With state support of higher education shrinking, the University of South Carolina will try to convince S.C. lawmakers to end “arbitrary” college funding and to give more money to schools with larger numbers of in-state students, president Harris Pastides said in his annual State of the University address Wednesday.
Pastides said he looks forward to making USC’s case at a higher-education conference next month at the S.C. State Museum, called by Gov. Nikki Haley. The governor’s office also invited lawmakers and business leaders to the conference to discuss school funding and work force training.
Pastides pushed a resolution to base college funding on enrollment, institutional awards and financial stability that failed to pass the General Assembly this year. By those measures, USC – South Carolina’s flagship university – would win a larger chunk of the money for higher education in the state budget. Pastides sent letters to lawmakers in August asking for their support for a new funding plan.
Lawmakers have used the same funding formula to divide taxpayer money among the state’s 13 four-year colleges for years, USC officials say. They contend that formula does not account for each school’s impact on the state.
State funding for USC’s Columbia campus has dropped to $99 million from $184 million in the past five years. During that period, USC’s total enrollment grew by 13 percent, or 3,600 students. Meanwhile, the school’s in-state tuition has risen 26 percent since 2007, when the economy began to sour.
“We are nearing a perfect storm for higher education – high tuition, high debt loads, poor state funding, limited financial aid,” Pastides said during his address Tuesday on the USC Horseshoe. “At what point will South Carolina take a look at the hard issue of looking at how institutions are fulfilling their mission of educating South Carolinians and rewarding those that do a good job? … This may be our last chance for reform.”
After his speech, Pastides said he fears that, unless there are funding changes, schools will resort to more tuition increases and face a “free-for-all” for cash in the General Assembly.
“Here I am saying, ‘I am willing to put it all on the table,’ ” he said. “If the state gives us a formula they are comfortable with, then I am ready to compete.”