President Isaiah Nelson on the Possibility of a Capital Projects Freeze

President Nelson sent out this information to the College of Charleston Student Body on Monday, September 27th, 2010.  The President and SGA will keep you updated regarding the action they take with this issue, and encourage you to come to the SGA Senate on Tuesday, September 28th in Rivers Green at 4:30pm to discuss the issue with SGA.

As much of the State of South Carolina is aware, Governor Sanford has recently proposed a moratorium on new building projects as a result of the recent tuition increases in South Carolina.  As the President of the Student Body at the College of Charleston, I feel it is important to point out that while this decision will have a great impact on the students of higher education in South Carolina, there has been a noticeable omission of student input during this dialogue.

You may have also noticed that much of dialogue has been conducted by individuals who have little to no connection with our Colleges and Universities.  This lack of connection has led to a disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality of this debate.

There have been claims that the capital projects undertaken by South Carolina Colleges and Universities recently were not necessary.  The claim has been that tax dollars have been spent outrageously, funding large, unnecessary projects on campuses.  With a firm understanding of the realities of Higher Education, however, this is clearly not true.

The College of Charleston’s student body doubled from 5,000 students in 1990 to 10,000 students in 2001.  In 2003, the College completed a facilities master plan that found the College was well short of the square footage necessary for our capped Student Body of 10,000.  The College undertook a massive campus-wide project to update our campus to provide for our students the buildings that were necessary for the size of our now capped student body.  The construction that has taken place over the last 7 years has not occurred to extravagantly add to the already lavish facilities on campus; the additions have served to bring the College to a point where it can adequately serve its students.

The recent tuition increase at CofC is one that I am concerned about as an informed student, but it is also one I understand.  My tuition increased because in the roughly 2 years I have been a student at CofC, the College’s budget has fallen from 16.3% to 8.5% state funded.  Funding for recent construction projects was identified many years ago, and they are not the reason for the tuition increase.

Our Colleges and Universities are charged with educating the future of this state, but they need to have the ability to do so by providing adequate facilities and receiving necessary state funding.  With the College of Charleston residing in the Historic District of Charleston, we need to be able to renovate buildings that can be over 150 years old.  The students of South Carolina need our institutions to have the ability to renovate and build facilities that meet our learning needs, and this proposed freeze would have detrimental effects on our College’s and Universities ability to provide for us.

South Carolina Students understand the difficulties of the current economic climate.  However, the incredible cuts and this proposed construction freeze that have been seen over the last few years are not demonstrating a commitment from our state to our future.  As this debate continues in South Carolina over days and weeks to come, it is important to remember the realities of Higher Education in South Carolina as spoken from those who experience it on a day to day basis, not those who claim to have an understanding from an office far away from our campuses.

Isaiah C. Nelson is the President of the Student Body at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC.

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