Haley Veto Puts Damper on South Carolina Online Ed Plans

A University of South Carolina program aimed at allowing students at its two-year colleges to complete part of their four-year degree requirements online hit a snag when the Governor Nikki Haley vetoed $2.1 million in state money meant to fund it. The one-time grant made up 40% of the program’s initial funding, and now university officials say that they will have to scale it back.

In her veto message, Haley said that while she supports the initiative, she felt that the school was already receiving a disproportionate amount of the allocated higher education funding, and should use either money already received from the state or take from the school’s endowment to fund the online education effort.

Haley said USC should pay to start the Palmetto College with existing money. The USC system received $135 million in state money for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which started July 1. That included $18 million in “new” funding, including money for the online college and part of the cost of a new law school building.

Spokesman Wes Hickman said USC needs the extra money for the Palmetto College to pay for technology and course development so professors can learn how to teach courses online.

The online courses would have allowed graduates from the state’s two-year colleges located in Sumter, Union and Lancaster, among others, to complete their bachelor’s degrees without having to relocate in order to attend classes at a four-year college in the University of South Carolina system. Instead, those with an associate’s degrees could enroll in the online-only Palmetto College, and complete the additional two years of classes from the comfort of their homes on the internet.

Originally, Palmetto, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013, would have offered degree programs in early childhood education, criminal justice, human resources, and several others that USC administrators felt were in high demand in the state. However, with the funding veto, the school might be forced to roll back the number of majors it offers.

How much USC would scale back the rollout without the $2.1 million is unclear, Hickman said. But, he added, it “would have a severe impact on our ability to fully roll out the program. We are trying to start with a comprehensive program.”

Next week, South Carolina legislators will return to consider the 81 items vetoed by Haley. In addition to the USC money, Haley also vetoed all state funding for the Arts Commission, Sea Grant Consortium, and reduced the budget of the state’s rape crisis center by $1 million.