Because government in the Palmetto State is unaccountable and never learns its lesson, the University of South Carolina is getting back into the speculative real estate business. Eight years after its command economic development experiment in downtown Columbia, S.C. bled taxpayers dry, the school is once again buying up real estate in the capital city – only this time the property in question is located in a flood plain.
Oh … and the school has no idea (or claims to have no idea) what it intends to do with the land.
Does any of this make sense?
This news outlet exclusively reported on the proposed purchase last week, noting that “the property in question is located within the 4,500-acre ‘Green Diamond’ zone – an area Columbia, S.C. officials slated for a $1 billion urban development project years ago.”
According to our sources, the 547-acre property in question is being purchased so that the school can build “an equestrian center,” which we derided as “a total waste of taxpayer funds.”
However, university officials told reporter Lucas Daprile of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper last week that they had “no concrete plans” for the $2.5 million property – which is owned in part by a company with ties to school “trustee” Egerton Burroughs.
The school’s foundation is hoping to purchase the land in question, and then re-sell it to the university.
A school spokesperson told Daprile the university had “no specific plans for what to do with the property.”
Ummm … what?
So to recap: University officials are proposing to spend $2.5 million on a piece of property that is linked to a trustee, located in a flood plain … and they have no idea what they intend to do with it.
Or, in the case of this dysfunctional dumpster fire of an institution of “higher” learning … 100 percent believable.
Once again, this is what happens when politics drives decision-making … not the marketplace. Which, again, is why this news outlet has consistently championed the immediate and complete privatization of higher education in the Palmetto State (and beyond).
These institutions must rise or fall on the basis of their ability to compete in the marketplace – not based on direct appropriations from government, taxpayer-funded grants, tax exemptions or federally guaranteed student loans. In fact, we have long-regarded the debt associated with these loans as “a ticking time bomb that has become an existential threat to the American economy.”
And unlike the real estate bubble of 2008, when this bubble pops there will be no assets to claim. Just a bunch of whiny millennials living in their parents’ basements with degrees in politically correct navel gazing.
We wonder … maybe if they “identify” as debt-free it will work out for them?
Of interest? In addition to Burroughs, another university board member – Dan Adams – recused himself from voting on the property in question. According to Daprile, “it is unclear” why he recused himself. Adams, regular readers will recall, was intimately involved in the politically driven selection of former U.S. Army general Robert Caslen as South Carolina’s new president.
Again, none of this would be a problem … as long as it was happening within the marketplace.
If people with money wish to take their largesse and do favors for other people with money, that’s all well and good. Ultimately, it is their money. But that is the problem with this situation – and the problem with similar heists currently taking place across the state of South Carolina.
It is not their money. It is other people’s money.
Enough is enough. If we have said it once, we have said it a million times: Smash-and-grab thievery like this cannot be tolerated. Nor can the ongoing taxpayer subsidization of non-essential spending items. Nor can the ongoing “nest-feathering” of wealthy political appointees.
It is time, at long last, for the entire higher education apparatus to sink or swim on its own merits. And it is time for state government in South Carolina to let it sink or swim … as part of a long-overdue reprioritization of its core functions.
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