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SCSU Chairman: Financial Demise Not An Option Despite $17 Million Deficit
2/26/2014 3:25:08 PM

SCSU Board Chair William Small, Jr.
By Barney Blakeney

Two years ago the board of trustees at South Carolina State University grappled with a budget shortfall that accentuated a myriad of challenges facing the institution. Earlier this month new President Thomas Elzey informed the board the institution’s budget woes are worse than previously revealed. The school’s current board chair, William Small Jr., assures that the institution will continue to move forward progressively despite the new information.

In 2012 then board chairman Maurice Washington made assurances an unexpected financial shortfall of $4 million would not threaten the school’s viability. That $4 million deficit still exists in the budget, but SCSU officials now also say the institution faces a $13 million cash flow shortfall.

University officials are meeting with state legislators to get funding to cover the cash flow shortage. Small said while the institution’s financial situation doesn’t look good, he is encouraged legislators not only will provide the necessary immediate funding, but also the financial support the institution needs to move forward.

Small said SCSU’s present financial problems are an accumulation monetary woes caused by several things in its past that include state funding cuts, enrollment shortfalls and the relatively higher cost of educating SCSU’s unique student constituency.

Past administrations didn’t pay full attention to the financial issues that were creeping up on the institution, Small said. the financial cliff it now faces was seen by both administrators and legislators as it was approached, he said.

Small said a new trustee board - six of 13 members - and a new administration headed by finance expert Elzey can put the institution on more solid budgetary ground. But they will require the support of the S.C. State Legislature.

SCSU’s financial demise is not an option, Small said. The institution historically has produced some of the state’s and nation’s most outstanding graduates - graduates who have made immeasurable contributions. Given those contributions, SCSU still is a bargain to South Carolina even at the cost of $17 million. And when you consider what the state invests in its other institutions and expenditures, SCSU is even more of a bargain, he said.

The public and SCSU has to divorce itself from its image of past dysfunction, Small added. Failures in the institution’s performance and those of individuals associated with it must not be a permanent fixture in the institution’s image which it constantly has to defend, he said.

The new board and administration is committed to doing things differently than in the past, Small said, and the state’s legislators should support that.

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