In light of Winthrop University President Anthony DiGiorgio's recent comments about the budget proposals my office put forward on higher education, I thought it was worth taking a minute to respond.
First, as much as it is the responsibility of any agency head to look after their corner of South Carolina government, we can't be all things to all people. Choices have to be made, and in the budget environment we find ourselves in, often those choices are unpleasant. In the case of higher education, we've asked why we are number one in the entire Southeast, and sixth in the whole nation, in what we ask of students and parents in tuitions -- and at the same time number one in what we allocate to higher ed as a percentage of our state budget when compared against other states.
That disconnect led us to make the cost-saving proposals we did, to consolidate some of the functions performed at every campus into Columbia. In a lot of cases, a corporation with locations all across the state wouldn't perform functions like accounting, payroll and human resources at every single location -- they'd consolidate those support functions in one office. Those kind of common-sense measures are something we'd like to see more of in higher ed.
Second, we have to look at not only how much we're funding certain activities, but whether we're getting the most bang for our buck. DiGiorgio claims South Carolina's higher education system is suffering from "persistent underfunding," but the numbers tell a different story. Winthrop received over $89 million in total funding six years ago, and that number has increased by 39 percent to over $124 million today. The school's tuition stands at $11,060 -- one of the highest among all state schools. Winthrop is a great university that I and many other South Carolinians are awfully proud of, and I join many of those same South Carolinians in wanting to make sure taxpayers, students and parents are getting their money's worth from all of our institutions. Consolidating support functions is not the kind of thing that hurts the educational quality of an alma mater, and are the kinds of things done by businesses each day.
Finally, on the questions of federal stimulus that was raised, I think it bears repeating that the American taxpayer is already on the hook for over $52 trillion in unpaid-for political promises -- an amount representing a hidden mortgage of $450,000 for every American household. The money being presented as an economic stimulus bill -- somewhere between $800 billion and $1 trillion -- is money the federal government doesn't have. It's borrowed money -- and at some point, it will have to be paid back in the form of taxes.
More than likely it will be paid back by our children and grandchildren -- who as a consequence will find it that much harder to pay for a college education.