Those of us associated with independent higher education in South Carolina should be very pleased with the results of the 2019 session of the SC General Assembly.
The final version of the budget delivered to the governor includes the full $1.6 million increase requested by the Tuition Grants Commission – the full request has not been funded in recent memory. This increase raises the individual tuition grant to a maximum of $3,450 from $3,300. And that is “recurring” money, meaning it is now automatically built into all future state budgets. The Higher Education Excellence Enhancement Program (HEEEP) will receive its largest increase ($2.9 million) in many years. Unfortunately the CHE Needs-based Grants Program $1.6 million increase did not survive — about 16 percent of that would have been passed on to the Tuition Grants Program.
Regarding higher education funding you’ll hear about $44 million in the budget going to public universities in return for keeping tuition flat, though they will be permitted to increase tuition to cover increases in pension and health care costs. Nevertheless, House Ways and Means Chairman Murrell Smith has contacted the public universities and urged them to approve tuition increases of no more than one per cent for the 2019-2020 academic year. It should also be noted that the deal’s cap applies only to mandatory tuition and fees, meaning those charges paid by every student – other fees like room and board can increase.
Despite optimism at the beginning of session, the House and Senate were unable to agree on significant legislation regarding higher education and K-12 education. The Higher Education Opportunity Act (S.298), an element of which would have provided for predictable increases to the Tuition Grants Program, was unable to make it through the Senate. On the last day of session Rep. Brian White introduced this legislation in the House. While having no impact this year, the introduction is important as the legislation now can have a life of its own in the House next year.
Legislation which sought to make widespread changes to K-12 education (H.3758, South Carolina Career Opportunity and Access for All Act) passed the House but stalled in the Senate (S.419). The General Assembly included teacher salary increases in the state budget, which will characterized as education reform. Should this legislation come back next year, we’ll continue to press for the provision that includes independent higher education in any review of dual enrollment.
Another legislative victory was the passage of S.314, which creates an individual income tax credit for each clinical rotation for which a physician, an advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant serve as the preceptor for a medical school-required clinical rotation. This law will create an incentive for medical professionals to work with nursing students.
It can also be a victory when a bill doesn’t pass. Legislation (S.7) to increase the liability limit for a public agency from $600,000 to $2 million, passed the Senate but did not make it through the House. This bill may have also affected the cap on not-for-profits, including independent colleges and universities.
If you have any questions regarding legislative impacts on higher education in South Carolina, please contact Jeff Perez, SCICU President and CEO, at 803-799-7122.