Reward SCSU for turnaround

South Carolina State University is making progress toward getting out of debt.

The relationship between the General Assembly and South Carolina State University, which has been strained for years, is growing stronger.

The Orangeburg college, under new administration and a temporary board appointed by the Legislature, is straightening out the fiscal problems that nearly sank the school.

And the Legislature, which was close to giving up on S.C. State, is now considering making a significant investment in it.

S.C. State borrowed $18 million from the state to keep the school from disaster when it couldn’t pay its bills.

The Senate Higher Education Finance subcommittee resolved last week to forgive almost $16 million of the loans.

It is the right direction for the Legislature, and for the school.

It recognizes the value of SCSU to South Carolina, the state’s only public college that is historically black. S.C. State educates students who might not qualify to attend other public colleges academically or financially.

Further, the way the forgiveness would be structured would also act as an incentive to S.C. State to continue to operate efficiently.

If approved by the General Assembly, the state would forgive $1 million annually if the university makes annual loan payments of $355,000 and operates within a balanced budget.

In 15 years, SCSU will have paid 15 percent of the loan, and the state will have forgiven the remainder.

Board Chairman Charles Way says this year’s budget is balanced, and he expects next year’s to be balanced as well.

He also indicated that S.C. State would be able to make the $355,000 payments. Paying more could financially cripple the school’s comeback effort.

School administrators have made significant cuts in staff and faculty, and are working to polish the school’s image and increase its enrollment, which had dropped in recent years.

With the General Assembly working as its partner, the historic school can recover and be stronger than it was before things went downhill.

That prospect demands the best efforts of both the Legislature and the school.