ORANGEBURG, SC (WIS) - In the midst of major transitions at South Carolina State University, the school's senior class, made up of more than 400 students, is preparing to walk across the commencement stage Friday.
At graduation practice Thursday morning, there were endless smiles and happiness in the atmosphere as the students prepared for their big day.
For the seniors, it's been a whirlwind of a year with controversy not only surrounding the university's finances, but also other issues with the school still on probation status by SACS accrediting officials.
Graduating seniors say they're not swayed by all of the negative attention the university has received recently.
Many students, including Kelsey Butler, feel their degrees will be just as viable as other schools in the state despite the university's issues.
"It definitely did not affect the student body," Butler said. "We actually just got closer, and had a stronger bond. We're Bulldogs, we're tough. Bulldog pride forever. It doesn't say Bulldog pride just when we're doing great. It says Bulldog Pride Forever."
The University's acting president, Dr. W. Franklin Evans, said that he is proud of 2015 graduating class, but he must focus on improving the image of the University.
"We want people to know that South Carolina State is not closing. It is a strong institution. It remains regionally accredited by SACS COC." Evans said.
"We have additional specialized accreditation with most of our degree programs," he said. "We want parents, students to know this is a place that is going to continue. We are strong, we're moving forward, and we need you to come and know that when you come to South Carolina State University, you're going to get a quality education."
Student body President Reginald Dupree Jr. said he and the students will go into the next academic school year with a "together we can" attitude.
"We've been here for 119 years and we plan to be here pass that," Dupree said.
SC State's commencement ceremony is at 7 p.m. at the Oliver C. Dawson Stadium Friday. Sen. Tim Scott will give the address.