Tech system funding, by the numbers

A little more perspective on the governor’s three vetoes of Technical College operational funding, courtesy of Midlands Tech President Sonny White, who spoke to the Columbia Rotary Club this afternoon. (He only mentioned the vetoes in passing; I got the rest from him in an interview afterward.)

When the Technical College system was founded at the behest of Gov. Fritz Hollings (who got the Legislature to go along by buying Sen. Edgar Brown a bottle of bourbon and helping him drink it, which shows that in an altered state of consciousness at least, our lawmakers can be forward looking), the system was paid for thusly:

  • 70 percent of funding came from the state
  • 10 percent came from the counties served by the 16 schools — this went to physical plant and other local operating costs
  • 10 percent came from students — which made sense, since this was about providing a bright future to folks who did not already have good income
  • 10 percent came from auxiliary services such as bookstores and the like

In the 2011 fiscal year, the breakdown will be:

  • 70 percent will come from students — some of it from Pell Grants and lottery-funded scholarships, but it will still be up to the students to find the way to come up with it
  • 10 percent from the state — which is just so many different kinds of pitiful that it defies words
  • 10 percent from counties — Sonny expressed his appreciation that counties have at least kept their part of the bargain over the years.
  • 10 percent from auxiliary services.

Oh, and by the way, the technical system has seen a 20 percent increase in enrollment during this period in which unemployment has hovered around 12 percent.

So now you know.

9 thoughts on “Tech system funding, by the numbers

  1. Doug Ross

    The tech college system is perhaps the shining example of how the government CAN do something well.
    My daughter is getting a fantastic education in culinary arts for 1/4 the cost of a private school like Johnson & Wales. I’ve been nothing short of impressed by the faculty, the facilities, and the students.

    That being said, I think the 70% figure for students is questionable. Students like my daughter who are eligible for the LIFE scholarship go to school for free AND get a $150 for books. Even if she wasn’t eligible for the LIFE scholarship, at least 50% of the tuition would have been covered by lottery money. Whether it comes from the general fund or from lottery money, it’s still tax dollars.

    I’d be all for taking money away from USC/Clemson to give to the Tech College system. I’d rather see South Carolina invest in creating job-ready graduates than grad-school ready graduates. Ask the recent graduates of USC if they felt their $80K education was worth it.

  2. Brad

    One quibble, Doug: the lottery money isn’t “tax money.” Except in the sense that the lottery is a tax on stupidity.

    But set that quibble aside: The fact that Doug and I can agree on the value of the Tech system underlines just how extreme the governor’s position of not wanting these schools to function as economic development engines really is…

  3. Doug Ross


    A dollar funneled through the government is still a dollar. Well, probably 80 cents after all the overhead.

    George Washington implemented a lottery to pay to build roads in Virginia. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

    And you need to ask yourself where all the money went that used to go to the tech schools. The state budget continues to grow and grow. The money went SOMEWHERE.

    My view on tech schools is also biased because I am a product of a vocational / technical high school in Massachusetts. It’s an area that South Carolina has dropped the ball on because too many people felt it was pushing kids away from a college education. Instead of all the high end, social/cultural magnet schools, we need more vocational/technical programs to get the kids who aren’t interested in college to stay in school.

  4. Doug Ross

    And before you tell me that the South Carolina government is always cutting money, look at the facts:

    Fiscal Year Total Expenditures Change from Previous Year
    2008 20,858,585,100[21] 2.9%
    2007 20,266,849,917[22] 5.3%
    2006 19,242,459,434[23] 6.7%
    2005 18,033,783,808[23] 7.2%
    2004 16,818,721,431[23] 9.0%
    2003 15,424,866,119[23] 2.4%
    2002 15,060,995,600[23] 2.2%
    2001 14,730,477,146[23] 6.1%
    2000 13,889,209,525[23] n/a

    The expenditures have risen every year at a rate higher than inflation + population. Spending has increased 50% in a decade.


  5. Kathryn Fenner

    “George Washington implemented a lottery to pay to build roads in Virginia. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.”

    I didn’t figure you for wooden teeth, Doug.

    Times have changed.

  6. martin

    Did you see Otis Rawl’s op-ed in The State today? He was giving Sanford hell for the TEC cuts.

  7. Smith


    During the early American Republic in Virginia, natural rivers were the primary “roadways” for most travelers. The Virginia lottery roads were primarily used in the Allegheny or trans-Allegheny areas of Virginia. The goal was to connect the western regions to navigatable waterways in Virginia.

    Progress was slow because the state was unable to build reliable roads quickly under the lottery system. With the lack of infrastructure, Virginia saw commerce in the western parts of state and the Alleghenies directed away from Virginia and into the cities of Baltimore & Philadelphia.

    At times it may be better to have a state program (e.g.: roads and state technical colleges) be funded with tax dollars instead of a lottery.

  8. Karen McLeod

    The lottery is a tax on the arithmetically disabled. Unfortunately, most of their kids don’t qualify for scholarships. Unless you bet the lottery a whole lot, Doug, your children are going to school on the desperation of others. Obviously, it’s working well for you.

  9. Doug Ross


    I’m not saying the technical colleges should be funded solely by lottery money. All I am saying is that if they are going to use the money for something, putting it into the tech colleges is a good place for it. I’d rather see them take money from USC/Clemson to put into the system… or to cut wasteful programs.

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