The South Carolina Commission of Higher Education (CHE), already under fire for giving its director a 50 percent raise without approval from state legislators, drew even more scrutiny this week after criticism by one of its own commissioners.
Jim Battle, who also serves as a board member of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), told a Senate committee this week that the commission is of really no use to an institution like MUSC.
“CHE is not helping the research universities now because of the way we are organized and operate,” the former legislator told the Senate Joint Education and Finance Committee. “CHE, in the opinion of the research universities, is not needed.”
According to its website, the Commission on Higher Education serves as the coordinating board for SC’s 33 public institutions of higher learning. It acts both as an oversight entity and as an advocate for higher education. It must sign off on college expansion, construction or most renovation projects.
Battle serves as the commission’s “ex officio” representative from MUSC, and does have a vote on the 15-member CHE board.
The CHE is in the middle of a PR debacle with legislators after reports that the commission voted to approve a 50 percent raise for director Jeff Schilz. And it was not clear when the vote took place. Chairman Tim Hofferth said it occurred during a closed-door executive session, which would be illegal under state open records law. Battle said he was not present for any such vote, although he missed last month’s meeting due to flooding in his hometown of Nichols. Schilz got the raise after previously serving as interim director.
Schilz told the same committee that he received a phone call last week informing him that his salary was invalid because it needed to be approved by the Agency Head Salary Commission, a legislative-controlled panel which signs off on the salaries of most state agency chiefs. Senate President pro tempore Hugh Leatherman, who serves on that commission, has called for Schilz’s resignation.
CHE carries out its mission through statewide planning and approval authority, working with institutions to promote quality, access, and efficiency in the state’s higher education enterprise, while balancing stewardship, accountability, and advocacy. The major functions of CHE can be categorized broadly into four major areas: coordination and planning, research and information services, accountability and reporting, and program administration.