Pacers Meet with Lawmakers in Columbia

Staff Report From Aiken CEO

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Student leaders from the University of South Carolina Aiken spent a day in Columbia, visiting with members of the local legislative delegation to thank them for their support and to explain the university's current budget requests for 2020.

"It was an absolute honor meeting our legislators and being able to voice a story that not only applies to me but many other students on the USC Aiken campus," said Q'May Qourters, a sophomore biology major with a concentration in pre-med.

The three main requests focus on increasing access and affordability for all South Carolina residents and enhancing academic programs targeted at students' success. Currently, the university is seeking recurring dollars, which would go toward ensuring all South Carolinians have the opportunity to afford and achieve an undergraduate, four-year degree.

"Access and affordability are two of the most important criteria a public university can offer a family and students attending college," said one student leader.

Students and university officials alike believe access and affordability are achieved by keeping tuition low, by offering diverse and unique programs of study, by recruiting and retaining the best students, the best faculty, and by providing opportunities for growth and co-curricular programs that enrich Pacers' experience at USC Aiken.

"My mother is a single mom who had twins. Both my sister and I want to become excellent doctors, which is not financially easy for [my mother]," Qourters said.

"USC Aiken has made the financial burden much easier, but we are still seeking as much help we can receive.

"I want to thank the legislators again for this incredible opportunity."

Additionally, USC Aiken has two specific one-time capital asks: $3.5 million in dollars for enhancements to the Business and Education Building and $8.5 million for upgrades and enhancements to the Learning Commons in the Gregg-Graniteville Library.

"Students know that by attending USC Aiken they are at a university that has been ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report fourteen times and that they are likely to graduate with little or no debt," said Dr. Sandra Jordan, chancellor of the university.

"This has put us in demand, and our enrollment has enjoyed unprecedented growth over the past six years. Now we are in need of more space, but it's important for that space to be efficient and multi-faceted.

"The university hopes to create just that in our [Business and Education] Building, and we would like to reconfigure the third-floor gym into more office space, laboratories, classrooms, and flexible, multi-purpose rooms to enhance student learning.

"The university was excited when the Gregg-Graniteville Library was completed in 1975 and became the second building on campus. It is the central hub of academic engagement, and it's our desire to redesign and renovate this historic building, named after the Gregg family to create a 21st Century student engagement center where continuous learning takes place beyond the confines of the traditional classroom."

While in the state's capital, students also shared their support of a bill they believe will directly impact them and their fellow Pacers. One of the current bills being proposed by Senator Vincent Sheheen of Camden is the new Higher Education Opportunity Act.

"The HEOA is needed because it authorizes programs and partnerships that make it affordable to earn degrees," said Alex Richardson, a senior majoring in education.

"As a [Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement] Teaching Fellow and LIFE Scholar, I am thankful for the recurring dollars that institutions receive to improve teacher education programs, strengthen teacher recruitment efforts, and provide training for prospective teachers like myself.

"Programs that fund higher education and reward in-state enrollment to those who have exhibited high academic achievement and a history of service to their school and community is a great thing for the state because those college graduates will have a desire to give back through careers to the communities they grew up in.

"This keeps the state's investments right here in South Carolina. It's a win-win for everyone."