Because of their efforts, higher education spending in South Carolina is about to become much more transparent.
Under a pilot transparency project spearheaded by Senator Hugh Leatherman, Senator Mike Rose and me, these seven public colleges and universities will begin to voluntarily post their itemized expenditures on the Web. They are: Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, Francis Marion University, The Citadel, Lander University, Coastal Carolina University and Trident Technical College. Dr. Fred Carter, the president of Francis Marion University, was the first to volunteer for the pilot project.
As I write this, Clemson and Trident Tech are expecting to launch their transparency Web sites very soon. Francis Marion and The Citadel hope to complete theirs by early February. USC, Lander and Coastal Carolina expect to have their transparency sites completed sometime this summer.
On Thursday, Jan. 6, three of the schools – Clemson, Trident and Francis Marion – were at the State House to give a special media demonstration of how their sites will work. Also attending were leaders from almost every other public college and university in our state.
As I watched these colleges and universities discuss their soon-to-be Web sites, I thought about just how special this day truly was. These schools aren’t waiting on a law to require them to post their expenditures on the Web (there are two such proposed laws pending in the Legislature). They’re doing it simply because it’s the right thing to do.
They’re showing they understand that people work hard for their money, and that taxpayers and parents of college students deserve easy access to details about how their tax and tuition dollars are spent.
Senator Rose shared that he felt the same way, noting how unusual it is for government entities – and these are public entities – to implement good-government reforms voluntarily.
I’ve often noted that spending transparency is a cost-cutting tool. It can deter wasteful spending, and it makes it much easier to detect misuse of public resources.
As Clemson’s Chief Financial Officer said while demonstrating his school’s transparency Web site, “We believe it is helpful and promotes efficiency.”
The past couple of years have seen huge strides in government transparency. In 2008, my office established the state’s first transparency Web site, giving taxpayers easy Internet access to the individual expenditures of more than 80 state agencies. We followed that with a successful campaign to encourage local governments – towns, cities and counties – to make their itemized spending details available on the Web as well.
This past last year we worked with the state’s 85 school districts, and nearly all of them have now begun posting their financial transactions online, proving that spending transparency is neither costly nor difficult.
Now in 2011, public colleges and universities are opening yet another window into state spending, and South Carolinians will be able like never before to see how their hard-earned dollars are being used.