The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

State Agency Restructuring Subcommittee on Education Meets

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The State Agency Restructuring Subcommittee on Education met Wednesday for the first time. The subcommittee is part of the State Agency Restructuring Committee created through a budget proviso more than three months ago. Read more about the slowness of the overall Committee to fulfill its mandate in this report from The Nerve.

At this first meeting of the education subcommittee, testimony was given by a number of state agencies—each of whom falls under the purview of the committee. The subcommittee first addressed administrative business—electing Senators Jackson and Bingham as co-chairs—before testimony got underway. The first agency to testify was the Commission on Higher Education through its executive chairman, Dr. Garrison Walters. The director outlined the sources of funding through which the commission operates, before giving the subcommittee members an introduction to the differences between governing and coordinating boards vis-à-vis public colleges and universities. A governing board, Walters explained, is a single statewide board with almost unlimited authority; in contrast, a coordinating board has approval authority over academic programs, facilities, and institutional programming. The director noted that it would be incorrect to assume that a governing board is always more efficient than a coordinating board. South Carolina, Texas, and Illinois are three states with coordinating boards that operate most efficiently. Further, governing boards duplicate staff and don’t always systematize expenditures. Dr. Walters detailed the top three determinants of tuition cost in higher education:

  1.  the free-enterprise system
  2.  decline in state support
  3.  teaching loads (for which SC is high in national comparisons)

In conclusion, Walters detailed the two primary issues related to out-of-state students. The first is out-of-state students as a revenue alternative, considering that their tuition covers the cost of their education with a surplus of $70 million per year. The second is quality enhancement: the fact that many in-state universities draw in very qualified out-of-state students to improve their academic standings. Finally, Walters addressed to the subcommittee three important considerations moving forward:

  •  Avoid a push for more centralization that will “solve” problems already solved and created another unnecessary level of bureaucracy;
  •  Consider new strategies;
  •  Change South Carolinians’ attitudes toward individual responsibility and the  importance of higher education;

Next, David Goldman of the State Library emphasized the library system’s return on investment: while spending only $3 million per year, it receives $50 million in return. Subsequently, representatives of the Arts Commission and the State Museum gave testimony. The two briefly described the ways their own agencies have sought to cut overhead and increase efficiency, including: by combining finance directors with other agencies, shaving down administrative staff, and furloughing staff. At the conclusion of the meeting, Chairman Jackson explained that the next meeting would provide additional opportunity for testimony and would take place October 27 at 10:30 AM in Gressette Building, Room 105.


Written by SCPC

October 21, 2010 at 10:27 am

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