The South Carolina House Ways and Means committee discussed South Carolina State University’s financial issues on Wednesday and weighed in on possible closure of the university for fiscal year 2015-16. Under the plan, the university would reopen in 2017.
State Sen. Floyd Nicholson, D-Greenwood, an S.C. State graduate, advocates the Orangeburg school stay open.
“We are going to work hard,” Nicholson said by phone. “The university is so valuable. We need to work together to keep it open. It would be a tragic loss.”
State Sen. Billy O’Dell, R-Abbeville agrees.
“We need to do something to keep it intact,” O’Dell said. “Changes need to be made. But something needs to be done.”
Rep. Craig Gagnon, R-Abbeville and Anderson, is in favor of shutting the university down.
“(S.C. State) has had ample time and opportunity,” Gagnon said. “They have been warned that they need to put their affairs in order. I hate it for the students because they are under pressure, but something has to be done.”
State Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, has another perspective.
“If you close it and re-open it, what freshmen will apply one year later?” Limehouse said.
A press release from the Legislative Black Caucus gave a vote in favor of the school staying open, stating “the caucus is in full support of the school and feels that all efforts should be made to ensure South Carolina State University does not fail.”
However, the caucus said in the release it thinks differently about the university president.
“While it is not certain as to who should lead these efforts, we have no confidence that President Thomas Elzey is that person.”
Rep. Anne Parks, D-Greenwood, who is the Black Caucus co-chairwoman, did not attend Wednesday’s session, but does not want to see the school close.
“Some things should be resolved,” Parks said. “I do not understand how they got into this position. They need to work it out so they don’t have to close.”
Parks suggested downsizing and reorganization as a possible remedy for the school.