DiGiorgio: No big building projects needed right now at Winthrop

Maintenance one of Winthrop’s greatest needs, he tells trustees

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 16, 2013 

While state legislators aren’t likely to help colleges pay for new construction right now, Winthrop University President Anthony DiGiorgio says his campus is in good shape and not in need of a major building project for a few years.

One of Winthrop’s greatest needs right now is to schedule maintenance for some of the campus’ buildings, he said.

Winthrop’s Board of Trustees may decide next month to approve spending close to $3.5 million on building improvements and renovations – but not new construction.

Despite South Carolina’s healthy credit rating and historically low interest rates for loans, “political forces are not in favor” of colleges starting new construction, the retiring Winthrop president told some of the university’s trustees Wednesday.

Instead, the priority in South Carolina, DiGiorgio said, seems to be to spend state money on projects that directly benefit economic development.

The university will need more student housing in the next few years, he said.

Over the past 10 years, Winthrop has built or acquired six new buildings, including a 113-unit apartment complex and a new student center with offices and a movie theater. Winthrop also built the Hardin Gardens about three years ago with money given to the university.

Winthrop recently finished renovations in Dacus Library. The project cost about $1 million to upgrade Winthrop’s 40-year-old library on Oakland Avenue.

The university wrapped up last summer $4.2 million worth of renovations to Phelps Hall, a 70-year-old residence hall for students.

List of improvements

The board’s executive committee discussed Wednesday a resolution that will be presented to the full 12-member board for borrowing money for more renovations and repairs to other buildings.

The plan, if approved, calls for spending the $3.5 million in several areas including:

About $940,000 to improve Winthrop’s fire alarm system.

About $875,000 for roof repairs on a music building, academic building, the Winthrop police department and the university’s archives building on Cherry Road.

About $575,000 to renovate a storage and office building near the DiGiorgio Campus Center for studios for Winthrop’s College of Visual and Performing Arts.

About $900,000 to repair restrooms, upgrade handicap access and complete other minor projects on campus.

Winthrop’s ability to invest in new technology, DiGiorgio said, is at risk by the potential for legislators to decrease the amount of money the school receives from unclaimed state lottery prizes.

In the past, Winthrop has received about $1 million from unclaimed prize money. Since 2008, the university has not received more than $500,000 every year from the pool of money.

The state also has used unclaimed lottery money to pay for public school buses and to support an electronic library program called PASCAL and the state library in Columbia.

Students at Winthrop pay a technology fee, DiGiorgio said, but the revenue does not cover all of the university’s technology costs. The $145 student fee pays for technology investments such as high-tech classroom hardware, computer labs, wireless connectivity around campus and software related to online components of courses.

If the university sees decreased support from unclaimed lottery prize money, he said, Winthrop will be forced to either cut back on technology spending or raise the student fee.

Several board members voiced concern Wednesday about the dwindling financial support for state universities.

Haley proposal

A proposal from Gov. Nikki Haley to tie state money to universities’ performance, DiGiorgio said, could deliver more blows to state colleges.

Shortly after taking office in January 2011, Haley introduced her “accountability-based funding” idea to the state’s university presidents.

The plan would base the amount of taxpayer support that universities receive on four criteria: graduation rates, the percentage of in-state students they serve, their contribution to the state’s economic development and the rate of job placement for graduates.

As proposed, DiGiorgio said, Haley’s plan would pit colleges against each other for the only limited state dollars made available for higher education.

The plan does not call for any new money to be distributed to colleges, he said, which would likely cause “internal warfare and chaos.”

Haley’s plan, DiGiorgio said, is not likely to be pushed through the Legislature in the near future.

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

The Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service