SCICU offices will be closed on Monday, May 25 in observance of Memorial Day.
SCICU offices will reopen on Tuesday, May 26 for regular business hours.
SCICU offices will be closed on Monday, May 25 in observance of Memorial Day.
SCICU offices will reopen on Tuesday, May 26 for regular business hours.
Perhaps only one: higher education.
Since its founding in 1636, time and again, American higher education has proven its resiliency and extraordinary value. We’ve faced myriad challenges through the years.
In recent years, we’ve faced predictions that the best education would soon be totally online and cost nothing. Online learning has only enhanced higher education, not replaced it. Also, it costs someone a fair amount of money to provide. It is not free and never has been.
There has also been systematic rhetoric claiming decreased value and relevancy of a college degree. However, just this year, the Brookings Institution reported an undeniable fact: On average, college graduates can earn twice that of high school grads over their lifetimes — almost $2 million more. College grads also generally enjoy better health, file fewer disability claims and sustain higher levels of employment during economic downturns. Earning higher degrees only increases these benefits. The present and projected demand for baccalaureate-degreed professionals has perhaps never been greater.
COVID-19 is the latest threat to higher education—that is, if we permit it to paralyze us. Moving to online delivery early in the pandemic was the right decision. We’ve learned a lot in a short time about how to continue our work and protect students, employees and the public. We should not waste that valuable knowledge, nor ignore what we will continue to learn this summer.
Planning for a worst-case scenario is wise, and nearly every college administration is doing just that. However, we thrive more and develop more breakthrough solutions when we are optimistic.
COVID-19 is serious, but neither university leaders nor the public should allow it to incapacitate us. Let’s see the glass as half-full, not half-empty. Many educational leaders have hopeful intentions to reopen campuses this fall. Unless there is overwhelming evidence of nonstop infection growth, our hope is to return to normal, even if it’s a new normal.
One college president says she is cautiously optimistic; most seem to feel similarly. To best balance public health with economic interests, we should return to a normal with new realities. Neither can override the other for protracted periods. We must manage both.
Right now, our top priority is rightly the welfare of students, employees and our friends and neighbors. We are concerned that people have died, businesses are suffering and many families have lost income because of layoffs and furloughs.
We will do all we can to protect our population, preserve jobs for our employees and help families afford to keep sons and daughters in college. We want to take every reasonable step to facilitate the shared goal of returning to the greatest measure of “normal” we can achieve, as quickly as we can achieve it.
This new “normal” is what I believe Gov. Henry McMaster’s forward-thinking “accelerateSC” task force aims to facilitate. It’s described as a “coordinated economic revitalization plan involving small and large business owners, leaders in manufacturing, health care, education and government,” working together to get South Carolina back to work rebuilding our economy and building our future. Higher education is central to it all.
In considering whether campuses should open, we cannot overlook the economic value and public good of higher education. Fifty-nine nonprofit, four-year colleges and universities represent a huge part of South Carolina’s economic engine. Annually, we educate more than 290,000 students, most from right here in South Carolina. We graduate more than 50,000 individuals who become workers and taxpayers. We employ approximately 44,000 individuals whose compensation totals more than $3.3 billion.
Every year, our collective economic impact on South Carolina is approximately $5.8 billion. Adding in 16 technical and community colleges, the numbers are even more staggering. And, contrary to popular myth, though nonprofit colleges and universities generally don’t pay property and income taxes, we pay almost every other tax, just like businesses.
In all candor, if we cannot fully open our campuses to traditional students this fall, the strength and survivability of our colleges and universities is at risk, and, with it, South Carolina’s economy. Opening our campuses to only a portion of our students is not financially viable. Moreover, the prospect of a full semester totally online is not likely to be attractive to today’s traditional students.
All of our nonprofit schools exist to serve the public good — today, tomorrow and forever. We cannot financially imperil our institutions, yet expect them to be resourced properly to pick up in 2021 where they left off in mid-spring 2020. That doesn’t serve the public good; it undermines it.
And it’s not just about missing out on tuition and fees! It’s about educating students and the necessary long-term health and viability of all but the most heavily resourced universities in the state.
We also cannot ignore the serious shortages of professionals. Nurses, engineers, public school teachers, physical therapists, pharmacists, physicians, scientific researchers, cyber security experts — all are urgently needed.
Delaying students’ education and training will only worsen the situation and erode South Carolina’s professional capital and ability to meet its citizens’ most basic and critical needs.
Indeed, South Carolina’s future, in great part, hinges on uninterrupted education and training of professionals and technicians. All institutions will no doubt respect the governor’s guidance and adhere to legal mandates, but we are eager to resume our urgent missions. We want to open this fall, and to open strongly.
Opening strongly means that we take what we’ve learned about this virus and how it can be managed and apply it to our campuses. We are implementing and sharing best practices even now.
While none of us is in complete control of the circumstances, clearly there are many things we can do to reasonably and responsibly protect our campuses and communities through controlled risk. This is a time for all in higher education to collaborate and share information. We are learning from one another and from public health experts. We have time to prepare.
As we communicate with students, we hear continuously that they miss their friends and professors. They miss face-to-face interaction, studying together, worshiping together, competing in athletics, being in musical and theatrical events and student government. And they miss rich learning and living experiences on a campus alive with kinetic energy and animated creativity.
That’s especially true at Anderson, where a close-knit family atmosphere is embedded in a campus culture that students refer to as their “home away from home.” For this reason, we have more students than ever who have indicated their desire to launch their college careers at AU, and we will be prepared to welcome them.
Opening strongly means one more thing: We have to be realistic. Until a vaccine is developed, there will be rising and receding waves of infections. We must manage that the best we can.
In this balancing of public health and our economy, we should acknowledge what experience with COVID-19 has already taught us — that most traditionally aged college students impacted develop only mild symptoms. Still, they must rigidly limit their close contact with older adults and those with underlying risk factors. We can discipline ourselves to do that.
Meanwhile, we all hope and pray for a reliable, approved treatment and vaccine sooner than later.
For now, COVID-19 will likely challenge our state for months to come. But for almost four centuries, American higher education has risen to challenges. We can and will do it again. Think about it: Just a few weeks ago, when abruptly faced with closing campuses and shifting to online delivery of coursework, none of our South Carolina colleges and universities were unsuccessful. That’s resiliency. When circumstances demand it, we have a track record of reinventing and adapting.
With South Carolinians’ support, whatever the challenges we may have this fall, we can adapt, manage and help South Carolina rebound to thrive once again.
*The author acknowledges with appreciation the contributions of other South Carolina independent college and university presidents to these ideas.
Evans Whitaker has been president and professor of management at Anderson University since 2002. He holds a Ph.D. in education and human development from Vanderbilt University. He is currently vice chair of the S.C. Tuition Grants Commission. He is a past member of the S.C. Higher Education Commission, past chair of the S.C. Independent Colleges & Universities Council of Presidents, founder of the South Carolina School of the Arts, and the longest-serving private university president in the Palmetto State.
Staton became PC’s 18th president in July 2015.
“It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to serve my alma mater as a trustee, as a member of its staff, and since 2015 as its President, for I know how important realizing the promise of PC is in shaping students like me to live meaningful lives,” Staton wrote in an email to PC students, faculty and staff.
During his tenure as PC’s president, Staton introduced the strategic plan, “The Promise of PC.” The plan included new initiatives to foster strategic growth, student success, valuing others, and sharing the PC story.
The goals of the strategic plan are realized in the renovation of Neville Hall, the building of a new undergraduate residence complex and the renovation of numerous other campus buildings. Guided by “The Promise of PC,” the College has welcomed its most diverse classes over the last two years.
“Bob has been an exceptionally strong and effective leader,” E. G. Lassiter ’69, chairman of PC’s Board of Trustees, noted in an email to the PC community.
New undergraduate programs in data analytics, education, biology, and public health complement PC’s existing liberal arts programs. Through Staton’s leadership, PC has added new graduate programs in physician assistant studies and occupational therapy. The School of Health Professions was established in 2019.
“PC’s motto -– “While we live, we serve” -– resonates profoundly with (wife Phyllis and me),” Staton said in the email. “We are grateful beyond words for the time we have shared with you as we’ve worked together to realize PC’s promise for students now and in years to come.”
Staton has been instrumental in guiding PC through the coronavirus pandemic since early March. The college has adjusted its academic schedule, like most colleges and universities have done, while remaining true to its mission, according to Staton.
“Delivering on that mission, and realizing the promise Presbyterian College holds, is even more crucial than ever in a time of great change and enormous uncertainty,” Staton said.
“The challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting global economic downturn require us to be receptive to change, new ideas, and different ways of doing things,” Staton added. “At the same time, though, we must never lose sight of what makes this place so special: the promise it holds for taking students of all ages and backgrounds and preparing them for meaningful contributions to a world that needs them more than ever before.”
Staton, a 1968 graduate of Presbyterian College, earned a J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law. He went on to become the chairman and CEO of Colonial Life before his retirement from that field. He currently serves on the board of Delta Apparel, a publicly traded company with executive offices in Greenville, S.C.
Committed to the success of the people of South Carolina, Staton is a member of numerous state and local civic organizations. He has been recognized by the South Carolina State Chamber of Commerce as Business Leader of the Year and was awarded the Order of the Palmetto by Governor Jim Hodges.
Staton’s involvement with the College spans five decades. He served as a member of the Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2006. He also served as chair of the college’s Promise and Challenge capital campaign. In January 2007, he joined the college’s administration as executive vice president for external relations until 2012. Staton received an honorary doctorate of public service degree from PC in 2015.
The Board of Trustees has appointed Trustee Holbrook Raynal, M.D., a 1970 PC alumnus, as cChair of the Presidential Search Committee. Dr. Raynal will form a search committee in the next few weeks and launch and conduct a national search for PC’s 19th President.
Will we ever shake hands again?
Hugging a loved one is now a decision.
COVID-19 is forcing all of us to face tough choices.
But making difficult decisions is something our campus leaders do every day.
They are responsible for the well-being of students, faculty, and staff while also providing for a vibrant academic environment and an elevating living experience. They must also adjudicate professional and social interactions that don’t always go as smoothly as they would like.
While it’s easy for the lay person to think of campuses as a collection of classrooms and labs, they are in reality communities – small cities – that typically operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Of course, there’s been nothing typical about this spring semester. Our SCICU member institutions moved quickly to create an online academic program that helped ensure the safety of their campus communities. And they made the very difficult decision of shutting down all the activities that are at the heart of campus life.
Their proven leadership is why we must trust our campus presidents and their teams to move forward and plan for reopening their campuses this fall, while taking all necessary precautions to keep everyone safe. These preparations are complicated by the unknowns we all face: How widespread will COVID-19 be later this year? What pandemic regulations will be in place? Will treatments be available?
Their students want to come back. They desperately seek the learning and living experience provided by being on campus. And I should point out our campuses are essential to the economic recovery of the communities in which they are located, and to the state as well.
We can be confident our campus leaders will make the right decisions for their campuses while maintaining as their highest priority the safety of students, faculty, and staff.
Our students should be back on campus where they will receive the education that will equip them to achieve their aspirations.
Let’s do everything we can to ensure COVID-19 does not deprive our students of a bright future.
Governor McMaster describes accelerateSC as “a coordinated economic revitalization plan involving small and large business owners, leaders in manufacturing, healthcare professions, education professionals, and local government officials.” A list of accelerateSC task force members is available on the Governor’s website.
The accelerateSC task force is composed of five committees – Response, protection, governance, resources, and information. Benedict president Roslyn Artis serves on the governance committee, while Lou Kennedy, SCICU trustee and president and CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals, was chosen for the response committee.
“We must view our campuses as small cities,” said Artis in the April 27th meeting of the accelerateSC governance committee. “Our private colleges and universities, especially in more rural areas, have major economic impact in their respective markets.”
Artis was joined in the inaugural governance committee meeting by other higher education leaders, including SCICU president and CEO Jeff Perez and Rusty Monhollon, president of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education.
accelerateSC’s meetings are covered by local media and livestreamed by SC ETV, which also maintains recorded video from past meetings and makes them available free to the public.
Just when the Federal Update is put to bed, there’s something new to report.
Every day seems to bring a new wrinkle in the CARES Act, which directs the U.S. Education Secretary to distribute $12 billion by formula to higher education institutions in the U.S. It also includes an additional $1 billion for HBCUs and other minority serving institutions (MSIs), $300 million for campuses particularly hard hit by costs associated with the virus, with priority to schools that didn’t receive at least $500,000 of the $12 billion, and provides monies to each state’s governor. In South Carolina Governor McMaster has $48.7 million in discretionary CARES funding to distribute to K-12 public schools, technical colleges, as well as public and private four-year colleges and universities.
Of the monies being distributed by the Secretary of Education DeVos, half of what each institution receives must be given directly to students in the form of emergency grants, and half can be spent by the institution in addressing the disruptions caused by COVID-19.
Not surprisingly, an 800+ page bill written in a few days contains some ambiguities. Since the March 27th passage of the CARES Act, we have been working to gain clarification from the U.S. Department of Education and understand how the “student half” and “institutional half” are to be spent. The good news is a number of campuses have received the student half and have started distributing the funds to their students. Campuses cannot apply for the institutional half until they have applied for the student half. Many of our campuses have to-date still not received those funds.
The legislation also created unintended consequences. The emergency grants received by students had been considered taxable income to the students. We have only recently been informed that the IRS will consider the grant to be not taxable.
The new Payroll Protection Program loans administered through the Small Business Administration are limited to institutions with 500 or fewer employees. However, the legislation treated full-time and part-time employees equally, meaning that part-time student workers, including federal work-study students, were counted towards the 500 employee limit. This effectively excluded several SCICU institutions from participation in the Payroll Protection Program.
Now the SBA has clarified that student workers who participate in the Federal Work-Study (FWS), Work Colleges, or Job Locator and Development programs, or similar programs funded by states and municipalities, can be excluded from the employee count for PPP loan eligibility.
From the White House, President Trump signed an executive order on April 22 limiting immigration to the U.S. for the next 60 days in order to protect the health and jobs of Americans put at risk by COVID-19. The order suspends new immigrant visas for 60 days, and applies to people who are currently outside the U.S. seeking entry and do not currently have a valid visa. The executive order does not apply to those who are already lawful permanent residents or healthcare professionals seeking an immigrant visa to help fight the pandemic in the U.S. Spouses and children under 21 who are immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and U.S. military personnel are also exempt from the ban. We are very concerned about the impact of the ban on recruiting international students to SCICU member institutions.
As significant as is the CARES Act, of even longer lasting impact to colleges and universities are the new federal Title IX regulations which govern how campuses address sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The new regulations, more than 2,000 pages of them (a summary is available), make significant changes to how most campuses operate by requiring a system of adjudication that is more like court, including the right to cross-examine individuals who have made a sexual assault claim. However, the survivors do not have to appear in person. Campuses will also be required to adopt a single standard of evidence for students, faculty and staff – either the more rigorous “clear and convincing evidence,” or the current requirement, “preponderance of evidence,” which is defined as 51 percent of the evidence favoring a finding of fault.
Despite requests from campuses and higher education organizations for more time to implement, the new regulations must be implemented by August 14 of this year.