Carolina on My Mind: February 2012
By Trey Walker, '89, director of state relations for the University of South Carolina
It’s a great time to be a Gamecock, and South Carolina’s "flagship" university has a wonderful story to tell.
And tell it we did at Carolina Day at the State House
on Wednesday, February 8, 2012, when hundreds of alumni, students, supporters and officials from all across the University of South Carolina system gave of their time on a workday to meet with their local members of the General Assembly.
Advocates began their day with an inspirational charge from a fellow Gamecock, Representative Bakari Sellers of Bamberg, and were empowered with the theme of “Access, Affordability and Accountability;” President Pastides’ message for this year’s legislative agenda.
Carolina’s story really almost sells itself: a stout $4.1 billion economic impact, the largest freshman class with the highest GPA and SAT scores in school history, graduation and retention rates close to the nation’s elite public universities, and the largest in-state student enrollment ever with half of college-bound South Carolinians now arriving on a Carolina campus.
It also doesn’t hurt that Carolina has recently won Back-to-Back National Championships in baseball, played in the 2010 Southeastern Conference Championship game in football after being crowned SEC East Champions, and completed an all-time-high 11-win season with a drubbing of national powerhouse Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
It was only appropriate, then, that on Carolina Day, Coach Tanner and members of each of his championship teams were honored by both Governor Nikki Haley and the House of Representatives at ceremonies recognizing the College World Series championships. The governor presented the Gamecock flag flown on the State House dome following the 2011 championship, and the House welcomed the Gamecocks into their chamber for remarks and official resolutions.
Afterward, Carolina advocates spread out across the State House complex, holding one-on-one meetings with their legislators to pitch the “Access, Affordability and Accountability” agenda. Here are a few of the talking points alumni shared with their senators and representatives:
- The new Palmetto College proposal is gaining more bipartisan support each day, with its mission to increase affordability, accessibility and opportunity for South Carolinians. This collaborative effort will allow two-year associate degree students to earn a four-year University of South Carolina baccalaureate degree online in fields that offer high-demand, local-employment or advancement opportunities. South Carolinians will be able to earn a degree without leaving their jobs, families or communities.
- Carolina is also taking the lead in efforts to reform higher-education funding, advocating a fair and equitable distribution of funding that is based on performance, accountability and transparency. Carolina stands ready for a taxpayer-friendly system that matches funding with metric-based criteria that includes serving resident students, improving the quality of their education and leading in economic development.
- Other priority requests include a one-time financial contribution for construction of the new Law School, one-time financial support to update and expand research lab equipment and continuing financial support for deferred maintenance needs across the University of South Carolina system.
- The timing of this year’s Carolina Day couldn’t have been better, as members of the House of Representatives are currently crafting the state budget, and our team of advocates made sure to take full advantage of this in their discussions and meetings.
Carolina Day concluded with President Pastides hosting a luncheon, where his remarks reinforced the “Access, Affordability and Accountability” legislative agenda and included an expression of heartfelt gratitude for the hard work and commitment shown by advocates representing all eight campuses. And as always, no Carolina event would be complete without the president’s trademark “Go Gamecocks” cheer to conclude the day.
On a personal note, the Alumni Association's leadership, members and staff did a fantastic job with Carolina Day. The feedback and energy generated at the State House will be invaluable to our efforts in the coming months.
But every day must be Carolina Day. We can’t let up. We need every advocate, every alumnus, and every supporter to remain engaged and active throughout the legislative process. If you have not joined My Carolina’s Carolina Action Network
, I encourage you to do so right away. I guarantee it will make a difference.