COLUMBIA, SC — The House Ways and Means Committee has completed the first draft of the state’s $8.2 billion general fund budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1. With very little unallocated general fund revenue ($292.9 million) available and over $2 billion in requests, the committee struggled to meet as many of the state’s needs as possible. Unfortunately, higher education was not a priority.
There were no increases recommended for Tuition Grants ($2.1 million request) or CHE need-based grants ($1 million request). Unlike in years past, PASCAL ($1.5 million request) was not included in the budget for lottery funds. Fortunately, the Ways and Means Committee recommended full funding of Merit Scholarships to include an additional $12 million due the increase in eligible students caused by the change in the high school grading scale from a 7-point scale to a 10-point scale.
The Ways and Means Committee recommended a small increase for public colleges and universities to be used for deferred maintenance needs. Fifteen two- and four-year public colleges and universities will share approximately $50 million in non-recurring funds.
The recommendations of the Ways and Means Committee continues a disturbing trend that has seen funding for higher education decrease from 17% of the state’s general fund appropriations to just 7% during the period FY 1979-80 to FY 2017-18.
The House is expected to ratify the budget as presented by the Ways and Means Committee during floor debate the week of March 12. SCICU’s attention will now turn to the Senate Finance Committee. Traditionally, higher education in general and independent colleges in particular, are treated more favorably in the Senate. We are hopeful that more of SCICU’s legislative priorities will be addressed by the Senate in a meaningful way.