South Carolina should fund its colleges with a merit system that rewards schools for graduation rates and job placement, Gov. Nikki Haley told a gathering of political, academic and business leaders on Wednesday.
"Colleges will not get everything they want. They will get what they earn," she said.
During a panel session, college presidents said they need more money to pay state-mandated raises and maintenance and to curb regulation that slows development of new projects.
"If you want us to run like FedEx, don't treat us like the Post Office," Francis Marion President Fred Carter said.
South Carolina lawmakers on the panel said colleges should not to expect more cash with the impending health-care regulation.
"I'm not Santa Claus today, House Ways and Means Chair Brian White said. I hate to disappoint you."
White said colleges need look at changing how it teaches students -- trading buildings for online classes -- which could lower costs and tuition. He praised the University of South Carolina for its new Palmetto College that will allow students at the system's two-year colleges get bachelor's degrees online.
"We need to figure out our customer, White said. It's not just students. It's parents too dealing with affordability."