SC college tuition freeze; extra money in budget puts 1% cap on tuition hikes

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Members of the General Assembly are waiting for Governor Henry McMaster to put his final signature of approval on the 2019 fiscal budget. 

The budget includes raises for teachers and state employees and a $50 refund check for taxpayers. But it also includes extra money to support higher education in the state. 

South Carolina lawmakers included the additional funding for colleges and universities to cover increasing operational cost so the schools don’t have to bill the students. 

South Carolina colleges and universities have some of the highest tuition in the country. It’s a result of underfunding by SC lawmakers over the past 10 years. 

“A lot of this goes back to the great recession in 2008 when the state had to cut a lot of funding for our colleges and universities,” explained Mike LeFever, the interim president of the SC Commission on Higher Education.” 

So now lawmakers are trying to play catch up by appropriating more money than usual. Representative Murrell Smith added,”It’s probably the most they’ve received in a decade.”

In the 2019 budget money for the state’s 33 colleges and universities is separated into two different funds. One fund, for $36 million, would help stop tuition from increasing. 

Rep. Murrell Smith continued, “Those recurring dollars are going to be given in exchange for a tuition freeze. We’ve capped the tuition at 1% which is how much they can raise tuition this year if they want those recurring dollars.”

The other fund includes $110 million for the upkeep of buildings, construction of new buildings or implementation of new programs.

Colleges and universities have to often raise tuition to pay for deferred maintenance and to keep up with the increasing operational costs. LeFever added, “Public colleges don’t have public money coming in would have to be through tuition and fees.”

The additional money in this budget would only be for the 2019-2020 school year.

The University of South Carolina says this funding will give the school an extra $18 million to the school’s base funding. The university’s board of trustees will discuss how to implement the new 1% cap when the board reviews the fall tuition plan. 

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