Why SC College Tuition is Soaring

Papers across the state have been reporting the huge hikes in tuition at colleges and universities in South Carolina.

Liberal editorialists like Paul Hyde are blaming tax-cuts (and praising big spender Dan Cooper).

In Thursday’s Greenville News, Cooper mentioned that the $221 million grocery tax cut — the largest tax cut in the state’s history — was one reason colleges and universities throughout the state are now raising tuition.

It’s obvious, of course, to most anyone that state funding priorities will suffer when overzealous politicians hand out overly generous tax cuts.

But Hyde and Cooper are wrong.

The numbers speak for themselves. As Lottery money poured into the university system in the form of tuition scholarships Representative Cooper, Senator Leatherman and others actually CUT general fund appropriations, forcing the schools to raise tuition to re-coop the money.

In a 2007 Issue Analysis Paper, the South Carolina Policy Council‘s Research Director Neil Mellen explained the problem:

Rather than merely complimenting existing educational spending, the infusion of lottery money has subsidized reoccurring appropriations for the Universities, who have responded by raising tuition. Most scholarship recipients now pay more out-of-pocket than they would have before the introduction of the Education Lottery. …

In 2007, the Commission on Higher Education claimed that well-qualified students could receive up to $5,000 per academic year in tuition assistance from a LIFE scholarship. At Clemson University the in-state tuition cost for the 2006-07 year was $9,400. This means a payment of $4,400 for the recipient of the largest LIFE scholarship attending Clemson. But if we compare this expense to the tuition charged to a Clemson student in 2000-01 ($3,590), the year of the Lottery adoption, this is actually $810 less than today’s post-scholarship tuition at Clemson. While the Education Lottery was designed to cut the amount families paid for college, the infusion of money in the form of scholarship (and the resultant shift away from direct General Fund appropriations for operations) has driven up tuition so high that its growth has actually outpaced the savings it initially offered to students in the form of scholarships.

When the schools began receiving greater revenues through tuition (which was supplemented by scholarships), the General Assembly actually decreased the State Reoccurring Appropriation. In fact, this started in 2001-02, the year of the transition into Education Lottery Scholarships. More recently, beginning in 2004-05, these reoccurring appropriations have been increased but the tuition rate charged to students continues to rise as well. Despite the recent (re)adjustment, tuition and fees accounted for thirty one percent of operational revenue at Clemson and USC in 2004-05, up from twenty-four percent at USC and twenty percent at Clemson in 1999-2000. In that same five year period the state appropriations share dropped from thirty eight percent to twenty seven percent at USC and from forty percent to twenty six percent at Clemson. While the colleges continue to grow, and have begun to reclaim growth in state appropriations, their dependence on skyrocketing tuition is larger than ever.

example of SC tuition and revenues.jpg
Read more of Mellen’s analysis here.


6 responses to “Why SC College Tuition is Soaring

  1. Cooper and Leatherman stealing Peter to pay Paul… should we be surprised?

  2. Wasn’t the “Education” Lottery supposed to REDUCE college tution?!

  3. Tiger Diehard

    The so-called “SC Education Lottery” is one of the biggest scams that our state leaders have running. It is a way for low income, low education blue colared people to pay for middle and upper middle class kids to attend college. No one seems to mind that, or that a government sancationed monopoloy on gambling is simply a bad idea, until now the middle class kids are having to pay more. Still, the point is that government should not be in the business of trying to maxmiize its own income, because that is a dangerous expansion of power, and yes the schools themselves are growing way too fast too but they are getting shafted on the money cause the politicans know they can get more money via the lotto.

  4. More great info on legislative use and abuse of lottery money here:


  5. Appropriations always decrease as lottery money increases. If one thing could be pointed out as the worst aspect of the California lottery, it was that. Despite regular comments from the legislature that such was not happening, it did every year and the state became more and more dependent on institutionalized gambling to sponsor public education. South Carolina has not learned from other’s mistakes.

  6. Clemson and USC should re-evaluate their high paid professors and administration. All schools public and private are spending too much on adminstrative salaries. But, you say, we must have the best. Yes, but I am sure that there are others just as qualified that will settle for less.
    Our government controlled schools are not producing even good college students and the proof is in the pudding – we’re still on the bottom.
    Greenville County is top heavy in administration salaries and “we ain’t seeing any improvement in the students”. So lets fire the high priced ones, get some cheapies if we’re going to stay on the bottom

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