Governor Exposes Myth #1 about Higher Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ben Fox 803-734-2100

Columbia, S.C. – September 14, 2010 – Leading up to the statewide Higher Education Summit planned for the end of September, the Governor has committed to helping clear away several misperceptions about higher education, student body composition, and college affordability. Exposing these popular misconceptions is necessary as the House, Senate and Executive Branch come together next year to address recent burdensome tuition hikes and explore ways to better protect the taxpayer while keeping the dream of college within reach for hard-working South Carolina families. The first of these myths is as follows:

MYTH #1: If you build it, they will come…

“Some have argued that the South Carolina higher ed system must continue its recent building boom – more than one billion dollars over the last four years according to the Greenville News – because every other state and institution across the nation is doing it,” Gov. Sanford said. “For our state’s colleges and universities to remain competitive, so the argument goes, pricey capital projects are necessary even in economic downturns.

“First, the idea that ‘everybody’s doing it’ is simply not true. Since the economic downturn began, 43 states – including South Carolina – have reduced their higher education funding levels. Yet unlike South Carolina, many states and universities have decided to suspend new building projects until the economy recovers. Last year, for instance, Democratic Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri suspended public university capital projects totaling $150 million – including a $31 million cancer center at the University of Missouri’s main campus – because of his state’s uncertain economic future. Also in 2009, the California State University system suspended $600 million in capital projects on all of the system’s 23 campuses. As well, both Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin have deferred various capital projects in FY 2010-11 as the economy struggles to catch hold.

“Second, it’s not only public universities that see the wisdom in delaying capital projects. As the economy worsened during the last couple of years, some of the nation’s premier private universities – Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, among others – have postponed capital projects worth billions of dollars. Last year Harvard suspended construction on a $1 billion science complex in response to the poor economic conditions. Keep in mind that Harvard’s endowment was worth $26.9 billion in 2009, representing more than five times the size of South Carolina’s current general fund budget. Similarly, Yale announced that it would freeze up to $2 billion in capital projects ‘until conditions in credit markets improve,’ even with an endowment that’s more than three times South Carolina’s current general funds budget. Princeton, whose endowment of $12.6 billion is the fourth largest in the U.S., reduced its capital plans by $300 million. If institutions with endowments larger than our entire state budget are delaying capital projects in an effort to save money, it makes sense for South Carolina to do the same.

“Third and finally, while we understand the appeal that new buildings hold for administrators and potential students, we’d concur with Senator Hugh Leatherman’s concerns about higher ed’s rising tuition rates that have made our state’s average college tuition rate the highest in the entire Southeast. We also continue to believe that postponing new construction projects will best protect students and their tax-paying parents who have shouldered the burden of enormous tuition and fee increases over the last decade.”

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