South Carolina State Requests $26 Million for New Budget; State Lawmakers Should Double It

State owes SCSU for years of neglect, and for the takeover of institutional leadership.

State owes SCSU for years of neglect, and for the takeover of institutional leadership.

South Carolina State University was on the verge of closure almost two years ago, but except for the millions it would’ve cost to repurpose its nearly 200 acres, and the threat of a landmark civil rights lawsuit, the state of South Carolina would have been happy for it’s flagship historically black college to wash away in a seven-year storm of underperformance and scandal.

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But then the state switched course. It fired the former president, fired the entire board of trustees, appointed a new board and handpicked the school’s new president.

Now the school is working its way out of debt to the state (how does a public agency owe a debt to the state anyway?) and several vendors, while building on enrollment increases and philanthropy to the school.

Now that handpicked president and the handpicked board are asking state lawmakers to appropriate more than $26 million to help the school make desperately needed capital and technological improvements to the campus, new academic programs and to bolster marketing for new students. From the Times & Democrat:

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South Carolina State University is asking the legislature for $26,623,342 for 2017-18. The institution lists…

The school says it needs almost $5.5 million to update an IT system that President James Clark called “abysmal” in September. At that time, he told trustees that the school is reaching “a near catastrophic meltdown of our network.”

More recently, he noted that some of the equipment is so old that it’s no longer supported by the manufacturer and the school has to “work miracles to keep it up and running.”

Because the system’s software and internet connections can’t support the abundance of technology activities going on at S.C. State at the same time, things that should be done in a few moments often take hours, Clark said. Staff have to decide which issues need to be addressed immediately and which can be delayed.

If these lawmakers have a collective conscience, and haven’t been made power drunk with the apparent conservative takeover in federal government and several state houses throughout the south, they wouldn’t stop at fully funding SCSU’s request; they would look to double it.

They would award South Carolina State more than $52 million not just because it is the flagship black college and the nation is in the midst of a full crisis in race relations, or because the school’s crumbing infrastructure is a direct result of South Carolina being among the nation’s worst states in higher education spending.

It is because the state will have an additional $446 million to spend for the upcoming fiscal year, and South Carolina colleges collectively are asking for more than $1 billion in funding. Doubling SCSU’s appropriation wouldn’t make a dent in the institutional performance of school’s like Clemson or the University of South Carolina, with asks totaling more than $200 million for the year.

Lawmakers should invest in South Carolina State, because South Carolina State stakeholders reinvest in the well-being of Orangeburg and the state at large — with more than $180 million in economic impact.

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It should double the funding to reestablish the work of the school’s transportation center, a research hub that could attract millions in federal funds that SCSU President James Clark says is too far gone to save (which lawmakers were probably delighted to hear), but still could fill needs in a state rated among the nation’s worst in driving-related fatalities and lawbreaking.

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Blackness is not the sole reason for HBCUs to stay open — it is the icing for a horrific experiment in American discrimination that paid off for black people in self-awareness and construction of the black middle class, while benefiting the nation with industrial innovation and political engagement.

Legislators wanted to take over South Carolina State and they did it, setting a nightmarish precedent for public black colleges throughout the country. But now they need to put their money where their intentions have been, because if they don’t, it will be full proof that negro incompetence is not the primary element of HBCU struggle it has historically been made out to be.