Local legislators hope to get more funds for USCB

rheaton@islandpacket.comDecember 22, 2012 

University of South Carolina Beaufort officials and local legislators will work during the upcoming legislative session to get more money for the school, which they say is now at the bottom of the feeding chain.

The $1.4 million USCB is getting from the state this fiscal year is the lowest per-student funding for any of South Carolina's teaching-focused public universities. USCB gets $940 per full-time South Carolina resident student compared to the statewide average of $2,487, according to University of South Carolina data.

The campus whose funding is closest to USCB's is USC Upstate, which gets $1,701 per student. The Citadel gets the most, $4,304.

To get to the average, USCB wants $2.2 million more from the state in the next fiscal year, which begins in July. That would bring its total allocation from the state to $3.6 million, which could be used to increase staff size and add programs.

Other USC campuses -- USC Aiken, USC Upstate, for example -- also want more money from the state. Whether USCB gets the amount it wants hinges largely on whether the Beaufort County legislative delegation can make the case during the upcoming session, said Lynn McGee, the school's vice chancellor for advancement. State Sen. Tom Davis, R- Beaufort, and state Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, are confident USCB will get the additional money.

"We've been making the argument enough times to where it's finally sunk in," Davis said. "Now, we've got some political capital to address it."

Davis recently was appointed to the Senate Finance Committee and Herbkersman has a seat on the House Ways and Means committee. Those positions will allow both legislators to influence how state money is allocated during the legislative session, which starts Jan. 8.

Herbkersman said the groundwork already is being laid. Local legislators have met with USCB leaders to discuss the issue and potential allies in the legislature have been identified, he said.

"From an economic standpoint, it is an economic engine for Beaufort County," Herbkersman said. "It's important to the whole Lowcountry, and it needs to be treated that way."

USCB's funding gap occurred because the formula used to support state universities has not been recalculated since USCB became a four-year, baccalaureate-degree-granting institution, according to McGee.

Despite the funding gap, USCB's switch from a two-year to a four-year school was a shot in the arm for the school, she said. It more than doubled in size, from 680 full-time students in 2002 to 1,547 in 2012.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/IPBG_Rachel.

Related content:

Tuition rising at USCB, TCL; June 29, 2012

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