Current as of May 28, 2010
As I have told you often over the past several months, clarity regarding higher education funding -- in South Carolina and in general -- is more difficult to come by these days than ever before. The current situation in both Columbia and Washington, D.C., is a perfect example of that fact.
As you may have heard earlier today, the legislative conference committee working on a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 late yesterday reached an agreement on a compromise plan. This morning, however, news from Washington makes it unclear if that plan will be sent to the House and Senate for consideration next week, or whether the conference committee will re-convene to consider additional cuts.
At issue now is that approximately $200 million in federal health care funding (generally referred to as Medicaid “bailout” funds) that had been included in the state budget may not materialize after all, as federal lawmakers announced this morning that those funds had been pulled from the federal budget. That action reportedly will throw 22 pending state budgets out of balance, including South Carolina’s.
State lawmakers could decide to send yesterday’s conference committee compromise plan reached to the respective chambers next week, which would put off any decision about additional cuts triggered by the federal decision until a “veto session” later in June. Or, they could decide to re-convene the conference committee to deal with the new $200 million problem now. Either could mean additional cuts to state support for higher education unless federal budget writers change their decision about the Medicaid funding. (The original conference committee compromise had made no additional state cuts to education at any level, but had made deeper cuts in health and social service programs, including prescription drugs and some screening tests for Medicaid patients.)
For Winthrop, this set of circumstances makes it even less likely that a tuition recommendation can be made to our trustees in time for their next meeting in June. That means we likely will do as we have in previous years when state decision-making lagged: Ask the full board to delegate final decision-making to the board’s Executive Committee when there is enough information to make such a decision possible.
We will continue to keep the campus community updated as warranted, and will post our Fall 2010 tuition and fee decisions to the Winthrop home page as soon as possible, as we understand the importance to students and families of having that information for their own budgeting purposes.
Meanwhile, thanks for your understanding as we deal with this very complex budget situation.