COLUMBIA -- There is some light at the end of the tunnel of economic strife for colleges and universities in South Carolina. And it's not just another trainload of budget cuts.
The federal stimulus package being haggled over in Washington is a multimillion-dollar opportunity for S.C. schools that saw giant cuts in higher education spending last year.
For the University of South Carolina, it could mean money to help pay for the new business school and new law school the university is planning. At S.C. State, it could mean building a new library.
"If that happens, this will have a major impact on our university and our state," S.C. State University President George Cooper said. "It's a win-win situation."
The economic stimulus package being hashed out in Washington could approach $1 trillion.
On Jan. 28, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed its $819 billion stimulus package, it included funding for:
-- Deferred maintenance for colleges and universities;
-- Building renovation and expansion;
-- The restoration of state budget cuts in higher education; and
-- Historically black colleges and universities.
S.C. colleges and universities saw the nation's sharpest drop in state support for higher education last year, according to the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University.
President Barack Obama and congressional leaders have said stimulus money should go to projects that improve the nation's energy efficiency and that can be started quickly to create jobs.
"It's a wonderful congruence of federal policy and the needs of colleges and universities here," said Garrison Walters, executive director of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education.
With the state slashing funding for higher education by almost 18 percent last year or $177 million, colleges and universities have frozen positions, furloughed staff members and halted some projects.
Clemson officials would not release a list of projects they hope to fund through stimulus money, but that doesn't mean they aren't paying close attention to Washington.
"The specifics of the federal stimulus legislation have yet to be sorted out," said Brett Dalton, Clemson's chief financial officer. "We are hopeful that this package will provide funding that is good for South Carolina and good for Clemson University."