Higher ed should lobby for impact, not dollars

Monday, August 19, 2013

Those of us in higher education celebrate the New Year in August. Today, on the eve of Winthrop’s Convocation ceremony that heralds the academic New Year, I encourage my colleagues to renew our resolution to ensure that the education we deliver is valuable for our students and our society.

In recent weeks, I’ve been asked frequently to comment on the cost of higher education. Of course, I try to turn that conversation into a discussion about the value of higher education rather than the cost. But before I make the cost-value flip, I take advantage of the opportunity to explain that there is a direct, inverse relationship between the cost of tuition and fees at public colleges within a state and the funding that state provides to its public colleges and universities.

Consider this: Data from the U.S. Department of Education reveal that South Carolina has the 7th-highest average annual tuition and fees for public higher education and ranks 48th in percentage of institutional revenue provided by state funding. In contrast, Florida has the lowest average tuition costs and the 8th-highest percentage of college revenue that comes from state budgets.

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