Black lawmakers promised more than 1,000 supporters of South Carolina State University at a rally Monday at the Statehouse in Columbia that a legislative proposal to close the HBCU will not be enacted.
In addition, a group of former and current S.C. State students filed a federal lawsuit against the state alleging that the university has been undermined by being consistently underfunded and that other public schools were allowed to duplicate courses offered at the Orangeburg institution. S.C. State is South Carolina’s lone historically Black public university.
Last week, a state House budget panel approved a proposal to close S.C. State for two academic years and fire the school’s trustees, administrators, staff and faculty. Students who met certain qualifications would be offered state scholarships to attend other schools.
The proposal moves to its next committee today. Key House and Senate members have expressed their opposition and the proposal is expected to be defeated long before it has a chance to become law. State Rep. Joe Neal told the crowd that he and other members of the Legislative Black Caucus would work to stop the school-closing proposal.
“Don’t you sweat it,” Neal told the crowd. “S.C. State is not going to close.”
S.C. State alum the Rev. Joe Darby said at the rally, organized by the South Carolina NAACP, that there was plenty work to do.
“The state of South Carolina has a sad and sorry history of only giving S.C. State enough to get by,” he said. “We need to say — loud and clear — that we’re tired of just getting by.”
The university, which is cutting its budget to offset declining enrollment and lower revenues, owes vendors $11 million. The state has promised S.C. State $18 million in loans and the school already has received $7.5 million of that money.