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Letter to the Editor

Piedmont Tech President refutes claims of funding dollars


web posted April 8, 2009
Dear Editor:
It has been brought to my attention that numerous issues have been raised over the past several weeks regarding Piedmont Technical College’s presence in Edgefield County.  I think it is important for each reader and citizen of Edgefield to understand that no one has attempted to contact the college to ascertain the facts. 

With that in mind, it’s safe to assume that engaging in a factual discussion regarding each of these issues was never the intent of these conversations.  In truth, some of the statements could be characterized as willfully inaccurate. As president of the college I feel compelled to address each of these misstatements of fact to set the record straight. 

There seems to be some confusion about what kind of organization the college is.  Piedmont Technical College is a State Institution of Higher Education that was created by an act of the South Carolina General Assembly in 1963:

In order to fulfill the purposes and findings stated in Section 1 of 1963 Act No. 243, there is hereby created the Piedmont Technical Education and Training District, consisting of the Counties of Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry and Saluda which shall be controlled and managed by a commission known as the Piedmont Technical Education Commission, and hereinafter called the "Commission."  (S.C. Code Ann. € 59-53-1210)

Another point of discussion has been that Piedmont Technical College and the Edgefield County Government have no lawful relationship and that “Edgefield County Government has long passed their agreed funding promise… and that the free money should just keep flowing.” Again, this is a dramatic misstatement.

Section 59-53-1210 of the Official Code Annotated of South Carolina states:  “The share of each participating county in the operating expenses of the district shall be determined by agreement between the district commission and the respective county governing bodies.” 

Annually, each county in the college’s service area is presented with a budget request for their share of the colleges operating expenses, which is determined based on the number of students enrolled from each county.  The request for Edgefield County for fiscal year 2009 was $148,511. The Edgefield County Council did pass a budget which included $85,816 for their portion of the operating expenses--$62,695 less than the requested amount.  For fiscal year 2010, the budget includes only $45,000--$103,511 less than requested. The total appropriation from Edgefield County has never been as high as the $90,000 figure mentioned in recent reports.

A thorough examination of the figures above and South Carolina Statute begs the question of how anyone could come to the conclusion that County Administrator John Pettigrew added additional funds. To argue that these funds are inappropriate is pure fantasy. 

Piedmont Technical College makes a large investment in Edgefield County annually.  The Edgefield County Center’s operating budget for fiscal year 2009 is $366,533.  When you compare the investment of Edgefield County to the investment of Piedmont Technical College, you can see that the college’s investment is $280,717 over and above the funding the county provides. 

In addition to the annual budget required to operate the center, Piedmont Technical College has invested over $1,000,000 to develop the original Edgefield Center and the Center for Creative Economies. 

Mr. Bettis Rainsford has made two donations of property to Piedmont Technical College.  The first donation in 1998 resulted in the college opening the original Edgefield County Center.  In 2005, Mr. Rainsford donated additional property adjacent to the center where the Center for Creative Economies was established.  This center houses the Piedmont Technical College Edgefield Pottery Program.  Without the vision and generosity of Mr. Rainsford, these students would have to drive the 70 mile round trip between Edgefield and Greenwood every day to attend college. 

Piedmont Technical College has never paid rent to Mr. Rainsford. Any assertion that the college has is misinformation at best or an intentional misstatement of fact at the worst.

These factual distortions are a distraction from the true issue at hand: whether Edgefield County values the transformative power of affordable access to higher education in their community.

Through the end of this year’s spring term, over 200 Edgefield County residents are pursuing degrees from Piedmont Technical College. A large percentage of these students attend classes only at the Edgefield County Center.  In addition to these students, the college has served over 900 students at the center or at their place of employment through the college’s Economic Development and Continuing Education Division. 

All of these students are receiving the training and education they’ll need to drive Edgefield’s economy in the future. Although South Carolina’s economic development strategy and success in the past hinged on three factors—cheap land, cheap labor, and low taxes—recent history illustrates that these elements are no longer sufficient to ensure financial and job security.

Today, both of these are attained based on individual’s level of knowledge and skill. Over 85% of South Carolina’s current jobs and even more of those in the future will require some form of higher education. 

We are in a new economic era, “The Knowledge Economy,” an economy that is driven by technological innovation in how we live, work, and play.  Our success as a nation and as communities in this new era will be determined by our capacity to educate all citizens to their maximum potential.  The level of education that we settle for as individuals, communities, and our nation will determine an absolute upper limit on our economic prosperity.  It could be said that education is the coin of the real in today’s global economy and the key for success for today and the future. 

So, what we should be debating are the consequences of not investing for the future.  Yes times are hard and hard decisions have to be made.  However those decisions need to be made looking forward, rather than focusing on the defunct strategies of the past. It’s precisely when economic times are hard that continued investment in education is most imperative.

Sincerely,
L. Ray Brooks, Ed.D
President PTC

Editor's note: Referrals to the funds to Piedmont Tech in previous articles and opinions were "rounded" figures and are consistant with those presented and voted on by the County Council.


 
 




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