Feds say S.C. State University has been far underfunded
ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - The federal government says South Carolina owes nearly half a billion dollars to its only four-year public historically Black higher-ed school, S.C. State University.
It says S.C. State, a land-grant university, is supposed to be getting funding that’s equitable with South Carolina’s original land-grant university, Clemson — but that hasn’t happened.
The U.S. secretaries of education and agriculture recently sent letters to more than a dozen governors, mainly in southern states, saying they’re concerned with funding shortfalls over the past three decades at land-grant HBCUs, including S.C. State.
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“You think about the products of these institutions, in spite of inadequate funding, it begs the question: What could these institutions do with resources, with adequate resources?” said state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg.
She sits on the House’s budget-writing Ways and Means Committee — and its Higher Education Subcommittee — and her district includes S.C. State.
She says she’s not surprised – and is glad the Biden administration is bringing attention to these disparities – but worries it’ll fall on deaf ears in the Republican-dominated State House.
In their letter to Gov. Henry McMaster, the secretaries wrote this longstanding and ongoing underinvestment is an obstacle for S.C. State’s students, faculty and community, and it may contribute to a lack of economic activity that would ultimately benefit South Carolina.
McMaster says he pushes for ample funds for state schools in his annual budget recommendations to lawmakers.
And he says the state tries to promote projects to boost schools’ educational power as well – naming S.C. State’s work as part of a research group with other South Carolina and Georgia universities at the Savannah River National Laboratory.
“Those kind of things bring billions of dollars to research power to these schools. We do those kind of things that are outside of the regular budgeting process,” McMaster said.
In a statement in response to this letter — S.C. State President Alexander Conyers acknowledges the progress the state has made in recent years to up its funding — but says there’s still more work to be done for it to remain competitive.
Cobb-Hunter also noted many HBCUs are anticipating a potential rise in applications and enrollment following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of affirmative action this year.
She says that makes this call for funding equity even more imperative.
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