At its meeting on November 22, the SCICU Public Policy Committee approved a Legislative Strategic Plan for 2017 that includes as the #1 priority securing $5.3 million in additional recurring state appropriations for the Tuition Grants program. In June, the Higher Education Tuition Grants Commission set this ambitious goal in order to raise the maximum grant from $3,200 to $3,650, the statutory maximum equal to the per student appropriation for students attending a public college or university in South Carolina.
Tuition Grants are need-based grants for South Carolina residents attending an in-state private non-profit college or university. The scholarships are limited to four years, and recipients must make satisfactory academic progress to retain their awards. For FY 2016-2017, the Commission estimates that approximately 13,300 students will qualify for more than $38 million in financial assistance.
The #2 legislative priority for SCICU is to work with the public colleges and universities to ensure the state’s merit scholarships (Palmetto Fellows, LIFE, HOPE, and Tuition Assistance) are fully funded. This will be particularly challenging this year because the Commission on Higher Education estimates that more than 6,300 students could qualify for state merit aid because the Department of Education changed the Uniform Grading Scale from a 7 point to a 10 point system. The additional students qualifying for a scholarship could add as much as $14.5 million to the cost of the program which has grown to more than $290 million.
Priority #3 supports the budget request of the Commission on Higher Education for an increase of $1.1 million in state general funds for need-based grants. The Tuition Grants Commission receives approximately 16.5% of the need-based appropriation to CHE to be used for tuition grants. The 16.5% relates to the proportion of students attending independent colleges and universities compared to the number of students attending public higher education institutions. The Tuition Grants Commission would receive an additional $181,500 if CHE is successful in its request.
As the #4 Priority, SCICU and the public colleges and universities will join forces in support of a recurring appropriation in the amount of $1.5 million for the Partnership Among South Carolina Academic Libraries. PASCAL is a partnership among public and private higher education academic libraries that promotes and enables all the partners to exchange resources through a central electronic card catalogue and delivery system. PASCAL also operates a purchasing consortium that negotiates reduced costs for subscriptions to electronic journals and publications. SCICU members benefit from the expanded resources and cost efficiencies of PASCAL, elements essential for maintaining accreditation.
The full 2017 Legislative Strategic Plan with priorities and month-to-month activities is posted in the Advocacy Section of the SCICU website. A companion document, 2017 Primary Legislative Priorities and Quick Facts, provides talking points in support of SCICU’s primary priorities and also is posted in the Advocacy Section. Throughout the 2017 session of the General Assembly, progress reports as well as the status of legislation that could impact independent colleges and universities will be added as updates in this section.
The Public Policy Committee is chaired by Lucy Grey McIver. Ben Green is vice chair. The Committee will meet again on February 16, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. for a state update and a more detailed discussion of SCICU’s federal agenda.