July 30, 2015

Four men linked to SC State corruption avoid jail time

Lance Wright (Courtesy: SC State University)

Lance Wright (Courtesy: SC State University)

Four men linked to a public corruption scandal involving officials from South Carolina’s only public historically-black college were able to avoid jail time as their sentence was handed down Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors said each of the individuals cooperated with investigators and helped them to eventually convict former South Carolina State University board of trustees chairman Jonathan Pinson last year. Pinson was convicted on 29 counts last summer and sentenced to five years in prison. He is appealing the conviction, however, and remains free for now.

Three of the men sentenced on Tuesday were sentenced to three months in a “halfway house” and three years probation. They included former school trustee 49-year-old Lancelot “Lance” Wright and his ex-business partners 57-year-old Robert “Tony” Williams and 46-year-old Phillip Mims. The three had each pleaded guilty on one count of conspiring to steal and convert public funds and another count of mail fraud. They must also pay nearly $994,000 in restitution and a $200 “assessment.”

The fourth individual, former SC State police chief 51-year-old Michael Bartley, pleaded guilty to one count of misusing his influence as chief. He was sentenced to three years probation and 100 hours of community service. He must also pay a $100 assessment.

[Read more…]

Report finds more needs to be done for South Carolina’s children

The overall well-being of children in South Carolina improved slightly, even while poverty continues to go up, according to a new report findings released Tuesday.

The Kids Count Data Book, a study conducted each year by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranked South Carolina 42nd overall for a child’s chance of succeeding. That’s up from 45th last year and is the best ranking South Carolina has achieved in the report’s 25-year history.

The foundation’s associate director for policy reform and advocacy Laura Speer told South Carolina Radio Network one are area of improvement in the state was the health of newborn infants. “Babies born at a low birth weight has gone down in the state, which is a good thing,” Speer said.

Another area of improvement in South Carolina is the number of uninsured children dropped. “On a real bright note is the percent of children without health insurance, it has dropped from 13 percent in 2008 down to 13 percent in 2013. Which is a pretty significant improvement,” Speer said.

States received separate rankings in economics, education, health, and family and community.

On economic issues, South Carolina  declined or remained the same. More than one in four children lived in poverty, according to the report. That’s  nearly 300,000 children. By percentage, childhood poverty rates went up from 22 percent in 2008 to 27 percent in 2013.

Even more children live in homes without job security. The parents of 35 percent of children, more than 350,000 in all, lack a permanent job, meaning no parent has full-time, secure employment. That was an increase from 30 percent in 2008.

South Carolina posted mixed results on family and community measures.

More than 40 percent of children live in single parent homes, up 3 percentage points from 2008. The state’s biggest improvement came in teen births. The number of girls 15-19 years-old giving birth, per 1,000, declined to 32, a 19-point drop from 2008.

Health is the only category where South Carolina showed across the board improvement, ranking 36th nationwide.


USC School of Medicine Greenville to provide early admission to Furman’s brightest

Furman University

Furman University

Furman University is looking to help its students apply to medical school while saving them money at the same time. The school said Monday that the USC School of Medicine Greenville will provide early admission to some of its best students. Up to five students will be selected each year.

As part of the agreement, up to five juniors will be recommended by faculty for admission to USCSOMG. These recommendations will take place during the first semester of their junior year. The students will then have to go through a screening process and will find out if they have been accepted by USCSOMG during the second semester of their junior year.

Furman biology professor Eli Hestermann said that if students are accepted into medical school early, then they will be able to save money. According to Hestermann, early-accepted students who plan on attending USCSOMG will no longer have to pay for other schools’ application fees or travel to in-person interviews during their senior year.

Hestermann believes that USCSOMG will benefit from the agreement as well.

“From the med school’s point of view, it gives them the opportunity to identify those top-notch Furman students and lock them in,” Hestermann said.

Rising juniors at Furman will be able to apply early to USCSOMG.

“This is a program where genuinely both institutions are excited about the possibilities that it brings,” said Hestermann.

Hestermann also said that the two schools have partnered on previous occasions. Both institutions are involved in the Medical Experience Academy, a summer program that helps high school and college students prepare for a medical career.

Out of the 280 students enrolled at USCSOMG, 33 of them are Furman graduates.

USCSOMG began accepting its first students in 2012.

Jeremy Urso contributed to this report.

Former SC State president, Obama Administration official dies suddenly

Former SC State President George Cooper (Courtesy: SC State University)

Former SC State President George Cooper (Courtesy: SC State University)

The former president of South Carolina’s only public historically-black college, whose resignation three years ago thrust the school’s infighting, corruption, and financial problems into the state spotlight, died unexpectedly Sunday.

Former South Carolina State University president George Cooper died suddenly, according to a release from the school. No cause was given. He was 70 years old.

Cooper was at the helm of SC State from 2008 until 2012, when he resigned three weeks after firing eight high-level school employees. Cooper cited family reasons, although he was also involved in a public struggle with the college’s board of trustees at the time. The next year, he was appointed as executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“Under his leadership, he was instrumental in advancing progressive initiatives that served as the framework to strengthen the university and reaffirm its mission as a public land-grant university committed to enhancing the quality of lives for all citizens,” the school’s interim president W. Franklin Evans said in a statement. “He also envisioned the university as a formidable model amongst the best institutions of higher learning in the world.” [Read more…]

Clemson approves 3.24 percent tuition increase

Clemson University trustees approved an operating budget of $989 million for the 2015-16 academic year, including tuition, room and board fees at the board’s summer meeting in Greenville on Friday.

Trustees approved a 3.24 percent tuition increase for in-state students, or $218 per semester, and a 4.25 percent increase for out-of-state students, or $669 per semester.

Graduate tuition will increase by 3.25 percent, with dollar amounts varying among academic programs.

Revenues from the fee increases will help cover the unfunded portion of state-mandated bonus, retirement and health insurance costs, inflation, enhanced maintenance and stewardship of facilities, increased funding for safety and security, and planned investments in Road Map priorities.

An average increase of 3 percent approved for housing and dining plans will add an average of $45 per semester for dining and $87 per semester for housing. Actual costs will depend on the residence hall and meal plan selected. New meal plans are being introduced to provide more flexibility for students.

Revenues from the increases will cover inflation, increased dining hours, ongoing maintenance and stewardship, replacement of outdated equipment, utilities and infrastructure.

Trustees gave phase one approval to a proposed childcare facility on the university’s main campus. Pending additional board and state approvals, the 12,700 square-foot center, when built, will serve the university’s faculty, staff and students and will accept preschool-aged children, ages six weeks to five years.