Last year a record-setting 9,000-plus letters were sent to members of the S.C. General Assembly by SCICU students who received tuition grants. The campus leaders are charged with the goal of having every tuition grant recipient write letters to their respective state representatives and senators, thanking them for making it more affordable for South Carolina residents to attend the independent college or university of their choice in the state.
During this year’s meeting the campus coordinators received an economic and state budget update from Mike Shealy, budget director of the Senate Finance Committee, and a legislative preview from S.C. House Rep. Chandra Dillard.
While there are signs of a recession that inevitably will follow this period of robust economic expansion, Shealy offered a very positive outlook for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. He noted the South Carolina Board of Economic Advisors has projected $1.8 billion in additional funds over the previous fiscal year. Of that total $1 billion is non-recurring, and $800 is recurring – once it’s appropriated it will appear in future budgets.
Katie Harrison, executive director of the S.C. Tuition Grants Commission, reported that the commissioners approved requesting $1.1 million in additional funding, which would permit a maximum grant of $3,600.
Jeff Perez, President and CEO of SCICU, noted the importance of the letter writing campaign in advocating for the increase.
“When I meet with representatives and senators, they immediately acknowledge SCICU student letters, so I know personally the letters get their attention,” said Perez.
Dillard, who represents SC House District 23, and is also the Furman University director of community relations, echoed the importance of the letter writing campaign, and offered her perspective on the upcoming session of the General Assembly. She shared that K-12 education will remain a focus, as it was last year. Whether or not to sell state-owned electric and water utility Santee Cooper will also receive attention.
2019 student letter-writing campaign awards
During the gathering, Anderson University was recognized for its students writing 1,678 letters to their state representatives and senators, the most during the 2019 campaign. Andrew Beckner, Anderson University executive director for public relations, accepted the SCICU award on behalf of Anderson for the greatest number of letters written. With 100% of their tuition grants recipients writing letters, Erskine College was recognized for the highest percentage of students sending letters to their members of the General Assembly.
2020 S. C. Independent Colleges and Universities Day
The 2020 legislative letter-writing campaign will culminate with the 2020 Independent Colleges and Universities Day on April 8, 2020. On that day, students from SCICU campuses will gather at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, across the street from the S.C. State House, for a legislative warm-up and celebration of their letter-writing campaign. The students will then gather at the State House for visits with representatives and senators and recognition as a group in the gallery in the Senate.