Tomorrow's education at yesterday's prices

It is time to give South Carolina’s students the education of tomorrow at the price of yesterday.

That was the message of one of the largest gatherings in support of the University of South Carolina at the Statehouse in the 11-year history of the My Carolina Alumni Association’s annual Carolina Day. Alumni, parents and students came to the Capitol on Feb. 5 to ask their legislators to take a “tuition timeout.”

The University of South Carolina is asking in good faith for the General Assembly to provide funding equal to a 3 percent tuition increase and to cover all mandated benefit increases in return for freezing in-state, undergraduate tuition at USC this fall.

We are not asking for a new building. We are not asking for a new program. We are not asking for help to hire new faculty. We are not even asking the state Legislature to restore all the state funds that USC lost over the past five years.

We are simply asking for a modest increase in state support and peace of mind for parents and students.

USC parent Lin Laffite of Estill said it best at Carolina Day, “There are families from around the state who simply cannot cut anything else from their budgets. As tuition increases, their current sacrifice to educate their children becomes an impossibility.”

And USC student body president Chase Mizzell spoke for the 46,000 students currently enrolled across the university system in saying:

“We believe that it’s time the General Assembly thinks about reinvesting in higher education. It’s the key to ensuring that our brightest minds stay in South Carolina — our brightest minds can strengthen the South Carolina economy. We must — together — reinvest in higher education. We must — together — reinvest in the future of South Carolina.”

We believe that it’s time the General Assembly thinks about reinvesting in higher education. It’s the key to ensuring that our brightest minds stay in South Carolina.

Chase Mizzell, USC student body president

The Great Recession was tough on all of us. At USC, we tightened our belts just as families all across the state have done.

We cut non-student-related programs, outsourced when possible and became more efficient.

U.S. News & World Report has even recognized Carolina as one of the most efficient public universities in the country even though we have one of the lowest levels of state support.

Despite all our hard work, we still had to raise tuition to meet the demands of a growing student body that increased in both numbers and test scores. The tuition trajectory we are on is unsustainable and we are calling for a tuition timeout.

This is a historic moment. In modern history — going back at least 25 years — there has never been a year that USC has not increased tuition.

Let’s make 2014 the year that breaks that cycle and puts us on a path toward accountability-based funding for higher education in South Carolina.

USC does not hold the key to making tuition timeout a reality. Our state’s lawmakers hold the key to our ability to freeze tuition.

I ask all of our students, parents and alumni — especially those who are South Carolina voters — to contact their House and Senate members and ask for a tuition timeout.

The University of South Carolina is the university for South Carolina. Forty percent of all baccalaureate degrees awarded from a public institution in the Palmetto State come from USC.

Our graduates are the workforce of today and tomorrow, and we need to give them the advantage of yesterday’s tuition to keep our state moving forward.