Speaker Bobby Harrell says decreases are necessary
USC is set to lose millions in state funding for the upcoming fiscal year, according to budget proposals offered by the General Assembly.
The budget will be up for consideration in the upcoming months, as legislators grapple with closing at $827 million shortfall this year. It’s unclear how much the body will actually slash, but proposals have ranged as high as $18 million, or about 14 percent of the university’s state funding, according to The State newspaper. USC spokeswoman Margaret Lamb couldn’t provide budget specifics Wednesday afternoon and referred all questions to Luanne Lawrence, USC’s vice president for communications. Lawrence couldn’t be reached for comment on the matter.
At Wednesday night’s USC College Republicans meeting, South Carolina Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell said the cuts were necessary because federal stimulus funds had dried up.
“That money is gone,” Harrell said.
He said last year’s choice between accepting or rejecting the stimulus funds was a choice between either postponing cuts or facing them immediately.
Harrell also said that, for the first time, the percentage of out-of-state students a university admitted was used as a criterion for how much state funding it received.
“Colleges that took more out-of-state students actually have a higher per-student amount of revenue coming from tuition,” Harrell said. “If out-of-state tuition is twice as much, you do the math.”
Harrell said the criterion was not meant as a penalty to out-of-state students but a recognition of how much money they provided a university.
“Mathematically, they probably need less revenue from the state,” Harrell said.
Members of the General Assembly have also been considering caps on public universities’ tuition and the percentage of out-of-state students they admit. Harrell, at first, said both were appropriate.
“I’m not sure what that number is,” Harrell said. “I will have to think very carefully because I’ll have to cast a vote on both of those issues. I don’t think the question is whether you should cap it or not but on what level.”
He later tendered the statement, saying he was “uncomfortable” taking a position without further examining the issue.
“I could vote for a cap in both instances, but I’d have to be convinced the cap being proposed is appropriate,” he said.
Harrell said the House will take up the budget the week of March 14, and the Senate will in late April. Then the ongoing debates over caps on tuition and out-of-state students will be decided.
Sean Bertran, the chairman of College Republicans, said the problem is the McKissick Scholarship, which he said allows out-of-state students to attend USC for in-state tuition.
“A high number of out-of-state students are getting the scholarship when USC should be for in-state students,” Bertran, a third-year political science student, said. “Now, I’m an out-of-state student myself. However, I pay out-of-state tuition. I think we could create a lot of revenue if we didn’t give out the scholarship as much as we did.”