Originally created 11/20/02

Leader talks budget solutions

AIKEN - On July 1, his first day as president of the University of South Carolina, Andrew Sorenson inherited what appeared to be an $18 million shortfall in state funding.

Then things got worse.

Dr. Sorenson told a Tuesday breakfast meeting at USC Aiken that he found the deficit was closer to $19.7 million.

He said he took action, saving $600,000, for example, by not filling several faculty positions. But until the economy improves, college campuses have to get more creative to generate funding, he said.

Dr. Sorenson, who presides over the University of South Carolina in Columbia and its seven satellite campuses, said he has told each of the university's eight campuses to prepare for another funding cut of at least 5 percent.

"We must broaden our horizons," he said, emphasizing partnerships between universities and the private sector.

The Columbia campus, for example, has received an $11 million federal grant to help conduct colon cancer research. Dr. Sorenson said that even though the project is just beginning, the school is forging partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.

If the university comes up with a cure, he said, USC will share revenue with whatever company manufactured it.

Robert Long, the assistant director of the Aiken-Edgefield Economic Development Partnership, said USC Aiken and Aiken Technical College can form valuable ties with the Savannah River Site as it embarks on new missions.

And USC Aiken created its industrial mathematics program, Mr. Long said, to provide more students suited for the area's industrial companies.

Dr. Sorenson also said schools need to be more aggressive with state legislators. USC Aiken has plans for a $17 million convention center. With backing from Dr. Sorenson, the Aiken campus has applied to the state Legislature for a $3 million bond issue.

Dr. Hallman said the state already has committed $6 million to the project. The county has committed an additional $5 million, and Dr. Hallman said USC Aiken would try to complete the addition with more grants.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.


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