October 30, 2014

Audit finds agencies aren’t making sure SC Education Lottery money is spent properly

LotteryA new audit has found that South Carolina education officials are not following up on lottery money to make sure that it is being used correctly for college scholarships or elementary and middle-school education.

The report released Wednesday by the Legislative Audit Council (LAC) examined how revenues from the South Carolina Education Lottery are handled once they are transferred into the state budget. Auditors found a lack of oversight by the two agencies which handle most of the funds, raising the risk that the money could be spent improperly.

The report noted few controls are currently in place to ensure that students receiving more than $222 million in lottery-funded scholarship funds are actually eligible to receive them. Students receiving the Palmetto Fellows, LIFE, HOPE, and other lottery tuition assistance must be U.S. citizens or lawful residents and residents of South Carolina at the time of their graduation from high school. Those students must also maintain a 3.0 GPA while in college to keep their merit-based scholarships.

But the Commission on Higher Education (CHE) has no way to measure if the amounts of scholarships requested by the state’s institutions are accurate, beyond matching the college’s ledger with its student rosters, according to LAC director Perry Simpson.

[Read more...]

Coastal Carolina University prepares for growth

ccu studentsLeaders at Coastal Carolina University are developing strategic plans for controlled growth of the burgeoning campus in Conway, which could soon include a new graduate student campus in Myrtle Beach.

CCU Provost Ralph Byington said the campus is in an attractive area only about 20 minutes from Myrtle Beach and the student body that is pushing toward 10,000 (up from roughly 7,600 just 10 years ago). The plan over the next few years is to allow that population to plateau to around 12,500.

“There are physical limitations that you have for a campus to do what you do and do it well,” Byington said. “Fortunately we are taking a good look at making sure that we can provide the housing and support services for the student body and not try to push that limit.”

The main campus has 102 buildings situated on 620 acres.

[Read more...]

MUSC seeks to offer scholarships for first time in school history

Image: MUSC

Image: MUSC

The Medical University of South Carolina has announced a new scholarship campaign that will help students pay the rising cost of a medical education, the first time in the school’s 190-year history that it has directly offered scholarships to students.

The “Opening Doors” campaign announced earlier this month will try to raise $20 million over three years to help make the MUSC College of Medicine more affordable for students of modest means. The announcement stated that just 10% of the nation’s medical students come from families with incomes in the lowest 40th percentile.

“We believe our profession belongs to the most gifted, hardest-working individuals among us, and that tuition should never be the reason these candidates turn away from a career in medicine,” the campaign’s web page states.

In its announcement, MUSC said students are paying 6,500 percent more for a medical education than they were in 1970, due to rising costs and lower levels of state support. Forty-four years ago, the school said the cost of medical school tuition was about $500 a year. Now, it is more than $36,000 for in-state students and $62,000 for out-of-state students.

The university says the average medical student leaves school owing about $200,000 in loans.

“There is no doubt that students today are graduating with debt that would have been inconceivable when we were students,” College of Medicine dean emeritus Jerry Reeves said. “And this is a combination of college, as well as medical school, the cost of living in Charleston, you name it. Everything is higher than when we were students.”

Tom Hayes contributed to this report

Savannah River Site Museum opens in Aiken

 SRS Heritage Foundation

SRS Heritage Foundation

It’s a new museum committed to the heritage of the Savannah River Site (SRS) which will tell the story of the site’s role in winning the Cold War. The ribbon was cut Monday on the new Savannah River Site Museum in Aiken.

Executive Director of the SRS Heritage Foundation Walt Joseph said the museum was 10 years in the making. “It’s dedicated to preserving and explaining the history of the Savannah River Site, which has been hidden behind veils of secrecy for many years.” Joseph said.

Joseph said they had a lot of support from Aiken County, which donated the former Dibble Memorial Library for the museum. “We’ve been dreaming, planning and working together for ten years to make this happen and it’s finally coming to pass. Largely due to the support from Aiken County.” Joseph said Monday.

The Savannah River Site is a nuclear reservation on land in Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell Counties adjacent to the Savannah River. The site was built during the 1950s to refine nuclear materials for deployment in nuclear weapons. While it is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy, the management and operating contract is held by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC, and the liquid waste operations contract is held by Savannah River Remediation, which is a team of companies led by URS Corp.

A major focus is cleanup activities related to work done in the past for American nuclear buildup. Currently none of the reactors on-site are operating although two of the reactor buildings are being used to consolidate and store nuclear materials. SRS is also home to the Savannah River National Laboratory and the USA’s only operating radiochemical separations facility. Its Tritium facilities are also the United States’ only source of tritium , an essential component in nuclear weapons.

The USA’s only mixed oxide fuel manufacturing plant is under construction at SRS, overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration. When completed, the MOX facility will convert legacy weapons-grade plutonium into fuel suitable for commercial power reactors.

Future plans for the site cover a wide range of options, including host to research reactors, a reactor park for power generation, and other possible uses. The Energy Department and its corporate partners are watched by a combination of local, regional and national regulatory agencies and citizen groups.

The Savannah River Site covers 310 square miles and employs more than 10,000 people.

“This was about sending a message” USC professor discusses his Russia detainment

Randy Covington (Image: University of South Carolina)

Randy Covington (Image: University of South Carolina)

University of South Carolina journalism professor Randy Covington said he does not think his detainment in St. Petersburg, Russia earlier this month was an innocent mistake by the Russian government.

Covington was in the country at the time to moderate an October 16 investigative journalism workshop on behalf of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting. The professor said Russian officials interrupted the beginning of the workshop that he former Boston reporter Joe Bergantino were teaching that day, saying the two men had the wrong visas to teach Russian journalists.

Covington and Bergantino needed business visas instead of the tourist visas which they used to enter the country, according to a statement by the Russian government released that day. The two journalists were given a visa hearing and a Russian court allowed them to leave the country the following day.

Covington said he was detained for about five hours. He insisted that the U.S. State Department had advised them to use a tourist visa. [Read more...]