Despite concerns across the country about a higher education “tuition bubble,” the University of South Carolina is looking at implementing yet another tuition increase in the fall.
Yet for USC students, the potential hike could almost be considered good news, because school officials at a legislative hearing earlier this month described it as likely to be smaller than other increases in recent years.
USC, along with other state-supported colleges and universities in South Carolina, has hiked tuition repeatedly over the past several years. The cumulative effect of the successive hikes has been stratospheric.
At the same time, USC has built out its campus at a vigorous pace and continues to do so.
USC’s tuition increase for the current school year was comparatively lower than in preceding years – 3.9 percent.
But that still brought the yearly cost for undergraduates to attend Carolina’s main campus to $10,168.
It was just a little more than $5,000 in the 2002-03 academic year.
USC President Harris Pastides and other Carolina officials attribute the huge tuition jump mostly to state funding cuts.
To be sure, state support for higher education had decreased dramatically.
“In just three short years, core recurring operating funding (actual dollars) for our 33 public institutions decreased 46 percent with over $346 million in state funds lost,” the S.C. Commission on Higher Education says in its budget request for the 2012-13 fiscal year that starts July 1.
The commission then adds:
“Federal stimulus funds, which mitigated the state reductions during the past two years but did not fully restore the cuts, are no longer available.”
Tuition increases also have mitigated state funding cuts.
Meanwhile, headlines such as these have appeared over the past several months:
- “USC buys 2 ETV buildings”: near Williams-Brice Stadium for a combined $5.2 million;
- “USC looks to grow Greek Village”; and
- “USC awards more than $2.7 million in salary raises while cutting jobs, freezing hiring.”
While administrators of South Carolina’s public colleges are correct when they point out that state funding has fallen significantly, students, legislators and others might also be correct to question some of the schools’ priorities.
Reach Ward at (803) 254-4411 or firstname.lastname@example.org.