A “historic” influx of state funding will allow South Carolina State University to expand its student center, renovate the tallest building on campus and complete other much-needed projects to the tune of $33 million.

The state also funded more than $6.6 million in initiatives for S.C. State 1890 Research & Extension. Among them are new youth cabins at Camp Harry E. Daniels, as well as funding toward a limnology research center and expansion of agribusiness programs.

“This has been a historic year of funding at South Carolina State University,” President Alexander Conyers said. “This is one of the largest budgets ever as an investment for students, and I am grateful to the Orangeburg legislative delegation for assisting us in obtaining this funding.”

The university’s $52 million 2022-23 budget represents a nearly $30 million increase over the previous fiscal year. Included in the overall amount is roughly $33 million for maintenance, expansion or replacement of campus facilities.

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Conyers’ top two priorities for using the funds are a $20 million expansion of the Kirkland W. Green Student Life Center and a $10 million renovation of Sojourner Truth Hall, the campus’ towering residence hall.

‘Good stewards’

The student center upgrade is actually two projects totaling nearly $25 million.

In the 2021-22 allocation, the university devoted $4.4 million to completely renovating the existing center. That project, which is already in the design phase, includes a new facade and upgrades/reorganization of interior spaces.

“If we were to tear down this current student center and build a new one, it would be a $40 million to $60 million project,” Conyers said. “So we are being good stewards of state funding.

“Our current student center is 68 years old,” he said. “It opened in 1954. We certainly need a new, modern student center to help us attract and retain students, but more importantly to give students a better facility to hang out, fellowship and develop new friendships.”

The Green Center’s administrative offices will be relocated to neighboring Miller Hall, a former residence hall that also will be renovated.

“Miller is a historic building, and we can make good office use out of it, but I do not see us going back into Miller for a dorm,” Conyers said.

The $20 million student center expansion will be erected on the southeast side of the Green Center near Miller Hall and the campus rose garden. It will add 30,000 square feet, giving the university 62,000 square feet of modern space specifically for student life activities. It will include a new cafeteria.

During the Green Center’s renovation, the university will need to rearrange some functions, such as student offices and the recreation room, as crews work in and around the building.

“There will be some shuffling, and we will try to minimize it, but at the end it will be well worth it,” Conyers said.

Ken Davis, S.C. State’s associate vice president for facilities management, said work on the Green Center renovation is expected to begin in the spring of 2023 with an estimated completion date of the following January.

Following design, bid and approval processes, Davis estimated that work on the new student center wing would begin that same January with possible completion in summer 2025.

Sojourner Truth Hall

The $10 million project will allow the university to retrofit Truth Hall with fire-suppression sprinkler systems and complete other upgrades. The university has only been able to house students in the tower’s lower floors in recent years because the upper floors are inaccessible to firetrucks.

Conyers said having Truth fully online will be essential because of the university’s enrollment growth, as S.C. State needs more residential capacity.

The university recently moved upperclassmen to leased housing adjacent to the campus because nearly 1,000 new students have enrolled for the Fall Semester.

“By renovating Truth, we can add another 200 beds a lot faster than we can build a new residence hall,” he said.

Davis estimated that work in Truth would begin in January 2024 and finish in summer 2025, giving the university the added room capacity the following fall semester.

Needs on campus

The president noted that the new student center wing represents the first time in decades the state has fully funded a new building on the campus. Other projects required the university to take on debt.

The president noted that if the university is to continue to attract and retain more students, it needs first-rate facilities to compete with other institutions. Conyers has identified about $200 million in facilities needs on the S.C. State campus, and he hopes the state will fulfill that need by providing full funding for at least one building each fiscal year.

“We must continue to articulate the need for a larger investment in the students. I will continue to advocate for that along with our local delegation and our Board of Trustees,” Conyers said. “It would truly transform our campus and the lives of our students.”

Washington Dining Hall

The new student center wing’s cafeteria will allow the university to eventually renovate the J. Irwin Washington Dining Hall for other purposes when funding becomes available.

“We will have engineers and architects come in to tell us what repurposed use could work for our current cafeteria,” Conyers said. “I would love to have the experts tell us that if we gut that building, we could make it full-fledged fitness center. Only athletes currently have access to fitness equipment on the campus.”

The president noted that S.C. State First Lady Agatha Conyers’ emphasis for the campus is on wellness. So a fitness center would fit into that agenda.

1890 Research

& Extension

The state’s budget includes $4 million for new facilities at Camp Daniels in Elloree, South Carolina: $2 million to build youth cabins and $2 million toward a limnology research center. The projects represent a new phase in the camp’s revitalization.

Camp Harry E. Daniels

From its opening in 1949, Camp Daniels served as the only 4-H Camp in South Carolina for the state’s Black youth for decades, but it closed in 1994.

S.C. State 1890 Research & Extension has been rebuilding the camp to restore it for youth and adult outreach programs, as well as research. A 15,000-square-foot leadership center opened there last year.

The South Carolina Limnology Research Center will facilitate the study of the biological, chemical and physical features of lakes and other bodies of fresh water. Camp Daniels features a large pond and sits adjacent to Lake Marion.

The state also provided 1890 Research and Extension with:

• $1.6 million for expansion of agribusiness programming.

• $585,000 for digital technology in small business development.

• $244,000 for nutrition and mental health outreach related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

• $262,000 for efforts regarding the effects of COVID-19 on small farm sustainability and capacity.

Keeping tuition flat

The university’s operating budget also received about $500,000 more in tuition mitigation funding resulting from enrollment growth in the last school year. That’s in addition to the $1.3 million the university received for that purpose in the 2021-22 budget.

“Most of our funding methodology is tied to enrollment (from the previous fall semester),” Conyers said. “Tuition mitigation, deferred maintenance and our baseline budget are all tied to enrollment.”

The president said keeping tuition flat is vital for enrollment growth as Pell Grants do not yet cover the costs of tuition, resulting in debt for students who take out loans.

“One of my challenges is to keep tuition flat as we try to close the gap between tuition and the Pell Grant maximum award, which is almost a $4,000 gap,” Conyers said.

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