Denmark Technical College will stay open, at least for another year.
The S.C. General Assembly on Tuesday approved the budget conference committee’s recommendations, including keeping the college open next year.
“We are very happy that the budget conferees have taken the position of keeping Denmark Technical College open. I want to thank the House and Senate conferees for understanding the importance of Denmark Tech,” said Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, who serves as chair of the S.C. Legislative Black Caucus.
A budget proviso co-written by state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, would have moved the college toward a role as an area trade school.
The proviso was approved by the House but not the Senate. The conference committee removed the proviso.
The House and the Senate gave the state budget final approval on Tuesday, and Gov. Henry McMaster is expected to sign it.
Govan said that keeping Denmark Tech in the state technical college system was a top priority for the caucus.
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“We believe in supporting South Carolina’s institutions of higher education, including historically black colleges like Denmark Tech. It was important to us that the people of South Carolina, especially the people of Allendale, Bamberg and Barnwell counties, continue to be served by the South Carolina Technical College System,” Govan said.
“This proviso was introduced by a single individual and, of course, it was adopted by the House,” he said. “But I think the proviso was somewhat short-sighted in that it didn’t take into account what Denmark Tech not only means to the community but to this particular region as well.”
Denmark Tech has a $32 million economic impact on the region, which impacts not only surrounding counties but the entire T&D Region, Govan said. The college faces dwindling enrollment, but so do most of the state’s other tech colleges, he said, and the school is doing well academically.
“The college is fully accredited and approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Its outstanding faculty provide a high-quality education to every student willing to work hard to achieve their goals,” Govan said. “This spring, 127 students earned certificates, diplomas and degrees -- these individuals are ready to begin their careers as accountants, barbers, computer programmers, engineers, entrepreneurs, nurses, plumbers, teachers, welders and so on.”
When asked if the college will have to meet certain goals to avoid the same possibility next year, Govan said that’s the wrong way to frame it because it puts all the blame on Denmark Tech when the school has been neglected and underfunded for years.
“It’s critical that you have a technical institution down in that area of the state to service that area of the state’s needs,” he said.
“And Denmark Tech can effectively play that role if provided with the tools and resources it needs to thrive and survive.”
Cobb-Hunter could not be reached for comment at press time.