College presidents from across the state were in Columbia Monday to take a look at the current state of higher education and brainstorm proposals on how to improve it.
Funding for higher education in the state has declined while tuition for South Carolina colleges have increased making the state one of the highest in the country for college costs.
“Those aren’t top 10 lists we want South Carolina to be on because the end result of that is that we’re shattering a lot of dreams for people who want to use education to get to their destiny,” said Tim Hofferth, the chair of the Commission on Higher Education.
On the council of president’s agenda were 5-year budget plans for schools and the possibility of a bond bill to fund higher education.
Dr. Harris Pastides, the president of USC added funding for higher education is often put on the back burner.
“Public higher education is a higher good like healthcare and roads and so many other things. We’re part of the infrastructure but we haven’t had a consistent funding source forget a growing one.”
State funding for higher education has decreased by $200 million in the last 10 years. So some colleges are hoping a bond bill to generate money is on the ballot in 2019, but making it to voters is a tricky process.
“It depends on what items are in the bill. It depends on the amount of nonrecurring funding available,” explained Mike Shealy with the Senate Finance Committee.
Senator Vincent Sheheen stopped in the meeting to present legislation he’s trying to pass. The Higher Education Opportunity Act would designate money for higher education and freeze tuition for students.
“We know that online revenue sales are going up and he’s proposed taking a part of that and dedicating it to higher education,” said Dr. Pastides.
Senator Sheheen’s proposal calls for a freeze on college tuition for the first year and then a cap on it of no more than 3% after that. The council plans to continue these discussions over the next few months to prepare for next year’s budget negotiations.
USC, South Carolina State University, Lander University, and College of Charleston were a few of the schools represented.
This was the second time the council has met in years. The first meeting was in the Spring.