South Carolina

USC presidential finalist emphasizes student loan debt at public forum

The fourth and final candidate to be the University of South Carolina’s next president held a public forum Thursday.

Thursday’s presidential finalist was John S. Applegate, the executive vice president for academic affairs at Indiana University.

Finalist Joseph “Jay” Walsh’s forum was held Monday. William F. Tate’s was held on Tuesday and Robert L. Caslen’s was held on Wednesday.

USC’s Board of Trustees intend to name a presidential finalist on Friday, according to an agenda of the board’s Friday meeting.

Here are five key takeaways from the Thursday forum:

1.) Who is John S. Applegate?

John Applegate does his homework.

Before outlining any of his proposals for what he would do if named president, he referenced the late Sen. Fritz Hollings, for whom the room he was speaking in was named.

His garnet tie and black suit matched. He referenced specific parts of the job description that called for an emphasis on sustainability.

He also knows about some of the hardships USC students have gone through. Applegate was the only presidential finalist to mention Samantha Josephson by name in either the student forums at midday or the public forums in the afternoon.

While some other finalists have talked briefly about their personal lives, hobbies or families, Applegate spent most of his time talking about what he would do if he were president of USC.

2.) Vision for USC

While at Indiana University, Applegate implemented a system where the university educated students on how much student loan money they were borrowing, how much debt that would be after graduation and how best to pay that off.

As a result, Applegate said Indiana University students had 19 percent less student debt after the initiative began.

“Debt for education is not necessarily a bad thing,” Applegate said. “But not understanding what you’re getting yourself into is unacceptable.”

Asked if he would bring a similar system to USC, Applegate said he is open to it.

“I just don’t see a downside in transparency in borrowing,” Applegate said.

3.) Best quote

“We often talk about how universities can be examples, but we’re also research institutions,” Applegate said when asked about environmental sustainability. “We can make a concrete difference in people’s lives.”

4.) What students are saying

“I thought he was amazing,” said Micah Sherwood, a sophomore environmental science major. “As my major implies, I’m very concerned about sustainability on campus.”

Sedrich Sweat Jr., a sophomore majoring in marketing and management, appreciated that Applegate was specific in answering students’ questions.

“He seemed like he had a decent platform. He would go into detail, which is good because other candidates didn’t do that,” Sweat said.

Lea Swinton, a sophomore nursing major, was impressed by Applegate’s focus on sustainability, diversity and preventing sexual assault, but he didn’t quite win her over.

“President Pastides is very personable and I feel like the most personable candidate is William Tate,” Swinton said.

5.) One environmental thing

As an environmental lawyer, sustainability and pollution is a topic close to Applegate’s heart. He is particularly fond of a type of environmentalism that he calls “no regrets.”

For example “no regrets” sustainability is upgrading light bulbs to be more efficient: it saves you both energy and money. Other examples are reducing consumption or reducing waste.

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