South Carolina Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom says the comments he made at the Budget and Control Board meeting weren't meant to be offensive but rather point out the need for financial aid at South Carolina State University.
"I don't run from the comment that I made that many of those students can't afford going in and paying full rates," said Eckstrom. "I went to the University of South Carolina, I had to pay for that up front."
Eskstrom says many SC State students have a higher need of assistance, but some lawmakers say that's simply not true."When we give out the funding for the most-needed students, they're not at South Carolina State College," said Senator Tim Scott. "Believe it or not, the University of South Carolina receives more money than South Carolina State. Evidently some of the most needed students are going to other schools as well."
96% of the roughly 3,200 students at SC state receive some form of financial aid compared to 87% of USC's estimated 40,000 students. Those who oppose Eckstrom's statements say the numbers prove they were not only inaccurate, but insensitive by giving a blanket generalization to all students.
When asked if he felt it was unfair, Eckstrom said he believes the response is politically motivated.
"Whatever, whatever. I mean I really think that we need to get past this "let's politicize everything," I mean, it's a political response I think," said Eckstrom.
As SC State Alumni, Senator John Scott and Representatives Jerry Govan and Harold Mitchell say they didn't feel obligated to attend the school but chose it proudly, just like many of the classes after them.
"Those kids there at the university, they have options," said Harold Mitchell. "A lot of them chose to go to this rich tradition of SC State University, so he needs to apologize."
Eckstrom says he doesn't intend to respond to the backlash, however saying the real issue at hand is about SC State's financial standing. Eckstrom believes the response over his choice of wording is a diversion from what's really important.
"Should I have chosen different words? Maybe," said Eckstrom. "Sure."
Despite Eckstrom's attempts to focus on finances, lawmakers say they're not going to turn a blind eye to what was said and expect it to be addressed.
"It was not taken and construed out of context," said Representative Mitchell. "He said what he said, backed it, paused and finished."
"He has a right to think what he will, but as a state official, as someone that holds a constitutional office in this state and is out front, out there, I think that it was totally inappropriate and if he thought those thoughts he should've kept them to himself," said Representative Jerry Govan.
When asked what he regretted about the comments, Eckstrom said it was the fact that people were offended and missed his intended point.