SCICU Preparing for 2018 Legislative Session
The second regular session of the 122nd South Carolina General Assembly will begin on January 9, 2018. SCICU's Public Policy Committee is preparing the 2018 Legislative Strategic Plan to address issues related to the FY 2018-19 state budget and a long list of pending legislation.
Securing an additional $3.1 million for the Tuition Grants Program is the first legislative priority for SCICU. SCICU's Public Policy Committee will meet on November 8 to address this priority and others in the proposed 2018 Legislative Strategic Plan.
Tuition Grants are need-based grants available to South Carolina residents who attend in-state, private non-profit colleges or universities. The South Carolina Tuition Grants Commission has requested the additional $3.1 million from the General Assembly in order to increase the maximum individual student award from $3,200 to $3,350 for the academic year beginning in August 2018.
The second priority of proposed 2018 legislative plan supports full funding for the state's merit-based scholarship programs (Palmetto Fellows, LIFE, and HOPE). This year the state merit-based scholarship programs cost an estimated $300 million. These programs are funded primarily by the Education Lottery. Unless changes are made to the programs' eligibility or award criteria, scholarship funding may have to increase by as much as $20.4 million to accommodate an additional 8,000 students who will qualify under the second year phase-in of the high school grading policy which changed to a 10-point scale from a 7-point scale in 2016.
SCICU also supports the Commission on Higher Education's request for an increase of $1 million in a need-based grant programs for public college students and $1.5 million for the Partnership Among South Carolina's Academic Libraries (PASCAL).
The state's Board of Economic Advisers meets next week to release its first revenue estimate for next year's budget. While revenues have generally been up, new revenue will not be enough to cover the growing demand for government services and programs. In addition to outstanding needs identified by state agencies and public colleges and universities, legacy needs like funding for teacher and public employee pay raises, schools in the I-95 corridor, an underfunded state pension system, and local governments must be addressed. The competition for scarce general appropriation and lottery dollars has never been greater.
SCICU will host the Campus Legislative Coordinators on December 8 for the annual Legislative Advocacy kick-off meeting and luncheon at the Capital City Club. The Campus Legislative Coordinators are responsible for organizing their college's grant recipients for writing thank-you letters to state legislators and for attending the annual State House Day rally. During the 2016-17 academic year, students wrote more than 8,200 personal thank-you letters to SC legislators, and almost 100 staff and students from 18 SCICU member colleges and universities participated in the 2017 Independent Colleges and Universities State House Day.