The Daily Gamecock

University requests state funding for Palmetto College

Pastides asks for $10 million for law school, $20 million for deferred maintenance

USC President Harris Pastides took the next step toward creating the USC Palmetto College Wednesday afternoon by asking for $5 million in funding for the initiative in front of a state House panel.

The college, which would allow students with two-year degrees to earn bachelor’s degrees online, aims to provide South Carolinians who may not be able to attend classes at one of the university’s campuses with access to higher education.

Another benefit Pastides pointed out: The program would allow the university to educate these nontraditional students, but it would not contribute to the swelling class sizes and strained campus infrastructure issues the university faces every year.

“This will provide a four-year path without hiring new faculty or building new buildings,” Pastides said.

Palmetto College will go to USC’s board of trustees for approval at its upcoming February meeting, but whether the board signs off on the initiative will largely depend on how much money the state allocates for it, Pastides said.

Pastides and Provost Michael Amiridis said neither enrollment numbers nor tuition cost are currently available for Palmetto College. But, Amiridis said, the wait list for the program is already dozens of names long, even though the university hasn’t yet begun advertising it, and he indicated that cost to students would be exponentially lower than many for-profit online programs.

“That’s not to knock private, for-profit online colleges,” Pastides said. “We just know we could do it more efficiently.”

Whether state funding is received will determine how quickly USC can get Palmetto College up and running, Pastides said. If the $5 million is given to the university, Amiridis estimated the program would start in the fall of 2013.

While Pastides spent most of his presentation to the panel advertising the Palmetto College and touting USC’s successes and sizeable impact in the state economy, he also outlined several areas in which the university is desperately lagging.

He asked for $20 million from the state to help put a dent in what he said was $300 million worth of deferred maintenance needs throughout the USC system. If it’s received, $15 million of the funding would go to the Columbia campus. For maintenance on the other campuses, $1.5 million each would go to Aiken, Beaufort and Upstate; $200,000 would go to Lancaster; Salkehatchie and Sumter would receive $125,000 each; and Union would get the remaining $50,000.

Like the $11 million USC received last year, this money would largely go to roofs, windows and floors in need of repair, Pastides said.

Pastides also requested $10 million to fund a new building for USC’s law school. He cited the serious issues with the current one, all of which The Daily Gamecock outlined in a three-part series a year and a half ago.

The university’s president also asked for $5 million in a one-time grant for research lab equipment.

How much of the requested funding the university receives will depend upon the amount allocated by the state legislature when it passes its annual budget this summer.

Pastides sounded confident after his presentation, though, mainly based on the enthusiasm of the legislators.

“Nobody promised us anything today, but the responses from the subcommittee were good,” Pastides said.