South Carolina State University leaders on Tuesday announced a $100,000 total donation from alumni that will be used for scholarship endowments in the future.
The announcement comes as the school’s future direction is still uncertain. Legislators are close to removing all of SC State’s trustees and four board members have resigned since last week.
“Today’s establishment of this endowed scholarship fund by our alumni association sends a resounding message that South Carolina State University is alive,” Acting President Franklin Evans said in a press conference at the Statehouse. “And that it’s not going anywhere.”
The donation will help expand the school’s current $7.5 million endowment, according to university spokeswoman Sonja Bennett. She said it is one of the largest donations in recent memory for the state’s only public historically-black school. And it comes as the college struggles through what is perhaps its most trying time.
SC State will face a $23.5 million deficit by the end of June, according to a state audit. On top of the financial troubles, irritated legislators are trying to remove the entire board of trustees that they blame for the school’s ballooning debt. The trustees voted last month to fire President Thomas Elzey and it’s unlikely they will pick a new one until their own replacements are chosen by lawmakers. But the House and Senate remain divided on who should choose the new SC State board: the Senate wants the new board appointed by legislators, while the House wants the state Budget and Control Board to choose.
Three more trustees resigned over the weekend, leaving just six sitting members on a board that is supposed to have 13. Former chairman William Small, Sidney Evering, and Carlotta Redish joined fellow trustee Anthony Grant, who resigned following the April 23 meeting. The board needs at least five members in order to meet accreditation standards.
Evans said, while the school still has troubles to sort through, he remains confident that alumni are willing to help out their old campus. “All I can say is: continue to support us with your monetary gifts,” he said. “Continue to support us with your time, your prayers your talents, your professional contributions and resources, as well as your advocacy. Again I say, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Questions about SC State’s future, including a now-shelved proposal to close the school for two years, served as a “wake-up call” to alumni, according to head of the alumni association’s Orangeburg chapter Willie Owens. “Perhaps because we always thought it was a state-supported institution, we did not give as we should,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. He said the House proposal did “significant damage” in public perception of the school.
Every $100,000 placed in endowment raises an additional $8,000-$12,000 in interest for scholarships, according to SC State Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement A.L. Fleming.
Evans said the school has asked each of its local chapters to try to raise up to $25,000 each, if possible.