Freshman students at South Carolina State University arrived on campus Wednesday as the school prepares for a new year. And school officials were relieved to see each and every one of them.
That’s because the estimated 746 freshmen were critical for the school to meet its enrollment prediction of 2,650 total students. While those projections are often a formality at other schools, for SC State it was vital to reach that target. That’s because 2,650 was the exact number of students the school thought it needed to create its first balanced budget in years. Trustees had been worried just two months ago that they could see as few as 2,100 students this fall.
“We’ve been working tirelessly, diligently, to get 2,650,” Interim President W. Franklin Evans told WLTX-TV. “On Monday, we found out we had 2,649. But by the end of the day, that number had gone up. So we’re excited.”
Enrollment at South Carolina State steadily declined as the school entered a financial tailspin the past five years, dropping from more than 4,300 students as recently as 2011. That steady decline made growing budget deficits even worse as school leaders could not depend on additional tuition to pay off rising debts.
SC State’s board of trustees approved $19.1 million in cuts in June, including dozens of layoffs and the elimination of some programs, but believe they are now close to eliminating the school’s massive budget deficit. State financial officials have previously pledged $4.5 million to help the school with overdue bills this upcoming budget year, which is part of $12 million in total emergency aid approved by the Joint Bond Review Committee and the Budget and Control Board last year.
Evans said the school took several steps, most notably setting aside another $1 million in need-based scholarship money, to convince nearly 600 more students to enroll.
Classes will start on August 18.