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Letters to the Editor: How SC colleges can help students through COVID-19 crisis

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Columbia College (copy)

Columbia College. File/Provided

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act sends nearly $14 billion to the nation’s colleges and universities, with 50% of that money required to go to students and three-quarters of that to Pell Grant recipients, who have the greatest financial need.

As a college and university president for 25 years and a consultant to boards and presidents for 12, I’ve been fascinated by how colleges initially dealt with sending home students who have paid for room and board for the semester.

Some relied on legalities, saying their residence-hall contracts didn’t require refunds. Some said they would return part of the room-and-board fees.

Others said they would give a credit for next fall. And some created formulas that excluded students’ grants or scholarships.

Unfortunately, schools that did not remit all the costs as soon as possible hurt the poorest students the most, the ones with parents who are working low-paying jobs and are most vulnerable to being laid off.

Columbia College, like all colleges and universities, had to make tough decisions about refunds quickly and with little information.

In times of crisis, organizations rely on heritage, ethos and core values. Such was the case with our administration and board of trustees.

We focused on the 1854 founding motto of Columbia College, Non quem, sed quid (not who, but what). At the time, it was meant to proclaim that your family or status didn’t matter; what mattered was what you were as a person. Your intellect, integrity, faith and character mattered most.

Based on the core value of non quem sed quid, the board agreed to refund 100% of all room-and-board charges, prorated to the time students moved out of the dorm, and to send a check as soon as possible.

We knew family finances of our students, especially those who receive Pell Grants, were fragile at best. We also knew what mattered most was that fundamental fairness and compassion should serve as our guiding principles.

We use the phrase “You can tell a Columbia College graduate, but you can’t tell them much” as a facetious way to highlight their independence.

In reality, that phrase captures the ethos and culture of our 166-year history. “Not who, but what” defined our student body and our college in 1854 and will enable Columbia College and its students to weather the challenges of COVID-19 in 2020.

PETER T. MITCHELL

President, Columbia College

Columbia College Drive

Columbia

Numbers game

Why are the numbers of COVID-19 “Tests Reported” in South Carolina on par with states that are one-fifth the size and vastly fewer than states with similar populations?

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering has been updating a map daily with “Total Known Cases” and “Cases Per 100K Residents.” Last week, it added a link to “Tests Reported” by state.

South Carolina, with a population of 5,084,127, had a total of 2,947 “Tests Reported” as of 11 a.m. on March 28.

Maine (population 1,338,404) is reporting 3,562 tests, Rhode Island (1,057,315) is reporting 2,647 tests and West Virginia (1,805,832) is reporting 2,433 tests.

States with populations similar to South Carolina’s are reporting vastly higher numbers of tests.

Alabama (4,887,871) is reporting 4,828 tests, Colorado (5,695,564) is reporting 11,676 tests, Kentucky (4,468,402 ) is reporting 5,123 tests and Minnesota (5,611,179) is reporting 14,003 tests.

What does this mean for South Carolina and for the safety of its residents?

SUSANNAH BAILIN

Palms Boulevard

Isle of Palms

Blunt the curve

The public has been effectively guided by propaganda into a necessary mindset to accept life under quarantine for the purpose of quelling the pandemic.

Now it’s time to give the public more detailed information about the lethality of the virus so they will accept as rational the necessary relaxation of the quarantine in order to preserve the viability of our economy.

A good first step would be the immediate publication of data showing how many of those who died from the virus were over age 60, or suffered serious secondary medical problems, e.g., COPD, immune system issues, chronic bronchitis, etc., and how many had not received a pneumonia vaccine, and how many had not received the “regular” flu shot, etc., and also how many victims were so frail and debilitated that they were already in hospice care, a hospital or a nursing home when infected.

W.T. BOYD

Palisade Loop

Pawleys Island

Political irony

While reading the front-page article about Gov. Henry McMaster saying he didn’t need to issue a stay-at-home order because citizens would do it anyway, I had to laugh after reading the article immediately above it about people not heeding precautions and police breaking up restaurant parties and groups of beachgoers.

To paraphrase Ben Franklin, common sense isn’t that common.

KENT LEE

Club Course Drive

North Charleston

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