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“This is costing the state a
fortune.We have a number
of people who are dedicating
a significant part of each
day to this, and when all the
numbers fall out, what are
they going to mean?”
—Marcia G.Welsh,
University of South Carolina
defects” in the plan.
So the expensive, time-consuming
process continues.
“This is costing the state a fortune,” said
Marcia G. Welsh, associate provost and dean
of the graduate school at the University of
South Carolina’s main campus in Columbia.
“We have a number of people who are
dedicating a significant part of each day to
this, and when all the numbers fall out, what
are they going to mean?
“It’s really frustrating,” she continued.
“Higher education is in such tough shape in
this state, the situation is growing more and
more desperate, and we’re spending all this
time and effort on this exercise.”
The legislature did not appropriate any
additional money for performance-based
budgeting, so the institutions are absorbing
the costs. University of South Carolina
officials estimate they have spent at least
$150,000 on start-up costs alone.
Clemson’s David Fleming said he has put
62,000 miles on his Mercedes in the last two years, most of it
traveling from the Clemson campus, in the western part of
the state, to meetings at the state capital in Columbia.
Gathering the massive amount of data required for the
performance review process has been especially burdensome
for smaller campuses.
Thomas Hallman, associate chancellor at the University
of South Carolina’s 3,000-student branch campus in Aiken,
said a successful student assessment program has been
“significantly reduced” because campus administrators are
spending so much time on the new budget plan.
But Joseph C. Burke, who has been studying performance
budgeting at the Rockefeller
Institute of Government,
is not sympathetic to these
“Shouldn’t they have
been gathering much of this
information already?” Burke
asked. “If some people in
higher education had their
way, nothing new would ever
get started because you can
always think of more criticisms
than reasons to do it.”
Several administrators
agreed that the plan has forced
them to analyze their campuses
more carefully and to do better
At Coastal Carolina University, for instance, seven task
forces, including about 50 faculty members, have been
involved in fashioning campus responses to the higher
education commission’s requests. “I think we all know a lot
more about the institution than when we started on this,”
Executive Vice President Sally Horner said.
“We feel, with hard work and good sense, it will become
a useful exercise,” said Conrad Festa, provost at the College
of Charleston, a handsome liberal arts campus in the heart
of Charleston’s historic district. “It forces us to hook together
planning, budget and assessment in ways we haven’t done
But Jack Parson, who has taught political science and
international relations at the college since 1980, is less
“The best we can hope for,” Parson said, “is to be able to
go back to the public and the legislature and say, ‘Here are the
indicators, we seem to be doing pretty well and, now that you
have the evidence, it’s time to appropriate more money for
higher education.’”
“This may enable higher education to regain some of
the credibility it has lost, not only in South Carolina but
nationwide,” Sally Horner said. “But do I think it will affect,
in the near future, what goes on in the learning experience of
a single student in this state? No, I don’t think so.”
Former Higher Education Commissioner Fred R. Sheheen doubts South Carolina’s
performance plan will work.