COLUMBIA, S.C. — Campus legislative liaisons from across South Carolina joined SCICU in Columbia Dec. 8 for the annual kickoff luncheon for the student letter-writing campaign supporting the Tuition Grants program.
Jake Scoggins, assistant budget director for the S.C. Senate Finance Committee, keynoted the event and outlined state revenue projections, demographic headwinds, and more for campus advocates. He detailed the revenue growth that supports the additional $20 million in non-recurring funding appropriated to the Tuition Grants Commission, allowing the maximum Tuition Grant amount to increase to $4,800 from $4,500 for FY 2023-2024.
“For FY 2024-2025, recurring general fund revenue available for appropriations is estimated at $673.1 million and nonrecurring revenue is projected at $896.1 million,” said Scoggins. “A total of $1.6 billion in additional revenues for appropriation is estimated for the FY 2024-2025 state budget.”
Following Scoggins’ state funding analysis, Katie Harrison, Tuition Grants Commission executive director, presented recent changes in the Tuition Grants program that effectively expand Tuition Grants access to an additional 1,200 South Carolinians:
- Simplified the satisfactory academic progress policy for upperclass students, aligning more closely with federal academic progress benchmarks for Pell Grants and other federal grants
- Simplified the definition of academic merit for incoming freshman students
- Increased grant amounts for adult learners in non-traditional programs and simplified the timeline definitions of non-traditional programs
- Allows certain students to appeal and receive funding for an additional year beyond the 8-semester limit
“For academic year 2023-2024, the Tuition Grants Commission has disbursed grants to nearly 12,500 eligible students,” said Harrison.
Jeff Perez, SCICU president and CEO, explained that South Carolina’s revenue growth, combined with the careful stewardship of the Tuition Grants Commission, has allowed the Tuition Grants program to benefit more South Carolina resident students.
“We’re fortunate in South Carolina to have a governor and General Assembly that support independent higher education,” said Perez. “They have consistently provided the Tuition Grants Program with the funding needed so that South Carolina students can select the independent college that best suits their aspirations.”
Emma Reabold, SCICU vice president for development and campus services, congratulated two SCICU member universities for outstanding efforts in the 2023 letter-writing campaign:
- Most letters written – North Greenville University (1,496)
- Highest percentage of Tuition Grants recipients writing letters – Allen University (100 percent)
Reabold presented campus advocates with suggested strategies, tactics, and tools for encouraging letter-writing among Tuition Grants recipients.
Perez emphasized the enormous impact and effectiveness of the student letter-writing campaign.
“Our power is in student letters,” said Perez. “Members of the General Assembly and their staffers over many years have learned to expect a massive swell in their mail due to hand-written thank-you letters from Tuition Grants recipients representing SCICU member colleges and universities. Last year members of the General Assembly received more than 7,100 letters from student constituents expressing gratitude for Tuition Grants. Our impact is statewide, as Tuition Grant recipients live in all S.C. House and Senate districts.”
Campus legislative advocates, many of them being financial aid directors, will work with their institution’s Tuition Grants recipients beginning in January with student letter-writing events.
Building on the successes of coordinated social media support for the 2023 letter-writing campaign, public information officers will again join forces with SCICU on social media to bolster the 2024 letter-writing events leading up to the April 10 Joint Higher Education Day.
The 2024 SCICU student letter-writing campaign will culminate with the April 10 Higher Education Day at the S.C. State House. On this day SCICU will announce and celebrate with students the total number of Tuition Grants thank-you letters written to members of the General Assembly. At the April 10 event students will also have the opportunity to meet with their respective representatives and senators and advocate for the Tuition Grants program.
“The 2023 Higher Education Day was our second time holding a joint event with students from S.C.’s public institutions and the technical college system,” said Perez. “We look forward to joining forces again in 2024 in saying thanks to the General Assembly and Governor McMaster for their ongoing support of higher education in South Carolina.”