For real accountability in higher ed, here’s the first number Haley should look at: 10.9 percent

Just read this item over at

Gov. Nikki Haley and higher education leaders said today they are working together on ways to objectively measure the performance of South Carolina’s public colleges and universities.

School officials said Tuesday they will provide the governor with data including class sizes, the number of in-state and out-of-state students, classroom spending and their economic development impact. The goal, Haley said, is to determine which schools were getting the best results from their budgets.

State spending on higher education has been cut in recent years, and, with the state facing an $830 million budget deficit, public colleges likely face more cuts…

College officials said they welcomed the opportunity to show their value.

“Accountability and transparency and quality can all coexist,” said Clemson University president James Barker.

Barker said he had not had a similar meeting with former Gov. Mark Sanford, who targeted rising higher education costs.

“It felt very different,” Barker said.

I’m with President Barker on this: It’s great that Nikki Haley even cares enough to talk to the public higher ed institutions. Her predecessor’s lack of interest was deafening.

But as she presumes to decide the institution’s fiscal fate (suddenly, I’m flashing on Rowan and Martin: the Fickle Finger of Fiscal Fate), there’s one number I hope she absorbs before any other: 10.9 percent.

That’s how much of the USC system’s total budget is provided by state appropriations. For USC Columbia, it’s 10.3 percent. (I don’t have the numbers for the other institutions in front of me at the moment.) It used to be more like 90.

The college administrators are too polite, and too politic to say it (personally, I’d be tempted to say to everybody at the State House, “Yeah, and I’m going to care about you and your opinion of what I’m doing, oh, about 10.9 percent.”), and I suspect they are truly pleased that Nikki wants to work with them at all. It’s a nice change. But it would be good if politicos who want to call the tune for these institutions were a little more cognizant of just how little they are paying to the piper.

16 thoughts on “For real accountability in higher ed, here’s the first number Haley should look at: 10.9 percent

  1. Phillip

    It may be getting to the point where the state’s role in higher education is becoming so small that USC may think about going private. You won’t hear anybody from the university speculate about that on the record, but the murmurs are there.

  2. Doug Ross

    If you think the colleges are underfunded, point the finger at Harrell and Leatherman. They control the purse strings, not the governor.

  3. Doug Ross

    And the percentage of funding is an inaccurate measure. How much has the budget increased since the days of your 90% figure?

  4. Doug Ross

    What other areas of the.budget.should be.cut to increase funding for colleges? Or do you just want taxes raised?

  5. Kathy

    I’ve been wondering why USC and some of the other colleges don’t become private. Surely, a few more cuts and it won’t be worth jumping through the goverment hoops and dealing with the constant carping from know-it-all know-nothings.

  6. Brad

    You mean gummint.

    They don’t go private because of the capital cost. That is EXTREMELY expensive real estate. Let’s assume they could come up with the mortgage for that. Then there would be the property taxes, once they were private.

    But I’m increasingly thinking that the idea is more and more viable. Applies to ETV, too. If Nikki et al. don’t want to pay the operating costs of these public services, maybe they should give them 100-year leases for a dollar a year, and work out something favorable on property taxes, the way we do industrial prospects.

    I’m contemplating a separate post saying that…

  7. Doug Ross

    Does the 10.9% include all the LIFE scholarships and other lottery funding? If it doesn’t, then the 10.9% is meaningless.

  8. Doug Ross

    Here’s the data on lottery funding to colleges.

    Here’s a very interesting analysis of the lottery funding as well.

    What has happened is that as the lottery money for LIFE scholarships became available, the colleges increased tuition at an even higher rate in order to gain additional revenue.

    A key quote from the above document: “With Higher Education, this has caused a shell game of
    rerouting money through scholarships to pay for higher tuition rather than using General Fund revenues
    for reoccurring appropriations.”

  9. Mark Stewart

    Brad, 501c(3)’s don’t pay taxes on owned real estate (a school would never truly privatize to for-profit status if it left the State’s umbrella). Schools do pay on leased real estate, but then so does the government unless it leases 100% of a structure.

    Privatization of a university would be relatively easy to accomplish – and would not be in the interests of the people of this state, in my opinion.

    That’s why Columbia gets hammered on property tax receipts – nothing from churches, hospitals, the state government, the federal government, etc. Yes, the greater Columbia metro area benefits from the economic base of these institutions; but Columbia is the one left holding the bag when it comes to providing the civic infrastructure for these institutions.

    As a resident of Lexington, I shouldn’t care. But as a member of this larger community centered on Columbia, I do.

  10. Doug Ross


    Churches and hospitals should pay property taxes. There is no valid reason why they don’t.

    Or maybe I should just declare my home a place of worship and stop paying my property taxes.

  11. Doug Ross


    Give me time. You’ll be listening to Ron Paul books on tape by August.

    No, really, I am not opposed to taxes as much as I am opposed to overly complicated tax systems with all sorts of loopholes.

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