The presidents of the state’s 16 technical colleges are meeting today to begin the “homework” assigned by Gov. Nikki Haley.
It is the second time this week the group has assembled. Gov. Haley gave them the homework Wednesday, after standing in the lobby of the Statehouse with the presidents, asking the colleges to expand their economic development efforts.
“It was extraordinary and unprecedented,” York Technical College President Greg Rutherford said of the meeting. “This is the first time we have met face-to-face with the governor and heard that level of leadership.”
For their homework, due in six weeks, the presidents are developing plans for:
System-wide accountability standards for the technical colleges.
Ways other state agencies can use the skills offered by the technical colleges.
Giving charter schools the same level of assistance that technical colleges now give to public education.
Consolidating functions of the Commission on Higher Education, which oversees four-year colleges, and the State Board for Technical Colleges, which oversees two-year schools.
Rutherford said part of the homework is telling the technical colleges’ story.
Some of the work requested by Haley, such as assisting charter schools, is already being done, he said.
Assisting state agencies could result in reorganizing state government, such as putting the state’s educational television system under the technical colleges, Rutherford said, or having technical colleges offer information technology support to various agencies.
The Haley administration has been looking at consolidation and reorganization of state government as one way of cutting a budget deficit that is at least $500 million.
The governor also talked about reducing red tape and creating a seamless transition from two-year schools to four-year schools. Rutherford cited the efforts to bring Winbro Group Technologies to York County as an example of cutting the red tape.
When York County economic development leaders brought company officials to Rock Hill, Win-bro’s list of wants included job-training assistance and a place for temporary offices.
Rutherford said he could not make the meeting with Winbro officials and sent a substitute. Minutes later his phone rang.
“Can you meet in 15 minutes?” he was asked. Winbro needed an on-the-spot commitment that only Rutherford could make. He did, helping to complete a deal that brought a $10.4 million investment to York County.
The technical colleges also are working to make the transition to four-year schools as seamless as possible, Rutherford said. York Tech already has agreements with Winthrop University.
There is a statewide agreement between the technical colleges and the University of South Carolina, he said. York Tech also has agreements with other schools.
The goal, however, would be to have one agreement that covers all technical colleges and four-year schools, he said.