President Nelson wrote this op-ed regarding South Carolina Higher Education tuition that will be distributed to local and state newspapers during the week of September 27th.
Over the past few months, there have been a number of media stories about tuition increases at the colleges and universities across South Carolina, with several of those stories focusing specifically on the College of Charleston. While these reports have revolved around the impacts upon the current and future students of South Carolina, there has been a noticeable omission of student reaction regarding this rise in tuition.
You also may have discovered that many of these media reports quote individuals who have little or no connection to our College. As the chief elected representative of the student body at CofC, I am privileged to have a deep understanding of the campus that few have the incredible opportunity to experience. Based on my knowledge of the College, I feel it is important to direct the conversation regarding tuition in a new and more positive direction.
When I entered the College as a freshman in the fall of 2008, the College’s budget was 16.3% state funded; today, that number has fallen to 8.5%. The State of South Carolina has made the unfortunate decision to reduce economic support of higher education, which has forced state institutions to struggle to find balance between quality and affordability. We all have high expectations of our state institutions, but our colleges and universities cannot provide for the students of South Carolina without adequate funding.
As the College of Charleston looks to better itself in the future, we cannot do so without funding to support institutional improvements. The College not only wants to survive during this economic downturn, but thrive and better itself in the process. The institution’s commitment to every student it serves is unsurpassed, and to continue that dedication, the College is forced to make hard decisions that are products of underfunding.
Higher education is a not like other state agencies. When the General Assembly decreases higher education funding, they know that those institutions can make up for that lack of funding in alternative ways; namely, tuition. While institutions of higher education do have the ability to increase tuition, it is a difficult decision to make as it can limit the access of less-affluent South Carolinians to their state institutions. With the College of Charleston leading the way in decreased state funding, the institution as a whole has little choice but to increase tuition to ensure it continues to serve its students.
As the chief representative of the 10,000 students of the College of Charleston, it is important for the State of South Carolina to understand that this tuition increase is something that I understand as an informed student. However, my understanding of the increase does not mean I am pleased with it. Our efforts in fixing this problem need to be directed toward the General Assembly in making sure our elected officials understand the problems we face, as students of South Carolina institutions, when the funding from the state decreases.
The students of higher education in South Carolina are not just numbers; we are the future of this state and country. We need to work collaboratively as a state community to find ways to keep state funding of higher education high, tuition low, and access to higher education unrestricted. Without our state’s commitment to higher education, the future of not only our state institutions but the future leaders of the world, look grim.
President of the Student Body
The College of Charleston