The University of South Carolina Beaufort's state funding should be on par with similar schools.
It is not. It is not even close. And local taxpayers deserve to know why. More importantly, the state legislature needs to fix it. It needs to right this wrong:
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.
By comparison, The Citadel leads the state at $4,304 per student.
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The only institute with funding anywhere near USCB's is USC Upstate in Spartanburg, which gets $1,701 per student.
Furthermore, USCB leaders say the formula used by the state was not changed after it received state permission to offer four-year degrees. That was a decade ago. USCB's funding level should have been upgraded many years ago.
Beaufort County certainly deserves greater respect from the state.
The legislature should remember this community's promise of support when USCB requested four-year status. Beaufort County partnered with USCB and the Technical College of the Lowcountry to bring $40 million in improvements to the schools. That resulted in two shining campuses in Okatie, and the bonds have been repaid in full.
South Carolina has myriad issues with its higher education system, with fair funding being a big part of it. The state ranks low regionally and nationally in what it gives to higher education. It has long been questioned why a small, poor state needs 13 public colleges. Who gets what in that scenario is a matter of politics.
Gov. Nikki Haley wants the legislature to scrap old funding formulas and replace it with a merit system. She stated in her budget proposal for the current fiscal year that tax dollars should be allocated based on the size of in-state student population and the school's performance in four areas: Completion rates; affordability and access; educational quality; and economic development and institutional mission.
Merit-based funding is not new. In 1988, the General Assembly passed an act referred to as "A Cutting Edge" that required colleges to report data to the state for better and more public assessment of performance. In 1992, annual reports to the General Assembly were required to show institutional performance on a long list of specifics, such as how students scored on professional examinations. In 1996, South Carolina became the first state in the nation to legislate that 100 percent of state appropriations for public higher education be based on the performance of its institutions based on a long list of indicators.
It hasn't happened that way, according to a study published last year by Columbia University: "The Politics of Performance Funding in Eight States: Origins, Demise, and Change." It reported that "the highest share allocated on the basis of performance was 38 percent in fiscal year 1999 but then it dropped to 3 percent the next year."
Before the legislature pours any more effort into performance-based funding for higher education, it should first be fair in current allocations.
USCB is being shortchanged by the legislature to the tune of $2.2 million annually, based on the average allocation.
Fixing that should not be dependent upon any more grand dreams the governor or legislature might have in mind. It should be corrected simply because it is wrong.