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January 31, 2017: Remarks to the House Ways & Means Committee

Prepared Remarks delivered by University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides to the House Ways & Means Committee on January 31, 2017

Chairman White and distinguished members of the Higher Education Subcommittee, Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter and Representative Mike Sottile. I am appreciative of this opportunity to meet and present. It’s great to be a Gamecock and great to be a South Carolinian! We intend to be respectful of your time and plan on being brief and direct.

As we begin, I would like to recognize some of our Board of Trustee members who join us today: Vice Chair Hugh Mobley, 6th Judicial District; William Hubbard, 5th Judicial District; Thad Westbrook, 11th Judicial District; Tommy Cofield, Gov. Appointee, and Board Secretary Cantey Heath. Our student body president Michael Parks was scheduled to attend but has an exam – so he’s where he needs to be. 

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Joan Gabel is here as well as other members of our leadership Team – some of whom I will introduce in a few minutes.

Campus Representatives: Chancellor Susan Elkins who oversees Palmetto College and its online baccalaureate degree program that has graduated 700+ and served over 2,200 students from all 46 counties; Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Jeff Priest (USC Aiken); Interim Chancellor Mary Anne Fitzpatrick (USC Upstate); Vice Chancellor for Advancement and External Relations Lynn McGee (USC Beaufort); Dean Ann Carmichael (USC Salkehatchie); Acting Dean John Catalano (USC Union); Dean Mike Sonntag (USC Sumter); and Dean Walt Collins (USC Lancaster).

All of us are keeping our sights focused on South Carolina’s future. It is why we continually ask ourselves what kind of 21st century university our students need to ensure they become the workforce-ready graduates and the dynamic leaders our state and nation deserve. It is why we have developed education programs like On Your Time graduation with a record number of students in four or fewer years, and it’s why, even during a record recession, we stayed centered on our goals and remained strong.

 It is also why I firmly commit to being bound with the legislature in a good-faith effort to make South Carolina prosperous, competitive and healthy and I respect your dedication in the face of many challenges.

 Today, the University of South Carolina system reaches every corner of the state with eight institutions in 18 geographical locations. We continue to buck enrollment trends as students continue to apply and matriculate in record numbers. In fact, this year, for the first time, the system surpassed the 50,000 enrollment mark. That’s a significant milestone for our system and our state and USC Columbia is the 4th fastest growing public university in the USA. Our system growth in 30 percent since 2005.

Our growing momentum and unprecedented success is reflected in our increasing applications, recognitions and rankings.

Let me list just a few of the rankings: USC News & World Report ranks USC Columbia as the top global university in South Carolina - and I would add we are partnering with the best universities and colleges in the world.

We are one of only 32 public universities to receive both the top-tier research designation and the top-tier community engagement designation from the Carnegie Foundation. 

USC is one of only a few public institutions cited as making “exceptional improvements in graduation rates” between 2003-2013.  Our graduation rates are among the highest of any public university.

We’re in the top 1 percent of the National Academy of Inventors – and among the top 100 worldwide universities granted US patents – in the company of MIT, Stanford, Princeton and Yale.

USC has 47 nationally ranked academic programs, more than any other university in the state, including the Moore School of Business as the No. 1 undergraduate and graduate school in the world for “international experience,” No. 1 for Sports Science,  No. 1 doctoral program in exercise science and the No. 1 Honors Program.  Top rankings also include Hospitality and Sports Management, our Online Program and Nursing. 

Kiplinger lists USC as one of the “Best Values among Public Colleges.”

U.S. News ranks our comprehensive campuses among the top public regional colleges in the South. USC Aiken is ranked No. 1 (and also the No. 1 best regional college in the South for veterans). USC Upstate is ranked No. 2 (and is ranked the No. 2 best regional college in the South for veterans, as well as being named one of the top five most diverse higher education institutions in South Carolina). And USC Beaufort is ranked No. 6.  All great news!

Our strength is in our ability to offer a point of admission into the USC system for any high school graduate while also offering some of the most sought after and prestigious advanced degrees in the country. We have something for every South Carolinian.

We have implemented innovative programs like Gamecock Gateway – a direct pathway, with financial aid to USC enrollment for students who, without a bridge, wouldn’t likely make it to USC—providing access to the benefits that come from living on the USC campus.

Gamecock Guarantee – providing financial aid and support to help academically talented first-generation students from low-income S.C. families earn a degree.

And Gamecock Promise, improving grants in aid to student athletes in order help students graduate and succeed.

Today, 40 percent of all bachelor’s and graduate degrees awarded within the state come from the USC system. That’s more degrees awarded by USC than any other in-state university.  Over the past 10 years, we have produced 87,094 degrees in fields critical to our state’s economic interests. That means that of our 300,000 alumni worldwide, really a third graduated in the past decade.

As important, we are in the top 3 percent of universities in the United States who graduate the most African-American students. In fact, we award more bachelor’s, master’s, professional and doctoral degrees to African-American students than any other university in the state.  While that is good news, we aren’t satisfied and will continue to push all to do more.

In fact, right now, we are working on a collaboration with S.C. State – to place a McNair Center satellite program on their campus. USC’s McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research, founded in 2011, supports the rapidly growing aerospace industry by offering aerospace education, research, outreach and economic engagement. 

Through a grant from Marva Smalls, the center is also working with minority high school students interested in aerospace.  Our work continues. I’ve appointed the four highest level African American officers in USC’s history, Chancellor Al Panu, USC Beaufort; Vice President for Facilities and Transportation, Derrick Huggins; Chief Diversity Officer John Dozier, Executive Assistant to the President; and Director of Equal Opportunity Programs Bobby Gist. 

The need for more and well-prepared graduates is paramount.  We know that in 2030, just 13 years from today, 70,000 new baccalaureate degree holders will be needed in our state.  We also know that by 2030 health care and social assistance sectors are projected to be the largest employers within the state.

USC has the most comprehensive health sciences research and education entity in South Carolina, with more than 10 of our programs ranked among the best in the nation. In addition, in the past five years, USC has already graduated more than 5,000 health care professionals with many more on the way.  This makes us uniquely positioned to meet the upcoming demands of both patients and employers. To that end, we are pursuing an innovative plan to construct a health sciences campus, including a modern facility for our School of Medicine at the BullStreet development in downtown Columbia.

For this and for the needs on all our campuses, I am urging you to pass a capital improvement bond bill for higher education.

Currently, the School of Medicine resides in building built in 1932, (85 years old) located at the Dorn Veterans Center that predate the creation of the flu shot and the polio. It will cost $75 million dollars to up fit. In addition, by 2030, we will be paying market rate for rent.  This is not a good deal for taxpayers.

 This new medical campus will serve as an anchor for innovation, a magnet for entrepreneurs, and offer prominent researchers and practitioners an opportunity to work side-by-side as they improve the health and quality of life for all South Carolinians. In fact, the organizations that spin off from this development will create up to 1,200 new jobs, $180 million in annual economic impact and as much as $9 million in added state and local tax revenue annually. A win-win for the region and the state.  

You’ll hear more about this proposal momentarily. 

In addition, all of our campuses are in great need of capital improvements and a bond bill will allow us to allocate funding as needed. In this way, a bond bill for higher education becomes a financially sound investment in South Carolina’s future as it could be passed without increasing taxes or requiring additional general fund appropriations. And it allows the state to take advantage of borrowing rates that are near historic lows.

We are asking for recurring system funding for initiatives to build bridges with the technical college system; programs to enhance student support services; programs to enhance K-12 teaching degrees and more. All are designed to create better graduates and better work performance.   

As I turn the presentation over to Ed Walton, senior vice president for administration and chief operating officer, I want to thank the Committee and members of the House who demonstrated great confidence in the University of South Carolina System in 2016 by providing the most generous appropriation since 2007. This critical funding gave us the flexibility needed to use it efficiently and wisely—we are appreciative.

 It is important to note that our funding levels are still providing significant challenges. Each year, increases in retirement contributions, health care costs and other mandatory expenses add additional stress—not to mention the desire to constantly improve for the benefit of our students. Therefore, we need to work together to reshape and redesign a new financial reality that is sensitive to the limited resources of South Carolina’s students—our future workforce—and their families.

One way to help us be more efficient is to ensure we are able to operate in an efficient and effective way. This includes not being subjected to additional duplicative oversight, particularly in auxiliary areas of operation like housing, athletics and parking that are funded by ticket sales, TV contracts, private gifts or other sources of income outside of tuition or state appropriations.

Efforts to add additional requirements for approval for budgets, or facilities beyond that which are already provided by the General Assembly and the State Fiscal Accountability Authority will be counterproductive — making us less efficient, less competitive, and less accessible to the students of our state.  

Again, I’m appreciative of your time and your thoughtful consideration.