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Cash injection by lawmakers leads to law school tuition cut

June 30, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina residents will pay less to go to the state’s only public law school next year, with the full price of in-state tuition falling $5,100 next year at the University of South Carolina School of Law.

The State newspaper of Columbia reports that as the General Assembly injected money into public colleges and universities, they made a special effort to cut law school tuition.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Murrell Smith, a Sumter Republican, said lawmakers boosted spending at USC by $8 million this year, with the understanding that $1.9 million would specifically go to lower law school tuition. Smith said that when he was attending the law school leading up to his 1993 graduation, tuition was less than $4,000 a year.

“I literally could (work as a law) clerk during the school year and summer and pay my law school tuition,” Smith said. “I know those days are gone, but ... we’re not doing our young people any favors by leaving them with enormous debt.”

The full tuition price for law students last year was $29,608. Now it will by $24,508. Some students pay less because of scholarships and financial aid.

While other South Carolina colleges and universities are raising tuition only modestly, the law school is only one so far to lower tuition for in-state students.

Law School Dean Robert Wilcox said South Carolina has been losing students to out-of-state law schools because of cost.

“When you go to school out of state, the odds increase dramatically that you will stay out of state for your career,” Wilcox said. “This will keep more good students in South Carolina.”

Students from South Carolina paid $29,608 in tuition last year, more than their Georgia residents at the University of Georgia School of Law — $17,604 — or North Carolina residents at the University of North Carolina School of Law — $24,172.

Wilcox said the school had burdened its 630 students will helping repay some of the $42 million the university borrowed to build the law school’s new $80 million building, which opened in June 2017.

The new building was expected to help USC recruit talented students and improve on its No. 88 position in the U.S. News and World Report’s national rankings. But the law school’s high tuition has undercut that mission.

Since the new building opened, the law school has slipped to No. 91, now in a nine-way tie with Florida International University, Marquette University, Michigan State University, Syracuse University, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the University of New Mexico and Wayne State University.

“The building is absolutely a recruitment factor,” said Wilcox, the school’s dean since 2011. “But at the end of the day, students are looking at ranking and cost.”

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Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com

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