State funding for higher education was a topic of discussion on Tuesday, Oct. 25, when Lander University hosted seven members of the Lakelands region's legislative delegation. The lawmakers were treated to breakfast followed by a tour of two of Lander's newest facilities: The Jeff May Complex on Montague Avenue, and the Equestrian Center on Hwy. 72/221.
President Daniel Ball said the purpose of the get-together was to update legislators on Lander initiatives and plans for the future.
The attendees were: Sens. Billy O'Dell, Floyd Nicholson, and Daniel Verdin and Reps. Paul Agnew, Anne Parks, Gene Pinson and Walt McLeod.
Ball told the group that South Carolina's declining financial support for higher education comes at a time when young people are being encouraged to get a college degree. He added, "It hurts students and will affect their standard of living, prosperity and quality of life." He also said reductions in state aid have a negative impact on efforts by state-supported colleges and universities to remain competitive.
McLeod, Nicholson and Parks said cutting state aid for higher education has become a trend in South Carolina and they expect it will continue. Nicholson said, "We have to step up and reverse the trend even if it means tax increases." He pointed out that state support for colleges and universities has dropped from about 55 percent to less than 15 percent in just the past three to four years.
Ball noted that he and the other presidents of state institutions have been working with Gov. Nikki Haley on a higher education funding formula but there are still many details to be worked out.
"Lander University," he said, "is a gold star for the state of South Carolina. We offer an outstanding academic program and we are proud of our graduation rate and rate of student retention."
Ball and members of Lander's President's Council joined legislators aboard a univesity shuttle, which took them to visit the recreation, wellness and sports complex named for longtime athletic director Jeff May.
May said, "This is a quality facility that will serve Lander's recreation, wellness and athletic programs as well as the community." He said he is working with the Greenwood Regional Tourism and Visitors Bureau to attract tournaments from other parts of the state and beyond to use the complex, thus bringing people to Greenwood who would patronize local restaurants and guest services.
At the Equestrian Center, director Nancy Poston told the legislators the university's equestrian program is attracting a new group of students to Lander. She said the equestrian team has 27 riders. The Center also offers therapeutic riding and hippotherapy programs for disabled children and adults. It has 30 horses, which were donated to the university, and 80 volunteers, many of them students, work at the center each week.
Ball concluded the two-hour breakfast and tour by thanking the legislators. "Lander appreciates your help," he told them.