Blueprint for student access or institutional attrition?
- The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education approved a framework that will limit its public colleges and universities in raising tuition, will prioritize in-state student enrollment and will add clarity and consistency in disclosing fees, according to the Post & Courier.
- The draft Student Bill of Rights suggests access, affordability and transparency as the three tenets for building up the state's public institutions, but the system's college presidents say the bill is short-sighted in ensuring their institutions can sustain growth under the recommendations.
- The presidents wrote a letter to the commissioners, calling for additional study of cost-saving initiatives and advocacy for increased public funding. "We are not against the Bill of Rights per se, but we would like the opportunity for conversation and suggestions," the letter stated. "For instance, how can any Student Bill of Rights not include the need for sustainable state funding?"
In 2015, Pennsylvania's higher education officials green-lit a plan to freeze tuition at the state's public colleges and universities. Two years later, those same officials have publicly outlined plans to consolidate some of those same institutions under the auspices of population loss, budget cuts and too many campuses serving too few students.
This is the reality that many public college systems may face in the coming years, as states throughout the country feel the pressure of departing industry, state budget cuts and rising expenses associated with state pension and benefit plans. Freezing tuition is a timely resolution that is ready-made for political election cycles and short-term goodwill just before announcing more controversial, permanent decisions with institutions known for struggles in attracting students and revenue.
Freezing tuition costs that are already too high doesn't encourage more students to attend; it may only put a good heading on an unsolved problem that will worsen conditions for a state's smaller colleges that depend on tuition autonomy and out-of-state recruitment to bolster what is lost in state cuts.