COLUMBIA -- Trident Technical College isn't waiting to find out if state lawmakers will require it to post online how they spend public money.

The college already has set up a system, which the public soon will be able to access from the school's website.

Trident is one of seven public schools in the state that are participating in a pilot program to make higher education spending more transparent.

College officials demonstrated their system at a news conference Thursday at the Statehouse.

Sen. Mike Rose, R-Summerville, called the conference to announce a bill he has filed that, if passed, would require the state's public higher education institutions to post their expenditures and credit card purchases on their websites.

Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom said Rose filed a similar bill in 2009 but that "it was met with a low level of enthusiasm" from college and university officials who thought it might be time-consuming or expensive to implement.

But Rose approached higher education leaders this year, got them involved in the process and has filed the bill again, he said.

Eckstrom said it's important for colleges to post their expenditures online. The schools operate more independently than other state agencies, so the information isn't available anywhere else.

If the bill passes, "we'll all have access to the same information at the same time," Eckstrom said. "This is the way government is going to do business in the future."

Other schools participating in the pilot program are The Citadel; the University of South Carolina; and Clemson, Francis Marion, Coastal Carolina and Lander universities.

Trident Tech President Mary Thornley said school officials originally had some concerns about the amount of staff time it would take to set up and keep up the system. But their fears weren't realized.

Scott Poelker, the college's vice president for finance, said the school's technology staff had to invest some time to set up the system. But once it's up and running, it will only require about two hours of staff time each month.

A bill similar to Rose's also has been filed in the House this year.

Government transparency is important, Rose said.

"Everybody alive in this state knows we have a huge shortage of revenue. If you don't know what you're spending, you won't have a clue how to save money," he said.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491.