Concerns over an unrelated section of the legislation are causing lawmakers to second-guess a bill that would require the state’s colleges and universities to post their spending records online.
The House rejected the bill Wednesday and several senators held up a vote Thursday because they worried it gives public colleges an incentive to increase the number of out-of-state students who receive discounts on their tuition.
The controversial language deals with waivers given to students so they can receive tuition breaks. Right now colleges are only allowed to give the waivers to four percent of their student body. The bill would increase that to eight percent. The first four percent could only be set aside specifically for South Carolina natives. The idea is to give some lower-income students a better shot at attending a college they might not otherwise be able to afford.
However, a group of senators feared the additional tuition breaks would encourage colleges to direct much of the remaining four percent towards out-of-state students. The rise in the number of out-of-state students at Clemson and the University of South Carolina has been a contentious issue among state officials for several years, as some legislators feel in-state students with lower grades who would otherwise have qualified are being shut out.
Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Charleston) said he was afraid the state’s colleges were losing sight of their core missions by focusing more on national rankings.
They should be about giving a good, affordable education to good students from South Carolina. That is their mission. Their mission is not to be the next Harvard, the next Princeton, the next Stanford, at the expense of denying admission to students from South Carolina.
However, Sen. John Courson (R-Richland) said the increase in waivers is purposely meant to provide a more affordable education for South Carolinians. He said doubling the number of students who could receive the waivers could only be a good thing.
He said he feared legislators were going to let a good bill die.
It makes no sense to me that the bill could be killed over this issue. You are increasing levels of South Carolinians going to attend our institutions. You kill transparency. I thought transparency is what we’re about this year.
Sen. Greg Gregory (R-Lancaster) said it’s an issue that should be addressed separately. He explained colleges are accepting more out-of-state students now because those students pay higher tuition that helps ease the blow from years of state funding cuts for the schools.
The bill also eases regulations for construction on college campuses. It incorporated language from a bill that passed the House in February.