The state's public colleges and universities will be required to publicly disclose online how they spend money if a bill proposed by House Speaker Bobby Harrell passes in the upcoming legislative session.

Many leaders of state higher education institutions attended a press conference to show support for Harrell when he announced Wednesday in Columbia that he intended to file the proposed legislation.

The House has set two prefile dates, Dec. 7 and 14.

Harrell, R-Charleston, said in a news release, "With another tight budget year ahead of us, we must ensure that every tax dollar is being spent wisely. This added level of transparency will make our state's institutions of higher learning more accountable to taxpayers and make certain that core functions are being pursued."

Under the House's Higher Education Transparency Act of 2011, state colleges and universities would be required to post prominently on their official websites a monthly registry of all expenditures and dollar amounts.

Greg Padgett, chairman of the College of Charleston's Board of Trustees, attended the press conference. "We're a public institution," he said. "And it's a good move by the state to support transparency."

Jeff Perez, The Citadel's vice president for external affairs, said the military college also supports the legislation. "We believe in transparency and recognize the importance of showing how The Citadel spends state taxpayer dollars. We look forward to working with Speaker Harrell and the Legislature in support of transparency in state government."

State Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom and Sen. Mike Rose, R-Summerville, also are working toward increased transparency among the state's colleges and universities.

They are developing a pilot program under which colleges and universities would voluntarily begin posting their spending details online.

In 2008, Eckstrom created a state transparency website that provided details on cash disbursements for state agencies, but not for institutions of higher learning.

In April, Eckstrom began putting credit card spending for state agencies, including colleges and universities, on his website. He said the move demonstrated that online transparency can be achieved without much difficulty or cost.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491.