Tuition Program Forced to Cut Grants to S.C. Students

January 28, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveAn estimated 14,000-plus South Carolina college students each lost several hundred dollars in financial aid this semester after the S.C. Tuition Grants Program came up short on funding.

The program, which provides need-based assistance to full-time undergraduates at private schools, cut grants across the state by $350.

The move came as a result of an uptick of the number of grants awarded, the result of an increase in eligible students, according to a letter from Earl L. Mayo Jr., director of the S.C. Higher Education Tuition Grants Commission.

“Because of this historic increase in the number of eligible students, the commission does not have enough remaining funds for the spring semester to disburse grants at the level of the original values that were listed on the ‘tentative’ award letters issued to potentially eligible students from February 2009 through September 2009,” according to Mayo’s letter.

The commission awarded grants to 14,225 students this academic year, an 11.1 percent increase over 2008-09. Any student who meets the criteria for a grant is awarded funding, so when the program experienced the sharp increase in eligible students, it ran short on funds, Mayo said.

The maximum S.C. Tuition Grant for 2009-2010 is $2,800 and the average grant for 2009-2010 is approximately $2,460.

The amount of each student’s grant is determined by a combination of family resources, the cost of attending their college, and the funding level of the program by the Legislature.

For FY09-2010, $28,186,579 was made available for the program, including more than $22 million in state funds.

Students at 21 independent S.C. colleges are eligible to participate in the Tuition Grants Program, which was set up in 1970.

Charleston Southern University and North Greenville College each had more than 1,000 recipients in 2007-08, while Benedict College and Anderson University had more than 800, according to the most recent data available.

That same year, 40.6 percent of S.C. Tuition Grants recipients were African-Americans. As a percentage of recipients, the program serves more black students than any other state-funded program, according to information on the program’s Web site.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022, ext. 110, or kevin@scpolicycouncil.com.