Bet you didn’t know…
Yesterday (Thursday, May 13) was the official end of the 2021 session of the General Assembly, but they will be back. Unfinished business includes redistricting, allocating the federal COVID-19 relief funds, and the state budget, which includes a couple of items that are important to colleges and universities but fly under the radar of most citizens.
One of the big legislative victories for the SCICU member institutions was passage of the COVID-19 limited liability legislation, which protects from lawsuits businesses, including private colleges and universities, that have complied with state or federal safety guidance.
While there’s still much work to be done on the state budget, we are deeply appreciative for the support the Tuition Grants Program has received. The Senate included an additional $10 million in lottery funding for Tuition Grants, which are awarded to South Carolina residents attending a private college or university in the state. The extra funding will allow the maximum grant to increase from $3,600 to $4,390, the largest one-year supplement in the long history of the program.
While many may know about the financial aid the Tuition Grants Commission administers, I bet you didn’t know that it’s responsible for the digital storage of every FAFSA form submitted by South Carolina residents, regardless of what college or university they attend, public and private. “FAFSA” stands for the “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” and is the form completed by nearly every current and prospective college student in the United States to determine their eligibility for financial aid. Without the Tuition Grants Commission, every year thousands of students would run the risk of losing the information critical to receiving the financial aid on which they depend to attend college.
The Senate version of the budget includes $200,000 for new software and equipment to securely retain the FAFSAs, and $270,000 in recurring funding for maintenance of the system. Again, we deeply appreciate the Senate’s acknowledgement of the importance of the Tuition Grants Commission to the higher education aspirations of South Carolinians.
And I bet you don’t know about PASCAL, the Partnership Among South Carolina Academic Libraries – a consortium of South Carolina’s libraries at both public and private colleges and universities that fosters cooperation and cost saving. PASCAL serves nearly 200,000 students at 56 colleges and universities by coordinating the sharing of library resources through a statewide rapid print-delivery service and core electronic resources, including a robust shared e-book program. By leveraging collective licensing and purchasing power PASCAL enhances the scope of collections while driving costs down and reducing duplication.
Since its creation in 2004 PASCAL has saved campuses a whopping $138 million. Both SCICU and the Commission on Higher Education sought $1.5 million for PASCAL, and we thank both the House and Senate for including the funding in their versions of the state budget.