Students at South Carolina’s two largest universities are grading lawmakers on their support for higher education, kicking off a new push to give college students a louder voice at the State House.
Twenty-nine of 46 state senators and 66 of 124 House members were listed as supporters of S.C. colleges and universities on the first “Student Higher Education Report and Honor Roll,” released Wednesday by student governments at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina.
The students evaluated college-related bills from the last legislative session and assigned lawmakers points based on how they voted, giving more points for high-profile measures, including the state budget.
“We want to recognize the champions for higher education in hope that others will follow,” USC student body president Michael Parks said.
Student leaders say they want lawmakers to put more money in the state’s $7.9 billion general fund budget for higher education and to pass a borrowing bill for college building projects.
“You will see students at the State House like never before,” said Natalie Pita, USC student government’s secretary for government relations.
The honor roll includes 18 Senate and 46 House Republicans, plus 11 Senate and 20 House Democrats.
Students included the state’s two top budget writers — Senate Finance Committee chair Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, and House Ways and means Committee chair Brian White, R-Anderson — on the honor roll.
All but four senators on the 23-member Senate Finance Committee made the honor roll. State Sens. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg; Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson; Glenn Reese, D-Spartanburg; and Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, were left out.
The entire House budget-writing panel made the honor roll.
Nine of 17 Richland County legislators made the list.
They are GOP state Sen. John Courson; GOP state Reps. Nathan Ballentine and Kirkman Finlay; Democratic state Sens. John Scott and Thomas McElveen; and Democratic state Reps. Joe Neal, James Smith, Jimmy Bales and Todd Rutherford.