A new study by the Institute for College Access and Success has found that South Carolina households earning $30,000 or less have to spend more than their annual income — 104 percent — to cover the average price of one year at a four-year in-state public college and more than half their yearly income — 52 percent — to attend to a public two-year college, even after subtracting grants and scholarships from the total cost. Nationally, that figure is 77 for one year at a four-year school and half at a public two-year school.
The difference makes South Carolina one of the least affordable states for lower-income students to get a college education, long touted as the way to break out of poverty and improve economic mobility.
“A family living on $30,000 per year cannot realistically devote more than half of its income to college and still cover basic necessities,” the report’s co-author Debbie Cochrane said in a release.
Estimated yearly tuition and housing is $14,318/$3,800-$9,030 for Clemson, $11,854/$7,200 for the University of South Carolina, and $2,736/$5,600-$6,800 for Greenville Technical College. Greenville Tech offers limited housing opportunities.
The Institute for College Access and Success analysis says low-income students earning minimum wage would have to work 22 hours a week to cover the net cost of a year at a two-year college and 44 hours a week for a 4-year college.
The findings are in line with the Institute for Research on Higher Education’s 2016 College Affordability Diagnosis National Report, a state-by-state study of college affordability since 2008. That study said South Carolina is the seventh least-affordable state.
To close the gap, the Institute for College Access and Success recommends that state financial aid programs be improved and states invest more in higher education. The institute said the maximum federal Pell Grant covers the smallest share of college costs in more than 40 years and that Pell Grant recipients are more than twice as likely to have student loans and have more student debt when they graduate.