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FITSNews – August 24, 2008 – In case you missed it, we were pretty hard on South Carolina’s higher ed leaders in our first installment of this year’s “Palmetto Power 100” list. Frankly, we think it’s inexcusable the way they’ve been jacking tuition and fees on our state’s citizens in recent years, particularly while they’re hiding multi-million dollar slush funds (in Clemson’s case) or gobbling up real estate like the Wehrmacht (in Carolina’s case).

Of course, like their K-12 counterparts, these ivory tower blowhards always blame tuition increases on “budget cuts,” despite the fact that South Carolina grew government at obscene levels over the last four years and continues to spend more than 16% of its state budget on higher ed (compared to the national average of around 10%).

Anyway, here’s what the Greenville News had to say this morning about our universities’ latest tuition hikes:

The state had the highest in-state tuition and fees for public colleges in a 10-state Southern region, according to a report last year by the College Board. In fact, the state ranked No. 8 in the entire nation for the in-state tuition cost of attending a public four-year university.

In this relatively poor state, college tuition and fees should be among the lowest in the nation, not among the Top 10. Those costs almost certainly will force South Carolina’s college students to take on overwhelming debt or put higher education out of the reach of some South Carolinians from low-income families.

All that’s true, of course, but the News predictably failed to point out why we’re faced with such an unprecedented fleecing of our citizens – namely, the fact that South Carolina is currently paying for 33 colleges and universities (including over 80 campus locations, some so close to each other that they share parking lots).

For a state of only four million people, that’s preposterous – not to mention why we consistently blow a much higher chunk of our budget on higher ed than other states. But local lawmakers do love their pork – particularly gleaming new facilities at all those small-town campus locations – and in a legislatively-dominated state with no entity governing our higher ed system, there’s nothing to stop them from getting what they want.