S.C. Lawmakers Seeking Review of HBCU-based Transportation Center

CHARLESTON, S.C. – A dozen years after the project was announced, some state lawmakers want a review of how money has been used for a yet-to-be-built research center at South Carolina State University named for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a Charleston newspaper has reported.  

Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, said last week that he has the legislative support needed for state auditors to review the program at the historically Black, state-supported school, according to the Post and Courier of Charleston.

The $80 million James E. Clyburn University Transportation Center was announced in 1998 to conduct research and train workers in the transportation industry. Since that time, more than $50 million in funding has been accumulated for the project to be named for Clyburn, a South Carolina State graduate.

But no research is being done at the site, which still sits mostly vacant and lost its designation as a federal facility. While the university has on hand most of the $26.3 million for the first phase of the new building, school finance officials have not been able to account for millions of federal dollars for transportation-related programs.

Ford said he called for an investigation by the Legislative Audit Council, which functions as the Legislature’s investigative body, in response to the Post and Courier’s report last month that little work had been done on the center.

Ford says he has gathered signatures from five other legislators and has commitments from two others. The audit council requires the signatures of at least five legislators before it will move forward with a performance audit of a state agency or program.

Ford said the bipartisan group is calling for the audit because they “want South Carolina State University to be the flagship African-American university in the country.”

Another legislator who has signed Ford’s request agreed.

“If ever there was a situation in higher education that required legislative inquiry, this is it and then some,” said state Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, who drafts the first version of the higher education budget for the state Legislature.