During her remarks at the December 7 Campus Legislative Coordinators Kickoff in Columbia, hosted by South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, Dillard (D-Greenville) stressed the importance of the annual letter-writing campaign for highlighting the importance of state funding for need-based tuition grants and merit scholarships.
“Please do not underestimate the impact of thousands of students’ letters sent to legislators saying the same thing about tuition grants and state merit scholarships. This singular message will get the attention of legislators,” said Dillard.
SCICU President Jeffrey Perez noted the importance of state support for the nearly three-quarters of students at independent colleges and universities who call South Carolina home.
“About 50 percent of our students are eligible for federal Pell Grants, meaning they are among the most economically disadvantaged, and fully 95 percent receive some form of financial aid,” said Perez. “So many of our students participate in the letter-writing campaign because they know first-hand that state support for them is the difference between staying focused on academic success and being distracted by financial concerns.”
Dillard also warned that state legislators will have a full plate and keeping them focused on student needs should be a top priority.
“Getting the attention of your legislators is important, as there are many other major issues lining up for the 2019 session,” said Dillard.
The annual letter-writing campaign is timed to coincide with the cycle of budget hearings in the South Carolina General Assembly. Legislators will receive thank-you letters from students while they are deciding upon fiscal year 2019-2020 funding for tuition grants and state merit scholarships.
2018 Letter-Writing Campaign Results
Over 7,300 letters were written by SC independent college students to SC legislators in last year’s letter-writing campaign. With 1,762 letters written, Anderson University won the contest for most letters written to legislators.
Erskine College and Allen University again tied for the highest percentage of tuition grants recipients writing thank-you letters to legislators. Both Erskine and Allen are to be commended for having 100% of their respective tuition grants recipients participating in the 2018 Legislative Letter-Writing Campaign.
2019 Legislative Plan for State Financial Aid Funding
During the meeting, Perez presented the following 2019 legislative priorities related to state-funded aid for in-state students attending private colleges in South Carolina:
- Increase the maximum tuition grant per student to $3,450 ($150 increase over previous year), which would require an additional $1.903 million in state funding for the SC Higher Education Tuition Grants Commission.
- Full funding for state merit scholarships (Palmetto Fellows, LIFE, HOPE, and Lottery Tuition Assistance) to all eligible students.
- $1.5 million increase in need-based scholarships for the SC Commission on Higher Education (CHE). If CHE’s request for additional funding is approved, approximately $247,500 in additional funding would flow to the Tuition Grants Commission.
2019 Independent College and University Day
The annual letter-writing campaign will wrap up prior to the 2019 Independent College and University Day scheduled for April 10. On this day, students from SCICU’s 20 member colleges and universities will gather for a rally at the State House and meet with their legislators.