Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006
ed tuition caps may be misplaced
SC Statehouse Report
FEB. 26, 2006 - - A quiet but growing debate at the Statehouse
is over whether the state should cap tuition increases at
the state's public colleges and universities.
like Gov. Mark Sanford say caps are needed to keep the cost
of college affordable for South Carolina students. Opponents
say caps are no better than price controls that meddle in
Today's tuition rates are about twice what they were five
years ago at most state public colleges and universities.
For the first two of those years (2001-02 and 2002-03), the
state tied tuition hikes to the national Higher Education
Price Index, which allowed an increase up to a certain national
average plus a few more dollars. In 2002-03, for example,
rises were permitted to the HEPI level plus $250. But since
then, there have been no caps.
Even with the semi-cap and then with no cap, tuition rates
have gone up pretty dramatically. At Clemson, tuition was
$5,090 in 2001. The next year with a semi-cap, it rose to
$5,834 annually, followed by no-cap raises in the following
years to $6,934 (03-04), $7,840 (04-05) and $8,816 (05-06).
At the University of South Carolina the rise was similar,
but not as dramatic, with tuition set at $4,260 in 2001-02.
That figure rose by more than $3,000 to $7,314 in five years.
At teaching colleges, two-year regional colleges and technical
colleges, the stories were the same - - rises of 66 percent
to 145 percent over the five-year span.
But tuition makes up only about 20 percent of what funds
colleges and universities. Just as tuition has been rising,
state support of public colleges and universities has dropped
dramatically. Clemson, for example, got $103.6 million in
state support in 1999-2000, compared to $85 million in 2004-05;
USC suffered a similar 17 percent drop in state funding.
So what does all of this mean? It means that as the state
took away money with one hand, colleges and universities raised
tuition with the other to make up cuts to keep the quality
of education they provided about the same.
It also suggests the state needs to take a serious look at
how it funds higher education. But instead of artificially
capping tuition, it might be better to more fully fund base-level
support to keep tuition rises in check.
Just look at how South Carolina differs from North Carolina,
a state with a great tradition of big financial support on
the front end to higher education. According to a recent story
in the Rock Hill Herald, the overall cost to educate a student
at Winthrop University in Rock Hill is about the same as it
is at the nearby University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- - $12,000 a year. At Winthrop, tuition is about $8,700 while
the state provides about $3,500 in support per student. Across
the state line, however, the figures are almost reversed -
- state support at UNC-C is $8,500 annually, while tuition
In other words, consistent front-end support of higher education
and a state political commitment to higher education has allowed
North Carolina to keep tuition very affordable. In North Carolina,
higher education is a priority. In South Carolina, it's much
lower on the totem pole.
So Sanford's populist, TV-sound bite pleas for tuition caps
sound good in an election year. But when you realize recent
budgets by the governor and legislature have cut base funding
to state colleges and universities, you've got to scratch
your head and wonder what's going on.
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What's particularly vexing is the whole concept of price
caps in light of the holy Republican mantra that generally
guides policies - - that the marketplace, not the government,
should determine cost. It seems pretty hypocritical to push
for limited involvement of government just as they're seeking
to use government's power to push a populist measure on tuition.
Another thought - - if recent tuition hikes were so bad,
then one would expect students to overreact and for the state's
colleges and universities to suffer in enrollment. At Clemson,
rated recently as one of the nation's top 25 values in public
colleges, that's surely not the case.
Over the next few weeks, state lawmakers will look at whether
to implement some kind of caps during the budget process.
Stand-alone legislation on caps appears doomed, according
to various sources. So perhaps they really ought to focus
on the longer term - - and ways to provide more front-end
support to colleges and universities so they aren't forced
to jack up tuition to maintain quality.
2/26: Where are
the Ditech guys?
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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Block the sale of national forest land
To the editor:
I am in complete agreement with your commentary
which I read today in the Hartsville
Messenger. With whom should we get in touch to try
and block this sale of our heritage that can never be regained?
These precious fragments of our land should be preserved for
our children, grand children and the generations to come to
enjoy the beauty of our state.
Thank you for your article which I hope will spark a fire
from all of us who would like to preserve our land.
-- Elizabeth Bailey, Darlington County, S.C.
Publisher's note: We suggested to Ms. Bailey
that she get in touch with her state representative, her
congressional representative and U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham
and Jim DeMint to urge officials to leave national forest
land untouched. To call Congress, phone: 202.224.3121.
oppose tuition caps, Kely
Sheldon, President, SC State Student Association, Junior,
a look at ethanol too,
Will McKay, Florence,
at America's energy needs,
Tom Hatfield, Hilton Head
Alexander D. Kline, P.E.,
- 1/30: Boost
cigarette tax or else, Mr. and Mrs. A.C. Haff, Hilton
Head Island, SC
- 1/30: Toll
is a use tax, Buck Pridgen, North Augusta, SC
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political news items from the past week:
College presidents. The presidents of the state's
three major research universities - Clemson, USC and MUSC
- told legislators last week that they are already collaborating
for the good of the state in research projects. Others also
said that South Carolina appears to be unique in research
collaboration, setting a standard for other states. Now that's
good news, and James Barker, Andrew Sorensen and Raymond Greenberg
Black judges. Everything we read and hear says that
Judge Reginald Lloyd, 39, is well qualified to become the
first African-American U.S. district attorney in South Carolina
since Reconstruction. He has been a practicing attorney, as
well as a circuit court judge since 2003. For two years, he
was research counsel and chief counsel to the S.C. House Judiciary
Committee. Only problem is that when this year's General Assembly
elected state judges, no blacks were among the winners.
Sanford. Slime literally drips off the way Gov. Sanford
attempted to interfere in the business of the House Ways and
Means Committee, which hasn't a vote on the appropriations
bill yet. Sanford used his bully pulpit to push for his executive
budget instead of the preliminary committee budget, but he
used three House chairmen to criticize the committee even
though none knew the others had been contacted. Used, abused
and downright reprehensible, even for politics. More
See Palmetto Politics below.
Bad parents. Nurses and physicians at the Medical
University of South Carolina Children's Hospital say they
are all too often seeing the frustration of parents with their
small children and babies. They say that "shaken baby"
syndrome may even happen because parents just want to get
their child's attention. Nonetheless, shaking a child for
any reason can harm the child and can result in charges of
child abuse, so that parents could lose their children. Surely
parents can do better by their children.
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