More out-of-state students get tuition discounts in South Carolina

COLUMBIA — More out-of-state students are going to public universities in South Carolina without paying the full out-of-state tuition costs.


An analysis of data by The State of Columbia found nearly 13,400 out-of-state students at the state’s 12 four-year public colleges paying discounted rates, an increase of 43 percent in the past five years.

University officials say they need the extra money from out-of-state students because state funding has been sharply cut. They also say many of the discounts come from merit scholarships, and it is important to attract smart students from out-of-state who might stay in South Carolina after they graduate.

But Rep. Jim Merrill says there are plenty of smart students in South Carolina who could fill those slots.

“It’s outrageous,” said Merrill, R-Charleston. “We have in-state students who can’t get into (S.C.) universities because their SAT scores drag down the university. …It’s selling yourself for the short-term gain.”

The University of South Carolina said 6,418 out-of-state students received an average discount of $10,312 on their out-of-state tuition last year, while Clemson University said 3,160 out-of-state students received tuition discounts averaging $5,000 last year.

“Some of those high-performing students make South Carolina their home. We want a brain gain,” said Brian McGee, the chief of staff to the president at the College of Charleston, which has one of the highest rates of out-of-state students but also one of the lowest rates of nonresident students getting tuition discounts at 13 percent.

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Edu­cation did a study in 2007 that found one of five nonresidents who graduated from South Carolina public four-year colleges in 2002 still were in the state five years later. The same report found nearly 75 percent of in-state graduates from four-year schools were living in South Carolina in 2007.

“I would take the top kids at Irmo High or at Hanahan and put them up against anyone else in the country,” Merrill said. “It’s utter bunk that we have to get an inordinate amount of brilliant children (from) elsewhere that we cannot produce here.”