ORANGEBURG, S.C. — South Carolina State University is on track to run out of money next month, and school officials said Thursday they hope government leaders will help.
University President Thomas Elzey told trustees the Orangeburg school has $1.5 million on hand. That’s less than half of what S.C. State needs to pay its 1,045 employees, utility bills and debt payment next month.
“Our situation is urgent,” Elzey said Thursday.
The university has requested a $13.6 million bailout from the state after years of borrowing money to cover deficits caused by declining enrollment and overspending.
Earlier this month, state Inspector General Patrick Maley said S.C. State had diverted $6.5 million meant for agriculture research to cover debts since 2007. Maley said he found no fraud, but rather a pattern of mismanagement that allowed the inappropriate practice to escalate out of control.
Maley also noted the university was mismanaging funds when it borrowed public service funds from the 1890 Research and Extension program to help pay operating expenses. The university has had to pay the program back and can no longer access that money.
Officials said the only reason S.C. State made payroll this month is because of a $1.3 million check from its food-service vendor. If the school fails, trustee Katon Dawson said the state would be responsible for about $90 million in defaulted bonds and outstanding bills.
State leaders have said they don’t want the state’s only historically black public college to close, and university officials say they’re optimistic government leaders will help the school find a way to keep going.
The state Budget and Control Board, chaired by Gov. Nikki Haley, is set to discuss the school’s finances next week, and the governor’s office said it had proposed allowing S.C. State to borrow up to $6 million. To get that money, the school would need to provide three years of audited financial statements for the school and its foundations. S.C. State would need to use the loan to pay its bond debt before payroll and other bills.
The rest of the money sought by the school could come from the Legislature, according to the governor’s office.
“The crisis at S.C. State University has reached a critical stage, and Gov. Haley’s proposal is a way for this important institution to get back on its feet,” said Haley spokesman Doug Mayer.