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Stimulus 'saved day' for USCL

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By Jesef Williams

jwilliams@thelancasternews.com

Dr. John Catalano, dean at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster, said he prayed every day that the campus would receive its share of the $700 million in federal stimulus money targeted for South Carolina.

Earlier this week, his prayers were answered.

On Monday, following a court order, Gov. Mark Sanford applied for the $700 million that is  intended for education and law enforcement.

USCL will get $356,295, which will go toward its 2009-2010 budget – a budget that is now set at $2.47 million.

“It’s important that we got the stimulus money,” Catalano said Wednesday. “It saved the day really.”

Catalano said officials had prepared two different budgets – one with the stimulus money included and one without.

If USCL had not gotten any stimulus money, employees would have faced furloughs and probable layoffs, he said. However, with the extra funding, USCL is still only meeting 42 percent of what’s required in funding to be optimum, according to the state’s Commission on Higher Education (CHE).

“Even with the stimulus money, class sizes will increase and no additional faculty and staff can be hired to serve ever increasing numbers of students,” Catalano said.

With the stimulus money, USCL will receive $256,000 more than it did in 2008-2009.

But with a projected 10 percent increase in enrollment, the regional campus will remain greatly underfunded, he said.

For 2008-2009, the average appropriation per student in South Carolina was $3,001, according to the CHE.

USCL’s amount of $1,954 per student was next to last in the state among all public institutions.

Only USC-Beaufort was funded at a lower level, Catalano said.

To make up for the shortfall, beautification efforts and maintenance projects such as painting and carpeting have been put on hold until further notice.

Catalano said he is optimistic about an economic recovery.

“Let’s hope the state budget turns around this year and sufficient revenues are added to fully fund education,” he said.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at 283-1152