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South Carolina State University is in the process of re-writing a payment schedule for a $6 million state loan that comes due in full on June 30.

The institution borrowed $6 million from the Budget and Control Board last year to meet its most pressing debts.

The school has asked the Budget and Control Board to extend the loan a number of times, but the board has put off making a decision.

S.C. State’s new Chief Financial Officer Ed Patrick told trustees on Thursday that he’s received an email from the Budget and Control Board giving the university “the discretion to provide them with a payment plan.”

Paying the loan over a period of years will greatly improve S.C. State’s fiscal situation, according to Patrick. It will make a major difference in the school’s ability to pay its bills, he said.

For example, if the university is allowed to extend repayment over a period of 10 years, the total payable for a year would be only $600,000 instead of the entire $6 million, he said.

The university has requested at least $23.5 million from the state to help it deal with its debt.

Patrick said he’s hopeful he’ll also be able to work out a payment schedule with some of the university’s biggest creditors.

He’s been at the university only three weeks, but he’s already had discussions with Sodexo, which provides food services, and DTZ, which does facility maintenance, about working out payment plans. They seem very receptive to the idea, he said.

Taking what the university owes them and paying it over a period of years would cut the payments to a fraction of what’s due annually, he said.

After the meeting, Patrick said S.C. State’s contract with Sodexo runs another three years, but the vendor has agreed to reduce meal costs to students with the understanding that the university foregoes rebates paid by the vendor. The school will also discontinue using the vendor’s catering services as a means of cutting costs to students, he said.

“I told them I wanted a bare bones plan, stripped down where it shows student cost plus their profit margin, and they’ve agreed to that,” he said.

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Patrick told trustees that he’s working on the 2015-16 budget, which is due before July 1. He said it will be ready for them by the end of April. Last year’s budget was not finalized until September.

In other business, Dr. Rita Teal reported that a seven-member team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools will be on campus April 14-16.

They’ve asked for three meetings with the trustees: one with the board chair, one with the chairs of the board committees and one with the full board.

S.C. State is currently on probation for issues related to governance and finance. The visiting committee will be reviewing the institution as part of the process to decide whether to end its probationary status, retain that status for another year or drop the school’s accreditation.

Dr. Gloria Winkler, executive director of Felton Laboratory School, reported that the school has received a three-year, $330,000 grant to help pay for equipment, insurance and marketing as the school opens this fall as a charter school.

Some 263 students in grades K-8 have applied to attend the school that will implement a hands-on approach to teaching science, technology, engineering, art and math.

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Contact the writer: dlinder-altman@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5529 

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