South Carolina State University is one step closer to having most of its $18 million debt to South Carolina forgiven.
Senators approved a plan last week that would require the state’s only public historically-black college to repay roughly $3 million and maintain a balanced budget. In exchange, the state would forgive the remaining $15 million loaned to the school over the past three years. That money was meant to help SC State pay off vendors whose bills had been overdue as the school struggled with financial issues.
The resolution now goes to the House, which passed a separate plan last month that would have forgiven $12 million.
Senate Education Committee Chairman John Courson, R-Richland, said the school’s future is looking brighter. “Prior to what we did last year, they had a turnover of trustees,” he said on the Senate floor. “They had I think five presidents of the university in a period of seven or eight years. So they have made tremendous progress.”
Courson said with the better outlook the school can increase enrollment. “They’ve got the capacity, they’ve got the buildings down there to add additional students without any additional construction costs,” Courson said.
SC State is on track to end this budget year with a surplus after years of being in the red. However, the school is still on academic probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) mostly due to its financial problems. A SACS team is visiting the campus this month before the accrediting group decides whether to end its probation or suspend its accreditation entirely.
Six Republican senators voted against the proposal, arguing it was overly generous and went against what lawmakers were told in 2014, when they voted to include authority for most of the loans in the state budget.