House committee votes to shift SC State power to state oversight committee

House committee votes to shift SC State power to state oversight committee

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - House lawmakers decided to do away with a plan that would have shut down the school for up to two years. In its place they've passed another proposal to tackle SC State's lingering financial problems.

One that would provide more oversight of the school's leaders.

In their new proviso for SC State, members of the House Ways and Means Committee agreed the university should stay open, but the condition is the school should have more oversight from state government.

If it receives final approval, the proviso would place the university in the hands of a board made up of the governor as well as the state treasurer, comptroller and other lawmakers.

That group would have the authority to remove members of SC State's board of trustees as well university president Thomas Elzey.

"It empowers them with the same powers that the board would have to make the necessary cuts and changes that will be required to make South Carolina State University solvent," Rep. James Merrill, R-Berkeley, said.

Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, shared her view that blame for the university's poor financial state must be widely shared. She said over the years lawmakers have not provided enough oversight.

She also fired back at critics who've made addressing the school's problems a matter of race.

"Regardless what color you are, you owe it to the stakeholders who come to your institution for you to be competent, for you to have capacity to deliver," Hunter said.

In response to the new proviso, President Elzey released a statement saying SC State will stay the course.

In part, it reads "As president, my first priority continues to be the students of SC State University. We remain keenly focused on preserving the legacy of this great university and on continuing to doing everything necessary to move it forward."

Supporters say the new oversight would also focus on maintaining SC state's accreditation.

The proviso does have to pass the full House and state senate in order to take effect.

"South Carolina State has served our state well for decades, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that the institution is failing to provide a valuable education to its students," House Speaker Jay Lucas said. "Ignoring these struggles and allowing the University to continue spiraling down a path of financial and educational deficiency is irresponsible. Today's decision by the House Ways and Means Committee is a step in the right direction. As sensitive as this issue is, rest assured that our sole purpose is to deliver the necessary assistance this situation requires so that South Carolina State can return to its full potential."

The Ways and Means Committee will meet again Thursday. Any amendments to the proviso could be made at that time.

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