Originally created 04/12/06

Senators reject caps on tuition



COLUMBIA - A quality college education is worth the cost, said Brenn Hartley, student body president at the University of South Carolina Aiken.

So he backs a move by some senators Tuesday to reject a tuition cap proposed for next year.

The House's budget plan for fiscal 2006 would limit in-state tuition increases at state-supported universities to $250 per semester above the Higher Education Price Index, a special inflation calculation.

"I have faith in our administration that they know what kind of quality they provide for student and what it's going to cost year after year," Mr. Hartley said.

"(Tuition caps) basically say, 'Provide the same quality of education that you do, but with less money,'" he said. "And that's crazy."

The Senate Finance Committee began its budget hearings Tuesday and expects to meet throughout the rest of the week. The committee was still meeting at press time.

But a higher education subcommittee is recommending that the Senate reject the tuition cap.

Other university students and administrators agree with Mr. Hartley, higher education subcommittee chairman Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, said.

"It was universal as far as opposition to caps," he said.

The Senate is the third leg of the government to get a shot at drafting a budget for the fiscal year that begins June 1.

Gov. Mark Sanford and the House already have proposed budgets for the upcoming year.

In initial discussions Tuesday, requests for more school funding for Beaufort and Charleston counties fared as poorly in the Senate as than they did in the House.

Some senators objected to giving Beaufort and Charleston schools an extra $19 million that supporters say would offset a school funding formula that penalizes school districts with high property values.

Without that money, Beaufort schools could lose $14.2 million in school funding for next year, the district's chief financial officer Phyllis White has said.

"I'm not worried," said Sen. Scott Richardson, R-Hilton Head Island. "We've got other battlefields to play on."

Charleston and Beaufort legislators say, this year, they need an extra $19 million.

But, so far, their fellow lawmakers have been reticent. House members in March denied repeated attempts to get put the so-called "hold harmless" dollars into the 2006-07 budget.

Senate Finance Committee member Nikki Setzler, D-West Columbia, opposes the measure.

Mr. Setzler said Beaufort and Charleston should not be protected from what other counties already do: Increase local taxes to supplement state funding.