been in a crisis for more than three years, beginning when federal indictments for a kickback scheme forced two board members to step down. Later, news of serious financial mismanagement surfaced, causing several administrators to be replaced and board members to resign out of frustration.
This year S.C. State notified the General Assembly that they could not make their first loan repayment. “The legislature literally had to step in to keep the lights and electricity from being cut off,” Bingham said. “Administrators have refused to give the General Assembly basic financial information, and they clearly do not have a plan to regain solvency or to keep their school’s accreditation.”
“This was a difficult decision for us,” Rep. Mitchell said. “But for years the Legislature has tried to bring new leaders to the board, only to see them resign in frustration as the financial crisis deepened.”
Bingham and Mitchell said in a joint statement: “We believe this type of aggressive action with immediate accountability is needed to prevent turning a very bad situation into a total disaster for the students, their parents and this historically important institution.”
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