By Robert Kittle
University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides says the university will freeze tuition for three years if state lawmakers provide the school with more state funding. But there are no details on the proposal other than that, like how much more money the school would need from the state.
USC spokesman Wes Hickman says details will be worked out as university officials meet with state lawmakers in the coming months. He says tuition at the university has gone up so much because state funding has gone down. Back in 2004, USC got about 22 percent of its money from the state. That number has fallen to 9.8 percent this year.
"As the state support has declined, the burden has fallen on students and their families to make up the difference with increased tuition," he says. "We know that's unsustainable, so what the president has asked for is, let's take a timeout. Let's figure out a better system to get fair funding into the higher education system and relieve the students and their families of that burden."
According to the Southern Regional Education Board, the state of South Carolina had the highest average in-state tuition and fees in the South for the 2011-12 school year, at $9,600. The Southern region average was $6,500. (http://publications.sreb.org/2013/SouthCarolina13w.pdf)
The SREB also says South Carolina ranked 48th in the nation for the percentage of state money it spent on 4-year public colleges and universities in 2010-11. By comparison, North Carolina ranked 5th and Georgia ranked 11th. Average tuition in Georgia was $6,300 and it was $5,400 in North Carolina.
When asked about the tuition freeze, USC sophomore Daniel Joseph said, "I think it's a great idea, but I'm not sure if the state would have the money for that, or they'd have to increase the taxes on the citizens here."
State lawmakers almost never raise taxes, so giving more money to USC would more likely mean spending less somewhere else. Sen. John Courson, who chairs the state Senate Finance subcommittee over higher education, says he hasn't talked to President Pastides about the proposal, but the college presidents always meet with him before lawmakers start working on the budget, so they'll discuss it then.
USC senior Allie Meyer says paying higher and higher tuition every year has been difficult. "I didn't expect it to increase so much while I was here, so it has been a little bit disheartening," she says. "So it'd be great if we could freeze it for awhile. It'd make it easier for all of us."