President says S.C. State is rebounding

FILE/STAFF South Carolina State University President Thomas Elzey

South Carolina State University President Thomas Elzey gave Charleston area lawmakers an optimistic view of the future but did say the school still needs help from the state and Legislature to address the woes facing the Orangeburg college.

"We're on the rebound, no question about it," Elzey told members of the Charleston County legislative delegation Thursday. But he added "we still need resources, we need the support of the Legislature."

The meeting came as Charleston Democrat state Rep. Wendell Gilliard is trying to keep the school's needs on the front burner while the Statehouse is in recess until January, even suggesting that a special session might be in order.

The school recently was given a $6 million loan by the state to help address some of the college's $13.6 million deficit, though money issues remain.

"I have vendors calling me on a daily basis looking to get paid," Elzey told the delegation.

Gilliard said the problems at the historically black public university have been put under a microscope unfairly when compared to problems seen at other state colleges.

The University of South Carolina "has their problems too but they don't get exploited as much as S.C. State," Gilliard said. He thought S.C. State should have received the entire $13 million to settle its deficit.

"The negativity has overshadowed the positivity," he said.

Gilliard was one of several delegation members who said the state has an obligation to make sure the school does not go under.

"If S.C. State fails then the state of South Carolina fails," said state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston.

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Elzey said the school has a recovery plan charted out, but added there are long-term issues that need to be addressed as well, including faculty recruitment and retention, and acquiring modern technology.

Last year the school graduated about 700 students, Elzey said, and has a current enrollment of about 3,400, a number he would like to see increased.

"We still have a gap, we still need support," he said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551