Papers across the state have been reporting the huge hikes in tuition at colleges and universities in South Carolina.
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.
Read more of Mellen’s analysis here.