Pastides makes 'Case for Carolina' before legislators
University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides told legislators Wednesday (Jan. 26) that USC accepts every academically qualified student from South Carolina and is educating more South Carolinians than any institution in the state’s history.
Speaking before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Higher Education, Pastides reaffirmed the university’s commitment to accessibility and affordability and asked legislators to refrain from imposing caps on tuition and out-of-state enrollment.
“As the state’s flagship institution, the University of South Carolina heard the legislature’s concerns about increasing access to higher education,” Pastides said.
“We fully understand that education is the foundation for success and meaningful lives, and we are committed to remaining responsive and responsible to the needs of our students and their families and our state,” Pastides said.
The number of South Carolina students enrolled at USC campuses has increased by nearly 22 percent (about 6,000) in the past 10 years, making up approximately 77 percent of system enrollment. USC confers approximately 40 percent of all baccalaureate degrees in South Carolina.
In asking legislators not to impose tuition caps, Pastides said university officials are keenly aware of students’ limited capacity to continue paying higher tuition rates and pledged that the university would continue to make decisions with careful analysis and compassion.
“Tuition is the single-most-important financial deliberation we make, and it is discussed and voted upon in a completely transparent process with student involvement,” he said. “With the current downturn in the economy, the university’s Board of Trustees recognizes that students cannot continue to pay increasingly higher rates.”
He said USC in-state freshmen, on average, incur an average out-of-pocket tuition expense of $2,680 per year. Earlier this month, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine ranked USC No. 42 in the nation as a “Top 100 Best Value in Public Education,” which, according to the publication, are universities that, “despite shrinking budgets, deliver a stellar education at an affordable price.”
In his third appearance before the committee since becoming president of the state’s flagship university, Pastides asked the committee not to impose caps on out-of-state student enrollment and emphasized the value that they bring to the university.
“Out-of-state students not only bring a rich diversity to our campus, they also help support higher education in South Carolina,” he said. “Non-resident tuition totals $110 million on the Columbia campus and accounts for three times more than what in-state residents pay.”
He assured the legislators that the university would carefully monitor out-of-state enrollment and said no qualified South Carolinian has ever been denied access to USC because of out-of-state students.
Pastides also asked legislators to continue to support the lottery funds for higher education. “This important program has single-handedly changed the profile of South Carolina higher education, from that of being an exporter of our finest high-school graduates to one of the country’s greatest net retainers of top academic talent.”
He was joined by Alexandria "Alex" Tracy, a senior international-relations major from Pinopolis in Berkeley County who is a recipient of the lottery-funded Palmetto Scholarship.
Pastides said the university has reacted thoughtfully and responsibly to the sharp drop in state appropriations, which funds only 10 percent of USC’s budget.
“Through increased efficiencies and shared sacrifice, we have worked to accommodate the needs of South Carolina students. We have held spending constant while increasing our enrollment dramatically, and we have done so strategically and with compassion.”