HICKS COLUMN: Increases in tuition just don't add up
Apparently college students — or whoever pays their bills — are supposed to be grateful to The Citadel and College of Charleston.
See, both of these institutions of higher learning only raised tuition by $300 for the coming year. And what's $300 these days?
Uh, a tax increase on self-improvement.
For a state determined to build a better workforce, South Carolina sure is making it hard for folks to get an education. The state doesn't put enough money into colleges, yet the schools are still spending like it's 1999 — and passing the buck. Or taking it.
We can't fill high-tech jobs because you have to have a high-tech job to afford college tuition.
It doesn't take a college degree to see that something's not right here.
The College of Charleston will boast that it didn't raise tuition a dime last year.
Of course, it's amazing they can say that with a straight face, seeing as how they tried to crank up tuition 15 percent the year before that (they eventually backed off and went with a 7 percent hike when the state threatened their building projects).
Fact is, the administration wanted to hit up students for another 6 or 7 percent last year before someone wisely pointed out that there was no plausible justification for it.
Now college types will tell you that tuition increases are the fault of the state Legislature for slashing higher ed budgets in the last decade.
Yeah, that didn't help. And this year's increases are meant to cover mandated employee raises.
But the fact is, while every other state entity in South Carolina has seen slashed budget and layoffs, colleges and universities have been growing their budgets and throwing up new buildings like they were the construction industry's last hope.
For a bunch of educated folks, that's not real smart.
Can't do it all
Tuition likely would have gone up more this year if not for the state's own Darth Vader, aka Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman.
He sent a note to university presidents advising them not to raise tuition more than 3.15 percent this year. Even the dimmest educrat realized that ignoring his suggestion could put their school's budget on the business end of a legislative light saber.
So The Citadel raised rates 3 percent; C of C, of course, went for the full 3.15 percent.
But veiled threats won't work forever. State Rep. Chip Limehouse — chairman of the House Ways and Means Higher Education subcommittee — says it might be time to put something in writing.
“We've got to cap these increases,” Limehouse says. “The American dream is getting farther and farther away for most South Carolinians.”
He says schools need to tighten their belts and quit trying to be all things to all people. South Carolina doesn't need three medical colleges. It's just empire-building.
This isn't the economy for such largesse and, if university presidents don't get that, perhaps they should take an economics class.
If they can afford it.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.