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Governor Mark Sanford is hosting a “Higher Education Summit” for leaders in higher education, government and business, as well as for parents and students, on Sept. 28 in Columbia. He has released his “Myths of Higher Education” in which he addresses “misperceptions about higher education, student body composition, and college affordability.”

Myth 2: Importing large numbers of out-of-state students improves affordability for in-state South Carolina students.

Governor Sanford asserts a number of “facts” in his projections around this “myth.” USC believes that there are errors in the translation or reporting of these numbers. USC presents a counter response to assertions about out-of-state students and the impact they have on South Carolina education. 

At the University of South Carolina, the out-of-pocket tuition paid by nonresident students is more than three times the amount paid by in-state students. Nonresident students are not subsidized by the state's taxpayers.

Years ago, USC recognized the value that out-of-state students bring in terms of diversity of backgrounds, opinions, and talents. At that time, our enrollment began to grow as students from other states entered our system. At present, USC students who hail from outside the state represent about 33 percent of our total student population. Indeed, this is a large increase over the years, but it's one that matches national trends.

The State of South Carolina has a large and proud military tradition. Many of our country's finest soldiers and veterans attend USC and are considered in the out-of-state figures. In addition, our state's status as a vacation destination creates affinities among families from outside the state. Many of the students in these families are then drawn to enroll in USC to be near the places where they formed fond memories.

When the University of South Carolina set out to become a “national university,” the ability to attract students from across the United States helped us achieve that distinction. Now nationally recognized — for athletics, the arts, business, and science — USC brings distinction to our state and is a driver of economic development. We are proud of our diverse student population and know that many students make great financial sacrifices to earn their degrees here at USC. That diversity of background should be celebrated, not reduced to financial misperceptions.

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

In a press release, the governor called for a moratorium on construction of buildings on public university campuses and linked construction to increasing tuition rates. He said:

“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.”

The University of South Carolina wants you to have the facts, including the fact that USC's state funding has been cut by $105 million, or 47 percent, in just over two years.

The Facts About Capital Investment and Funding

USC, whose largest campus is over 200 years old and has accumulated deferred maintenance well over half a billion dollars, has received NO support from the state for capital projects since the 1999-2000 fiscal year. USC will be bringing about $240 million worth of capital projects forward to the Budget and Control Board by December. The vast majority of construction funds are paid through sources other than tuition and state appropriations, including private gifts, county support, athletics revenue and federal lease funds. 

view more facts about Capital Investment and Funding

  • Student Health Center – The University will use $9 million in funds on hand and will borrow about $35 million for this project, which, at the request of our students, replaces the current health center with a modern, expanded facility. A fee has been in place for several years that has resulted in the available reserve balance of $10 million. The student fee will be increased incrementally and remain in place to service the $35 million in debt.
  • Athletics Improvements – In a major improvement that will support Williams-Brice Stadium for our loyal football fans and accommodate other University needs, USC will use Athletics Revenues to develop the former 50-acre Farmers' Market property. Athletics, like all auxiliary enterprises, is required to be self-sufficient and draws NO support from the State of South Carolina.
  • USC Lancaster Campus is constructing a new academic building to accommodate growth in the student population as more South Carolinians pursue higher education. The estimated $8 million in construction costs will be offset by funding from Lancaster County.
  • The Darla Moore School of Business, through a generous gift from Darla Moore and a partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, is constructing a new building to house our top-ranked Business School. The $90-million project is financed by $10 million in private giving, $65 million in a loan serviced by funds from the Department of Justice, and $15 million from University funds. The latter is the result of a matching commitment made by USC as a condition for receiving the generous gift from Ms. Moore. That USC has worked to secure alternative funding sources for this important facility should be celebrated, not criticized.
  • The remainder of the $240 million in capital outlays is supported by research grant funding, private giving, and funding provided by auxiliaries such as food service.

The Facts About Jobs

Construction is good for our economy and will result in approximately 2,800 jobs. USC averaged $77 million per year in construction and renovations over the past 10 years, for an average 1,540Students Studying jobs per year in local construction.

The Facts About Tuition Increases

While it is true that USC Columbia's undergraduate tuition increased by 6.9 percent for this academic year, the increased revenue did not support construction, except where noted above.  USC Columbia experienced a $24 million state budget cut this fiscal year, nearly $33 million system-wide, bringing the cumulative system-wide cut since 2008 to $105 million. Of the $15.775 million in revenues resulting from Columbia's 6.9-percent increase, $8 million was dedicated to the academic colleges and departments to protect and support academic programs for our students. The remainder was for additional funds  to pay increased utilities costs, enhance the Career Center for our students, improve communications and  to support private fundraising efforts and other important institutional needs


Tuition decisions are made carefully each year as part of an extensive system-wide planning process. Faculty and students are involved, and every dollar of funding produced by tuition is reviewed and scrutinized by the administration and the Board of Trustees.

Facts & Figures at a Glance

Funding per Student

In spite of decreased funding for higher education from state resources and support that has diminished at a rate greater than our neighboring states, USC serves with pride. South Carolina's state funding per full-time student is $5,700, compared with a U.S. average of $6,928. South Carolina falls 18 percent below the national average. Here is a look at how South Carolina and some of our neighboring states support higher education.

According to the State Higher Education Finance report for FY 2009, total educational revenue, meaning state funding plus tuition and fees, was $10,801 per full-time student in South Carolina, compared with the national average of $10,998.  However, state support per student is 20 percent less than the national average, resulting in higher tuition per student. Simply put, states with larger educational appropriations have lower tuition levels.

Unprecedented Cuts

In just over two years, USC has lost 47 percent, or $105 million, in its state appropriations budget for educating students.

Enrollment and access

USC's mission is to provide access to higher education. Across the USC System, headcount has increased 27 percent in 10 years.  For full-time students, the increase is 38.72 percent. USC educates students from every county in the state.

Quality of Life

USC awards nearly 40 percent of all bachelor's and graduate degrees conferred at public institutions in our state. USC's goal is to educate even more South Carolinians and increase the number of South Carolinians with a college degree, thus increasing income and quality of life.

The USC Columbia community contributed more than $7 million to the local economy in volunteer time and money last year.

Economic Impact

The latest economic impact analysis shows that USC's total annual economic impact on South Carolina amounts to $3.96 billion, and the University supports more than 46,000 jobs or 2.5 percent of the state job base.

More Facts & Figures