Don’t falter on fixing S.C. State

Financial and management problems at S.C. State look troubling to accountants, legislators and taxpayers. They look downright scary to some S.C. State students.

The issues facing the state’s only public historically black college can’t be seen solely as red ink. Students fear, with good reason, that those issues could diminish the value of their degrees — or even cause the school to lose its accreditation.

The school’s enrollment has nose-dived by 600 students in four years. The reasons are unclear. The struggling economy could be keeping some students away.

But it could be that the high school students and their college advisors are aware of the damning audits of the school and its transportation center; the turnover of the college’s administration; and an ongoing criminal investigation there. Other colleges might appear a better bet at this point.

In Sunday’s paper, reporters Diane Knich and Glenn Smith wrote about sophomore D’Autra Stanley who has decided to leave S.C. State after this semester and attend the University of South Carolina. His reason? He fears for the school’s accreditation.

However, they also reported that most students say they are happy at S.C. State and they believe they are getting a good education. The reasons they chose to attend school there include its strong ROTC program, band, sense of tradition and its role as the state’s only historically black public university. Moreover, S.C. State works to help students overcome financial roadblocks.

It would be devastating to the students and their families should the school fail them at this critical juncture of their lives.

And it would be damaging to the state as leaders try to lure business and industry to locate and expand here. Gov. Nikki Haley has made jobs her number one mission. S.C. State is an important source of an educated workforce. It has an essential role in recruiting industry.

But the board and administration of S.C. State University are in flux.

The state Commission on Higher Education is helping S.C. State put together a group to study the school’s enrollment problems and recommend ways to curb the downward spiral.

Unfortunately, the CHE does not have the authority or the staff to take on a broader role. If South Carolina had a strong board of regents for its public university system, some of the problems experienced in that system, including at S.C. State, might be avoided.

It will be up to the General Assembly and the board of trustees to double down on efforts to help ensure that the school has the leadership needed to pull the school out of its financial and possible legal morass.

Students and faculty deserve a new direction.

So do the parents, alumni and taxpayers who support S.C. State.