Will new higher ed over­seer end drama?

The State - - Local - BY LU­CAS DAPRILE [email protected]­tate.com

Wes Hayes wants a fresh start for the state’s higher ed­u­ca­tion over­sight body.

Hayes, the newly ap­pointed chair of the S.C. Com­mis­sion on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and for­mer SC sen­a­tor, told The State he wants to take a more col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach to an agency that has of­ten found it­self at odds with the col­leges it reg­u­lates.

“I be­lieve the only way to deal with prob­lems in higher ed­u­ca­tion is by build­ing con­sen­sus in the Leg­is­la­ture and also with schools,” said Hayes, a Re­pub­li­can from Rock Hill. “Tu­ition is high, but the best way to deal with that is by con­sen­sus build­ing.”

Hayes’ pre­de­ces­sor, Tim Hof­ferth, was an out­spo­ken critic of col­lege spend­ing he saw as ex­ces­sive and re­cruit­ment plans he saw as un­sus­tain­able. Hos­til­ity be­tween col­leges reached its apex in late Oc­to­ber when con­tro­versy erupted over Hof­ferth giv­ing a $91,500 raise to the then-in­terim-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Jeff Schilz.

The con­tro­versy led Sen. Hugh Leather­man, Se­nate pres­i­dent pro tem­pore, to call for an au­dit of the com­mis­sion. Rep. Brian White, an An­der­son Re­pub­li­can who chaired the House Bud­get Com­mit­tee, also called for an au­dit.

Hof­ferth and Schilz both re­signed fol­low­ing the con­tro­versy. At the agency’s Thurs­day meet­ing, Com­mis­sioner Ken Kirk­land said the agency is “com­ply­ing and get­ting in­for­ma­tion back to Sen­a­tor Leather­man as fast as pos­si­ble.”

For­mer com­mis­sion chair Dal­ton Lloyd said Hayes’ ap­proach is likely to get things done.

“I found out real quickly to get things done, you have to work with the pres­i­dents of the col­leges,“Lloyd said. “That doesn’t mean you do things they want all the time...It’s a reg­u­la­tory agency, so you had to do things that were bet­ter for higher ed­u­ca­tion and not nec­es­sar­ily one school.”

Though the com­mis­sion butted heads with col­leges, they were on the same page about a bill called the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Op­por­tu­nity Act, spear­headed by Sen. Vin­cent She­heen, D-Ker­shaw, that would in­crease col­lege fund­ing in re­turn for cap­ping tu­ition in­creases.

Hayes, whom Gov. Henry McMaster ap­pointed to the po­si­tion a week ago, said he has not yet read the bill, but his “ini­tial re­ac­tion is pos­i­tive.”

“That’s an ex­am­ple of the way to deal with this,” Hayes said.

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