In his annual state of the school address, the University of South Carolina’s president called on lawmakers to reform how higher education is funded in the state.
Harris Pastides said the current method is “arbitrary” and has led to large disparities between colleges. He called for it to instead be based on the number of students enrolled at each respective school.
“We are nearing a perfect storm for higher education: high tuition, high (student) debt load, poor state funding, limited financial aid,” Pastides told roughly 100 people gathered on the USC’s Horseshoe green Wednesday. “At what point will South Carolina take on the hard issue of looking at how we are fulfilling our mission?”
AUDIO: Pastides on higher ed funding (1:56)
It was likely a preview of what will be addressed next month at a higher education summit organized by Governor Nikki Haley. Pastides is one of the college presidents who plans to speak at that summit. The USC President appeared with the governor in February 2011, when Haley announced a “five-part funding formula” that was based on a combination of graduation rates, enrollment, and other factors.
However, that formula was not used in this past year’s budget. Pastides is now pushing for a formula that relies more on enrollment. “The amounts (currently) appropriated to each university are arbitrary and only vaguely related to South Carolina resident enrollment and quality of effort,” he said.
“This year may be our last chance for reform,” he said.
Higher education funding has become a sticky subject in the halls of the Statehouse. A similar 2010 summit highlighted conflicts between former Governor Mark Sanford and his allies with South Carolina’s academic leaders. State legislators have trimmed direct funding for schools in recent years, substituting it with additional lottery-funded scholarships for students. College officials say they have been forced to raise tuition to make up the difference.
In Wednesday’s speech, Pastides also said he would work to secure additional raises for school employees, who recently got their first pay increase in three years. The president said it was not enough. He also unveiled a new branding slogan: “No Limits.”