Governor Mark Sanford is launching a campaign against tuition hikes at state supported colleges and universities. Sanford called the tuition hikes grossly unfair to parents struggling during tough economic times who wish to send their child to an in-state school that their tax dollars help to support. The tuition increases at the state supported colleges range from 4.5 percent this year at Lander University to 14.75 percent at the College of Charleston. While acknowledging that the tuition hikes are significant, South Carolina Commission on Higher Education Executive Director Dr. Garrison Walters says a major reason for the increases is that higher education over several years has become a less significant priority in the state budget.
The share of the (state) budget, not absolute dollars, but the overall share of the budget for higher education has fallen by half over the the last 25 years. So in a knowledge economy where higher education is becoming more important, it’s moving backward as a priority in the state budget.
Leaders at state-supported colleges and universities say the tuition increases are used to offset state budget cuts. For the short term, the governor wants the Budget and Control Board to pass a moratorium on state colleges and universities undertaking capital improvements.
Walters says leaders at the state colleges and universities recognize that in order to remain competitive in the overall higher education market place and at the same time keep tuition manageable for parents and students, there must be more collaboration.
We have great leaders here at our colleges and universities, they’ve done a good job. We think at the next stage is to work more at the state level and at the regional level building collaborations, both in instruction and in administration, that make for even greater efficiency therefore lowering costs and that will help with the tuition issue.
Sanford is calling for a statewide Board of Regents to provide oversight and coordination for the state’s higher education system.