Independent schools in SC received at least $34 million in PPP loans

Updated: Aug. 7, 2020 at 5:24 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Independent schools in South Carolina received millions of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to information shared by the US Small Business Administration (SBA).

A little more than a 100 independent schools received PPP loans larger than $150,000.

Independent school leaders said these low-interest loans are helping keep their staff employed. And at some schools, it’s keeping them afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA) said they are anticipating a statewide decrease in enrollment this upcoming fall in their member schools.

SCISA Executive Director Spencer Jordan said about 65% of their member schools applied for a PPP loan. He called these loans very beneficial since most independent schools work on a zero-balance budget.

The loans range anywhere from $150,000 to $5 million. The total amount granted for these 108 schools ranges anywhere from $34.6 million to $87.2 million.

Some independent schools may have received less than $150,000 loans, but the SBA does not...
Some independent schools may have received less than $150,000 loans, but the SBA does not disclose those.(WIS)

Pinewood Preparatory School in Summerville received a loan ranging from $350,000 to $1 million, according to the SBA. Head of School Dr. Daniel Seiden confirmed they received a loan in that range and said it helped stabilize things for them.

He said his school relies heavily on tuition revenue; they don’t have an endowment and have modest resources.

“To us, the PPP loan was really a saving grace that allowed us to take care of our people who really drive the ship,” Seiden said.

Some independent schools may have received loans of less than $150,000. The SBA does not publicly identify which businesses/companies received these smaller loans.

PPP loans may be forgiven if businesses/non profits do not lay off employees during the 8-week period covered by the loan, and if they meet other criteria.

ProPublica originally compiled a database with information on every PPP loan awarded in the country.

The loan information was independently verified by checking every PPP loan awarded to an elementary or secondary school in South Carolina. We used the SBA’s spreadsheet to confirm the information. (Story continues below.)

Steve Nuzum is a teacher at Richland School District 2 -- a public school district -- and a member of the grassroots teacher group SC For Ed.

He said the group also looked into the public PPP loan information over the last few weeks. He said they calculated at least $30 million in PPP loans going to independent schools in the state. He also said their analysis shows as much as $80 million in loans could have been distributed.

Nuzum said he had no issues with independent schools receiving this money as long as they use it how they're supposed to.

“I don’t have a grudge with private businesses getting those loans,” he said.

He said they started looking into this after the announcement of the SAFE Grants program by the governor.

“This shows the PPP loans were already a mechanism to try to protect private schools from the funding they lost,” he said.

According to Seiden, things would have been very different if they didn’t receive their PPP loan.

“Each and every day we’d be in fear of enrollment fluidity,” he said.

Seiden said the SAFE Grants program, if approved, would provide families more options for what fits their needs.

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