COLUMBIA — Mick Mulvaney, the former South Carolina congressman who is the acting White House chief of staff, has inquired about becoming president at the University of South Carolina, a state lawmaker and two sources with knowledge told The Post and Courier on Monday.
News of Mulvaney's interest, first reported by The New York Times, comes as Harris Pastides winds down his 11th and final year the state's flagship university. Pastides leaves in July, and a search committee is expected to start accepting applications this month.
Mulvaney reached out to state leaders about a month ago before he was named Donald Trump's acting chief of staff, said state Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Columbia, as well as two sources who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
The Indian Land real estate developer graduated from Georgetown University and University of North Carolina law school, but he has expressed admiration for how Pastides has run the school with more than 50,000 students over eight campuses, a source told The Post and Courier.
Mulvaney would have to win over faculty and students because he lacks an academic background, like recently retired College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell, a former state Senate leader. He also has raised questions about the validity of climate change.
Still, Mulvaney, 51, would be seen as a high-profile catch for USC, drawing attention to the school and bringing political connections built during his time in the S.C. Statehouse, U.S. Capitol and White House where he also is the budget chief.
"He would be a breath of fresh air at USC, bringing a strong understanding business and finance," Finlay said.
Mulvaney is known as a budget hawk, often fighting against what he perceives as government waste and overreach. He fought to cut off funding for South Carolina's public television station while in the state Senate and worked in Congress to curb the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog agency that he ran for a year until last month.
Under Pastides, USC has experienced sharp growth in enrollment and tuition.
Pastides has said the growth was necessary because the university is receiving less state support, but the higher costs have angered critics, including some legislators, who think the school is spending too much on construction and renovation projects.
USC has spent more than $1 billion in construction work, including new business and law school buildings, during Pastides' tenure with nearly another $1 billion in projects already being planned.
Hugh Mobley, the USC trustee leading the presidential search committee, said he has not spoken to Mulvaney and that his name is being rumored for the job along with many others.
A White House spokesman told The New York Times that Mulvaney "is not interested in any other positions."
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, said he has not talked to Mulvaney about running USC, but is not surprised that he might be interested. Mulvaney would bring skills to the job like Mitch Daniels, a former Indiana governor and White House budget chief, who has led Purdue University since 2013.
"Mick is an academic, he’s very bright," said Norman, who won Mulvaney's seat after he resigned to join the White House in 2016. "I think he’d do an excellent job. ... He’d do that university wonders, because it’s a business."
Jamie Lovegrove contributed to this story.