Remember when we told you last year that lawmakers were pulling $3.7 billion off-budget? Those funds were the “Other Funds” (fines and fees) for South Carolina’s public colleges and universities, and included all tuition revenue. This wasn’t a spending cut: the House simply removed those funds from the budget and added a proviso (which the Governor vetoed) allowing colleges and universities to spend them anyway – despite those funds not being reported to the public in the appropriations bill.
This year lawmakers decided they’d better not hide higher education funds after all, and reported all college and university tuition, fine and fee revenue in the budget. However, higher ed still has a long way to be truly transparent – and a good start would be disclosing exactly how those skyrocketing tuition fees are being spent.
The South Carolina budget process has been eventful this year: Overall spending has continued to climb; lawmakers have once again refused to follow the transparent budget process mandated by law; and both the House and the Senate have inserted unconstitutional budget provisos, which range from separate bills that failed to pass on their own, to a data warehouse to track individuals from preschool to the workforce.
Unfortunately, this is not all: Just before sending the budget to conference committee, the House voted to move nearly $4 billion of higher education spending off-budget.
It is important to note that these funds are not being cut from the state budget. They will remain in their respective agencies, who will continue to spend those funds as normal. It will simply be unreported to the public.