Message from SCICU President and CEO Jeff Perez —
Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of participating in my first SCICU Retreat as president and CEO. I very much appreciate the dedication to SCICU of the college/university presidents and trustees, upon whom I have the good fortune to rely on for their wise counsel.
I entitled our roundtable discussion “Quo Vadis?”, which is Latin for “Where are we going?” I asked the college/university presidents and trustees to think about an inflection curve, which tracks the evolution of an organization. Typically, organizations will grow — up to a point. They inevitably will face new circumstances which, if they adapt, will permit continued growth and even greater success. If they do not respond, they decline.
Following is an illustration:
Considering the organizational experience of our presidents and trustees, I asked them each to mark an “X” where they thought independent higher education — not individual institutions — were on the curve.
Interestingly, virtually everyone put their “X” somewhere within a small circle around the inflection point. They recognized that independent higher education faces an unprecedented period of volatility and change. Any one of demographics, heightened competition, or technology would be considerable to confront, but our colleges and universities face all three, and more when including the increased distrust of higher education generally, and an eroded faith in the liberal arts specifically.
Fortunately the 20 SCICU member campuses have the inspired leadership necessary to move our institutions forward. But they can’t do it on their own. They need all the help they can get.
Together our SCICU trustees are a formidable network and source of support for our campuses. We are grateful to our corporate sponsors and to public officials at the state and federal levels who have expressed appreciation for independent higher education in South Carolina.
And in endeavoring to facilitate the efforts of its member institutions, SCICU faces its own inflection point. We must look at our own operation to ensure we are functioning efficiently and applying resources in a manner that will be of greatest benefit to our member institutions. I am committed to charting a course that will adapt our organization to meet the changing needs of the campuses we serve.
SCICU federal legislative outlook from President and CEO Jeff Perez — I was fortunate to attend the Washington, D.C. annual meeting and advocacy day of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Joined by Spartanburg Methodist College President Scott Cochran, we received briefings from NAICU and congressional staffers, and spent time on Capitol Hill.Following are my five takeaways from the NAICU annual meeting and advocacy day:
1. The federal budget will very likely be late.
Because of the shutdown, the Executive Budget will be submitted two months late, which makes having a federal budget by October 1 highly unlikely.
2. Any new Title IX rule is still a long way off.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed wide-ranging changes to how institutions of higher education address sexual assault. SCICU signed a letter drafted by the American Council on Education (ACE) in collaboration with NAICU that lays out our concerns with the proposed rule. Along with ours the Department of Education has about 100,000 comments to pore over, and it will be months before they’re done and revising the rule.
3. Sequestration looms.
Several of the speakers expressed fear that the gains made in the last federal budget, e.g. the increase in Pell Grants, will be lost in fiscal year 2020 due to the next round of sequestration. The Budget Control Act of 2011 established ten-year statutory limits on discretionary spending for FY 2012-FY 2021. If discretionary appropriations are enacted that exceed a statutory limit for a fiscal year, across the-board reductions (i.e., sequestration) of nonexempt budgetary resources within the applicable category are required to eliminate the excess spending. The Congressional Budget Office estimated agencies would have to cut $90 billion in 2020 and another $89 billion in 2021, if Congress does not upwardly adjust the spending caps beyond 2019.
4. First PROSPER, now AIM HIGHER.
During the last session, the PROSPER Act was the House Republican version of legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965. The bill, which passed through the Committee on Education and the Workforce when it was chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), focused on simplifying federal aid and expanding the higher education market through deregulation. However, with Democrats taking over the House, and Bobby Scott (D-MA) becoming chair, the focus will move to the Aim Higher Act which Democrats introduced in response to the PROSPER Act. The Aim Higher Act places greater emphasis on securing and expanding student aid. Having announced his retirement, Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is very eager to pass a reauthorization bill on his watch.
5. Earnings by major is coming.
The Department of Education is pressing ahead with adding to their College Scorecard website the median earnings of students – by major – 10 years after enrolling (not graduating) at an institution of higher education. Graduate students are pulled out of the data, and to ensure privacy, institutions (and majors) with fewer than 30 students will not be included. How double-majors, changed majors, and interdisciplinary programs will be addressed is not clear. What is clear is the keen interest of the Department of Education to start posting this data, which does not require rulemaking. Don’t be surprised if they go ahead and include it on the next iteration of the College Scorecard this September. Information for all SCICU member colleges and universities is available on the College Scorecard website.
Independent colleges and universities are well regarded by the South Carolina delegation. President Cochran and I met with Rep. William Timmons (R-SC) who sits on the House Education Committee and its Higher Education Subcommittee. We also met with the staffs of Sens. Graham and Scott. They all spoke highly of independent colleges and universities and recognize their importance to the future of South Carolina.
“Board meetings are important for conducting business, but they don’t give our trustees and presidents sufficient time to associate with each other and develop as a team,” said Perez.
Following the findings from strategic planning studies that indicated trustees wanted more time to build and deepen relationships outside formal board meetings, SCICU held receptions in Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, and Charleston.
The tour of receptions began in Columbia on Jan. 17. The Columbia event was followed by gatherings in Greenville (Jan. 24), Spartanburg (Jan. 31), and Charleston (Feb. 7).
“I’m delighted we gave our trustees and campus presidents the opportunity to spend time together,” said Perez. “As I walked around the receptions I heard great conversations and saw colleagues becoming friends with a common interest in a bright future for SCICU and its member colleges and universities.”Board leaders Russell Cook (current board chair), Jerry Cheatham (board chair-elect), and Jim Reynolds (past board chair) helped host the meetings. SCICU is thankful for the participation of college and university presidents, including Dr. Ernest McNealey (Allen University), Mr. Scott Cochran (Spartanburg Methodist College), Dr. Darrell Parker (Limestone College), Mr. Bob Staton (Presbyterian College), Dr. Dondi Costin (Charleston Southern University), and Dr. Todd Voss (Southern Wesleyan University).
Business leaders with significant stakeholder interest in independent higher education also participated in the receptions. The businesses represented at the receptions include Ameris Bank, BB&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield of SC, Colonial Life, Comporium, Duke Energy, Find Great People, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A., Insurance Advantage, Milliken & Company, SC Chamber of Commerce, SC Student Loan Corporation, Synovus, TD Bank, Total Comfort Soutions, and Wyche, P.A.
SCICU legislative outlook from President and CEO Jeff Perez — Education reform will be at the top of the SC General Assembly’s agenda during the 2019 legislative session, as will how to spend an additional $1 billion. Including independent higher education in these discussions will be a major part of SCICU’s 2019 advocacy efforts.
In recent sessions the General Assembly has tended to focus on one major issue. Last year, it was addressing SCANA and Santee Cooper’s abandonment of the multi-billion dollar VC Summer nuclear power generation plant. The session before the General Assembly was absorbed with passing an increase to the state gas tax.
There is wide agreement that reforming K-12 education will be at the top of this session’s priorities. During a pre-session meeting with reporters, senators and house members all mentioned the importance of addressing education needs. And in his inaugural address Governor McMaster stated: “We must also commit ourselves to providing the highest quality education for South Carolina’s children if we are to continue to compete in the future for jobs and economic prosperity.” And later, “Being perceived as weak in education is not good. But, being perceived as not committed to fixing it is disastrous. We will fix it…”
Our job will be to work for inclusion of higher education in this education discussion. A focus during this session will be S.298, the “Higher Education Opportunity Act,” sponsored by Senators Vincent Sheheen, Harvey Peeler and others. Sen. Sheheen first introduced this bill last year, and there is broad agreement it will receive significant attention. There is a lot in the bill, including allocating internet sales tax revenues for a special fund for the public universities, in return for which they must cap tuition. It would also bring South Carolina back to a 7-point GPA system, which would reduce the number of students who currently qualify for state merit scholarships. It also increases the CHE Needs-based Scholarship program (of which independent colleges and universities receive 16.5 percent), and setting it and the Tuition Grants Program on a schedule whereby they would receive annual increases matching the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI) but no more than 2.75 percent in a year.
This bill is at square one – there will be hearings held that will no doubt result in revisions to S.298. SCICU will be following this bill very closely to ensure that it properly reflects the needs of students attending independent colleges and universities in South Carolina.
Also driving this year’s session is $1 billion dollars – that’s how much additional funding the General Assembly has at its disposal. About half is in non-recurring “one-time” monies that must be spent on facilities or debt reduction. The other half is recurring – once it’s in the budget, it stays in future budgets. Legislators will tell you having more money is harder than a deficit – it’s much easier to say “no” to everyone than try to decide who gets the additional resources. How that $1 billion will be spent will occupy much of the legislators’ attention.
There’s also a new leadership position in the Senate. Because of a change in the state constitution approved by voters in 2012, the lieutenant governor is no longer elected, and thus cannot serve as the President of the Senate and rule on points of order and other procedural matters.
Under new rules approved by the Senate, the position of President of the Senate will now be held by a senator, and the position of President Pro Tempore, previously held by Sen. Hugh Leatherman, has been eliminated. Under the new rules the President of the Senate cannot be a committee chair. Sen. Leatherman opted to remain chairman of the powerful Finance Committee. Sen. Harvey Peeler was unanimously elected the first President of the Senate, and will have a role in the appointments to state boards and commissions.
The wild card in this year’s session may be Santee Cooper, the other owner of the abandoned VC Summer nuclear plant. While the General Assembly no longer needs to deal with the sale of SCANA, the governor would like to sell state-owned Santee Cooper, which holds $4 billion in debt from the failed plant. While the General Assembly has set criteria for weighing proposed buyers, the fate of Santee Cooper employees, and the utility’s ownership of Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, would have to be addressed.
I look forward to representing SCICU this session and will provide you with updates as the session progresses.
During each session of the General Assembly thousands of SCICU college and university students send letters to legislators, sharing the importance of state need-based tuition grants and merit-based scholarships, upon which they rely to complete their degrees.
The SCICU legislative student letter-writing campaign impresses upon General Assembly members how much students at SC private colleges and universities depend on state tuition support. Over two-fifths of the 31,000 undergraduate students attending SCICU member colleges and universities received tuition grants during the 2016-17 academic year. Almost one-third were awarded state merit scholarships (Palmetto Fellows, LIFE, HOPE, and Tuition Assistance).
During the 2018 session, students sent more than 7,300 personal letters to members of the General Assembly. Based on the feedback of campus legislative coordinators, even more letters are expected to flood legislative offices during the 2019 session.
Last year Anderson University led the charge with 1,762 letters written. With 100 percent of their tuition grant recipients writing letters to their legislators, Allen University and Erskine College again tied for highest participation honors.
Members of the General Assembly regularly voice their appreciation for students’ thank-you letters.
During the December 2018 Campus Legislative Coordinators Kickoff Rally, SC Rep. Chandra Dillard (D-Greenville) counseled the coordinators: “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.”
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.
“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,” said Jeff Perez, SCICU president and CEO.
2019 Legislative Plan for State Financial Aid Funding
SCICU has established the following 2019 General Assembly priorities related to funding financial 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.
Click here to download SCICU’s 2019 SC Legislative Priorities and Quick Facts.
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.
Undergraduate students at SCICU member campuses, supported by their faculty sponsors/mentors, are preparing multimedia presentations related to the research projects completed in mid-December 2018.
These young researchers went through a rigorous project submission and review process, much like what they will experience in graduate school and in professional research.
Undergraduate students and their faculty sponsors/mentors submit project proposals to SCICU for funding consideration each February. Based on the projects submitted, a review panel comprising subject-matter experts drawn from the faculties of SCICU member institutions convene in Columbia in March to review project merits and award funding.
During 2018, 33 undergraduate student research projects were selected for funding. The projects include a wide variety of research topics, ranging from medical and environmental issues to analysis and reviews in the areas of music, literature, history, and psychology. Please click here to review the projects selected for research funding in 2018.
SCICU, with support from generous donors, provided a total of $90,000 in grants for undergraduate research projects in 2018.
Immediately following the March 2018 selection of projects for funding, students started their research activities, concluding in mid-December.
On February 21, student researchers will gather at the Milliken & Company headquarters in Spartanburg to present the findings from their 2018 research. Students will use multimedia tools with oral presentations or posters to present their findings to symposium participants.
The public is invited to participate in the Feb. 21 SCICU Research Symposium. If you’d like to attend the symposium, please call SCICU at 803-799-7122 by February 1 to reserve a seat.
And I would be horribly remiss not to acknowledge Mike LeFever and the ten years he was at the helm. I thank Mike for everything he has done for SCICU. I am standing on very tall shoulders.
I would like to share with you three reasons I am excited to be leading SCICU and working on behalf of independent higher education in South Carolina.
First, our 20 institutions expand the array of higher education choices in South Carolina, providing our 33,000 students with options that best fit their needs. We include faith-based institutions as well as HBCUs. And we offer colleges and universities with smaller enrollments for students seeking a community setting and more focused attention. Collectively, our approaches to higher education work for South Carolina. While our four-year undergraduate enrollment comprises about 15 percent of all undergraduates in South Carolina, our students earn nearly one-quarter of the bachelor’s degrees granted.
Second, independent higher education in South Carolina provides students with the chance to attend college, regardless of their circumstances. Institutional support for scholarships amounts to more than $250 million annually, which is complemented by state support to students through the Tuition Grants Program, and need and merit-based scholarships. More than 95% of our undergraduates receive financial aid.
Considering the opportunities we provide, it is not surprising our students are very diverse. Nearly half of students are minorities, and half are eligible for federal Pell Grants, meaning they demonstrate the most economic need. Many of these students are the first in their families to attend college and they benefit greatly from the support they receive at our institutions.
Third, we offer academic excellence grounded in the liberal arts. Our graduates have jobs – and futures. Dell Technologies forecast that 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not been invented yet. Success will depend on the ability to think critically, analyze, and adapt seamlessly to rapidly changing conditions. These essential skills are precisely what students gain at independent colleges and universities.
These are challenging times for all in higher education. SCICU stands ready to work on behalf of independent higher education in South Carolina to ensure a bright future for our colleges and universities and the students they serve. I look forward to working with you.
In closing, let me wish all of you the happiest of holidays. And here’s to a rewarding 2019!