Originally created 03/03/03

USC leaders seek relaxed regulations

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Officials from the University of South Carolina are seeking relaxed regulations that would make the school less beholden to state government and less encumbered by rules for spending public money.

University leaders want the Columbia campus, Clemson University, and the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston to be released from the regulatory authority of the Commission on Higher Education.

The three universities want the current accountability system replaced by an oversight panel to guide public-private partnership deals.

The universities want the ability to negotiate contracts quickly with business and industry capable of bringing jobs and producing new revenue for the state.

School officials think research professors can work with cutting-edge corporations in developing new products and services capable of generating high-paying jobs.

University of South Carolina trustee Darla Moore said the universities hope to have a bill crafted in two weeks.

With the state's current budget crisis, universities need to work collaboratively in leveraging knowledge, resources and professors to develop research parks as tools for helping the state build new wealth, Moore said.

To do that, the research universities need to be released from current regulations in contract negotiations and the purchase of goods and services that state agencies must follow, said Moore and University of South Carolina President Andrew Sorensen.

Earlier this week, Gov. Mark Sanford's education task force suggested changes in oversight of the state's 33 public colleges and universities. Among the recommendations was strengthening the Commission on Higher Education.

The panel stopped short of endorsing Sanford's campaign issue of creating a single board of regents to oversee technical colleges and universities.

Rep. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, filed legislation Wednesday calling for a restructuring of higher education. Sheheen's bill would create a board of regents such as the one Sanford advocated.

House Speaker David Wilkins said he supports the concept of deregulation, but would not endorse the plan until he sees more details.

"We've not been able to fund higher education the way we all would like, so we ought to look at alternative ways to operate," said Wilkins, R-Greenville.

But Rep. Herb Kirsh, D-Clover, said the Legislature instead could rewrite contract negotiation rules that would allow the universities to strike deals more quickly.

"I'm not interested in them being on their own," Kirsh said. "I wouldn't vote for that. If we put a dollar in, we ought to know what they're doing with it."


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