SCHOOL’S TUITION CUT PROMPTS DEBATE OVER FISCAL FUTURE …
Converse College is a private liberal arts institution located in Spartanburg, S.C. that offers undergraduate degrees to women and co-educational graduate programs. The school made news last year when it celebrated its 125th anniversary by slashing tuition costs by 43 percent (to $16,500) in an effort to “solve America’s college affordability issues.”
“Converse is the first institution in South Carolina to make such a move and among only 10 institutions in the nation to do so since 2012,” the school noted at the time.
The school claimed to have “reworked its operating budget” to accommodate the reduced tuition – while maintaining an 11-to-1 student-faculty ratio.
“We heard families’ concerns about the rising price of college and we committed ourselves to finding a sustainable solution,” the school’s president, Betsy Fleming, said. “We now want to start a new conversation in higher education—one that focuses on real value in terms of both quality and cost.”
Did it work?
It’s not immediately clear. Sources at the school tell us Converse is currently facing a “multi-million dollar deficit” due to the tuition cuts and that Fleming’s administration is “painting a rosy outlook despite a concerted effort to slash costs.”
“The cost reductions seem to be a smoke screen for a ten-year pattern of mismanagement and malfeasance by the current president and administration,” one source tells us. “There may also be reason to question the use of funds in various specified endowments.”
School officials don’t seem too concerned about those reports. Last month, Converse welcomed 300 new students to its campus – a fifteen percent increase in enrollment from the previous year. That puts the school’s total undergraduate enrollment at more than 835 students – a 25 percent increase over the last four years.
The school also boasted a “20 percent increase in gifts over the previous year,” and unveiled several new academic and athletic facilities built with private gifts.
Of one thing there can be no doubt: Tuition costs are out of control in South Carolina (particularly at government-run schools), so it’s nice to see one institution attempting to ease the burden on parents and students while preserving core capabilities.
Oh, and speaking of core capabilities, it’s nice to see a school doing its job as opposed to … well, not.
Converse will rise (or fall) based on the free market. Unlike the government-run schools … which will continue to bleed taxpayers dry no matter how well or how poorly they perform.
Which brings us back to our fundamental point: Higher education is not a core function of government, and all thirty-three of South Carolina’s state-supported institutions of “higher learning” should be immediately freed to pursue their destinies in the private sector.
It’s time to embrace competition – not perpetual subsidization.