The University of South Carolina is seeking roughly $9 million in recurring funding from the state budget to help keep tuition down, according to its official budget request.
The $9 million — $11.3 million for all campuses — is roughly how much USC would need to comply with requirements in the Higher Education Opportunity Act, a bill that would slow tuition costs in exchange for additional state money. The bill, spearheaded by state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, would be the most comprehensive change to higher education funding in recent memory, should it pass. It’s something USC President Harris Pastides has championed and something he said he wants to get done before he retires in July.
If lawmakers approve the $9 million increase, it would cover only 63 percent of USC’s $14.1 million projected cost increases, according to the budget request. USC projects the increased costs will be driven by the increasing cost of health insurance and retirement, inflation and possible pay increases, according to the budget request.
Asked if USC would commit to increasing tuition at a slower rate than this year’s 2.9 percent, spokesman Jeff Stensland said: “I’d hate to get into hypotheticals, especially about making assumptions on legislation. But barring anything unforeseen, an additional $8.9 million in recurring funds allows us to hold tuition adjustments at levels consistent with last year.”
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Last year, the legislature increased USC’s recurring funding by $8.2 million. The university still increased tuition this year, albeit at the slowest rate in 20 years. Tuition and fees at USC cost $12,616 per year.
Colleges throughout the state are asking for more money to help keep tuition down. Clemson University formally requested $8 million “to slow the growth of tuition costs and continue to ensure affordable education opportunities for in-state students,” according to the request.