Throwback Thursday: Rising college tuition tied to increasing higher education debt

October 24, 2019

Inside Insight

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A recent study covered by The Greenville News revealed that South Carolina has one of the highest student loan default rates in the country, with over one out of every ten students defaulting within two years of starting repayment.

This is just the latest evidence of how increasingly unaffordable higher education is becoming for many South Carolinians due to rising tuition costs and fees. However – as The Nerve revealed last year – those student costs don’t just pay for the student’s education. College and university debt – primarily for building projects – has also skyrocketed, increasing nearly 93 percent from 2008 to 2017. Most of this debt is by law required to be paid for with student tuition and fees.

While lawmakers have proposed various ways to prevent colleges from raising tuition (even including a “soft” in-state tuition freeze in this year’s budget), they have not attempted to rein in college and university building projects and debt – one of the primary contributing factors to higher student costs. In fact, the only entity to push back on higher education spending and debt proposals has been the Commission on Higher Education, and lawmakers’ response has been repeated attempts to strip the CHE’s oversight over that particular area.

Tuition, fees used to pay off skyrocketing university IOUs

If you’re a parent of a student attending a South Carolina public college or university, you probably haven’t been told how a good chunk of rising tuition and fees is being spent.

Under state law, tuition and other student fees can be used by schools to pay off certain bonds that typically are issued for construction projects. Over the past 10 years at four-year schools, tuition and required fees for undergraduates jumped by about 40 percent on average, state records show.

The total debt incurred mostly by those schools – primarily for building projects – shot up nearly 93 percent to $2 billion from fiscal 2008 through fiscal 2017, according to S.C. Commission on Higher Education (CHE) records. By law, most of that amount is supposed to be paid off with non-tax revenues, which include tuition and other student fees, a review by The Nerve found.

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