Good job rejecting the tuition caps

This might sound strange coming from a guy who was already counting pennies (or quarters, anyway — I miscounted how many I had this morning in my truck, and ended up with a parking ticket because I didn't have enough for the meter), with my two youngest daughters still in college. And now I'm about to be unemployed.

But I'm glad the House rejected tuition caps at S.C. colleges and universities. I have an anecdote to share about that.

Remember the recent day when college students wandered the State House lobbying lawmakers on behalf of their institutions. They wanted the state to invest in higher education the way North Carolina and Georgia have. Either that day, or the day after, I had lunch with Clemson President James Barker, and he told me an anecdote he had witnessed: He said the students were pressing a lawmaker NOT to support the tuition caps, because they were worried about their institutions being even more underfunded — they hardly get anything from the state — some are down below 20 percent funding by the state, and the rest has to come from such sources as tuition, federal research grants and private gifts. Eliminate the ability to raise tuition, and the institution's ability to provide an excellent education is significantly curtailed. If we want lower tuitions, the state should go back to funding higher percentages of the schools' budgets, the way our neighboring states with better higher ed systems do.

The lawmaker listened to the kids, and then said with great condescension, maybe you kids don't care if tuition goes up, but I'll bet your parents would like a cap. He thought he had them there, but the kids set him straight: None of their parents were paying the bills. These kids were working their way through schools and paying for it all themselves. And they didn't want to see the quality of what they were working so hard to pay for be degraded by an artificial cap on tuition. The lawmaker had not counted on getting that answer.

I wish I had been there to see it, because I've been in a similar place before. Back in 95 or 96, Speaker Wilkins had brought his committee chairs to see us, and I started challenging the wisdom of their massive rollback of property taxes paid for school.One of them allowed as how he bet I was glad to get that couple of hundred dollars I didn't have to pay. And I answered him that I was ashamed that I was paying so little through my property tax to support schools that I knew needed more resources. He said smugly that he was sure I wouldn't want to give it back. I told him I didn't see as how there was any channel for doing that, but if he could point me to the right person who would take my money and see it gets to the right place, I would pay the difference. He didn't have a good answer for that.

It would be great if our lawmakers would stop assuming that all of us in South Carolina are so greedily shortsighted that we can't see past our personal desire to pay less money, and that we are corruptible by a scheme to starve colleges of reasonable support.

17 thoughts on “Good job rejecting the tuition caps

  1. Lee Muller

    The legislature should pass caps on total cost per student. Our colleges are so poorly managed that the costs have increased almost 4 times as fast as the incomes of families.
    The snide answer from academics is for students to borrow more money.
    Too many students go to college. The colleges, even universities like USC, accept too many student whom they know will be flunked out the freshmen year, just so the school can get their money.
    This is especially true at the low-end black colleges, where most of the students should not be wasting their time and money on worthless degrees. It is just a racket to use the students as a conduit for federal grants and loans.

  2. Harry Harris

    I wish colleges would stop funding “development” on the backs of their students. Very little of the tuition dollar in most colleges is spent on educating students. Do the math.

  3. Doug Ross

    There will never be tuition caps as long as our tax dollars pay for lobbyists for the colleges to maximize the funding.
    There is no valid reason for the recent yearly double digit percentage increases in tuition that have occured over the past few years.
    How is it that our technical colleges can get by on tuition of $1800 per year while USC charges $8000? What does that $6200 per student get you?

  4. Brad Warthen

    Actually, Doug, I used to say what you say about lobbyists, but the reality has changed. Now I wonder: Since 80 percent or so of the institution’s funds come from sources other than the state, are those lobbyists truly state-funded? What if they come from another pocket entirely?
    You’d probably need an accountant to figure that out. Is there one in the house?

  5. Vince Degenhart

    How many hours does the tenured professor actually teach per week? About twenty years ago there was an editorial in the State that addressed that issue. I think you would be surprised at the actual number. It is very small. Maybe someone on this blog knows what it is today. SC has the highest tuition for public education in the South. We have nearly 11% unemployment, many either out of work or working for less, I am concerned about raising the cost tuition at our state colleges and universities.

  6. Doug Ross

    Check out the salaries at USC on The State web page. That might give you some indication of where the money is going.
    While there are zero employees at Midlands Tech earning $150K and eight earning $100K,
    at USC there are 144 employees earning over $150K and 536 employees earning over $100K. 15 make a quarter million a year or more, including the Old Ball Coach who hasn’t done squat since he’s been there and the new women’s basketball coach whose team more than likely is a net revenue loss for the university.

  7. Birch Barlow

    There is no valid reason for the recent yearly double digit percentage increases in tuition that have occured over the past few years.
    You know, except for the fact that Almighty Saint Mark Sanford the Tax-Cutter has slashed the budgets of PUBLIC universities in this state, your statement above might have some merit.
    Seriously, 20% state support for a public university? That’s ridiculous.
    But who gives a damn about higher education anyway? Certainly not Mark Sanford.

  8. Doug Ross

    Can you please point to specific instances where Mark Sanford has “slashed the budgets” of public universities?
    Which budget did Mark Sanford do that in?

  9. Birch Barlow

    Excuse me Doug. Funding has been cut by Columbia, not the budgets. You are absolutely correct.

  10. Birch Barlow

    You’d probably need an accountant to figure that out. Is there one in the house?

    Yeah Brad, I’m an accountant. But 8 months ago I was a student at a public university in this state. So this issue remains near and dear to my heart.
    Higher education needs to be properly funded in this state.

  11. Birch Barlow

    And out of fairness, the people running our universities aren’t without blame themselves.

  12. Lee Muller

    In addition to the state retirement, funded to the tune of $1.45 of taxpayer money for every dollar contributed by faculty, the median private retirement account of faculty members is over $550,000.

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