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SC State students, alumni file suit alleging funding unfairness

Published: Feb. 16, 2015 at 10:05 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 26, 2015 at 10:05 PM EST
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A group of South Carolina State University students and alumni are suing the state of South Carolina, alleging unfairness.

The federal lawsuit filed last week, alleges the state hurt the school's competitive edge by allowing other universities to duplicate its academic programs, violating federal law.

That, according to the lawsuit, drove down student enrollment and led to its current financial crisis. Overall, the lawsuit claims the state has failed to desegregate the system of higher education in the state, giving what the lawsuit calls 'traditionally white institutions' the advantage over the historically black institution.

"There are many universities just 20 years ago were not in existence or, if they were in existence, they were two-year institutions, not four-year institutions," former SC State student Rev. Richard McKnight said. "Now, they're four-year institutions offering the same programs that SCSU has offered for the last 70, 80 years."

Glenn Walters, the attorney who filed this suit on behalf of current and former students of the university, says the state did not follow its own funding formula when allocating money to the university.

Under the formula, Walters says SCSU was supposed to receive much more funding due to the economic downturn in previous years and he blames lawmakers for ignoring those funding recommendations.

"They have totally disregarded the South Carolina commission on higher education," Walters said. "The public has lost, now students at South Carolina state are about to lose and an opportunity to receive an education is being squandered. So we all have to take responsibility for what we've done."

The lawsuit is seeking damages for those students who say the value of their degree has been hurt in the wake of this bad press. However, litigation attorney Jonathon Milling, who is not associated in any way with the suit, says it will be hard proving more competition and not financial mismanagement was the reason the university is struggling.

"Right now, it doesn't seem that funding for the university is what they're seeking," Milling said. "The primary funding they seek is for themselves."

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