SCSU Alumni Encouraged to 'Pay it Forward' Amid Fiscal Woes

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By Monique Williams

Orangeburg, S.C. (WOLO) -- South Carolina State University's decision this week to raise tuition in the fall falls in line with several other colleges statewide that are doing the same thing. However, not every institution is also borrowing money. SCSU borrowed an additional $6 million from state government to use as needed.

"We have to get expenses taken care of, and in this case it's hiking tuition," said Sonja Bennett-Bellamy, Vice President of External Affairs & Communications.

Bennett-Bellamy claims the university's current probationary financial status has nothing to do with the increase. Rather, the historically black college is embracing the recommendation of state lawmakers to raise fees by 3.2% for in-state students and 5% for out of state students.

"For in-state students, that amounts to $313 out of students' pockets," said Bennett-Bellamy. "The increase for students out of state is $950."

At least one SCSU graduate feels the increase could not come at a worse time in an already bad economy, which is why he says he's doing something about it, and encouraging others to do the same.

SCSU alumnus Dr. Maurice Lee hosts a star-studded annual scholarship fund gala and awards program to combat the woes of financially-strapped, yet deserving, students. For nearly a decade, he has used his personal funds and in-kind donations to send promising students lacking financial backing to college.

"Over the last nine years we've helped 95 students with scholarships, and this year we're adding nine students," said Lee. "We are talking a minimum of $1000 scholarship per student."

Lee was once in the same situation as the students he seeks to help. He says he knows the value of getting a leg up in order to have a higher education.

'This is what we're doing to pay it forward and make it feasible to stay in college. The money could help with books, with being able to survive, being able to eat to survive."

The university has a year to get its financial ducks in a row. At which time, the school will be re-evaluated. Until then, Lee and Bennett-Bellamy encourage alumni, the faith community, business leaders and residents to pay it forward, or the sake of State's legacy.

For more information on donating to the M.A. Lee Scholarship Foundation, go to www.maleescholarship.org

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