Policy Documents

S.C. Universities Closed to Many Public School Students

SCPC –
October 22, 2009

In spite of a massive increase in K-12 expenditures during the 1990s, South Carolina’s schools rank among the worst in the country. For the past 10 years, K-12 education funding has consumed more than one-third of all state revenue and, including federal, state, and local funding, exceeds $7 billion -- the size of the entire General Fund budget. Yet test scores remain low and dropout rates high. State SAT scores, in particular, are the lowest in the South, handicapping many students from even being admitted into several of the state’s public universities.

 

 

As reported previously, student performance on the 2009 SAT fell by 9 points to a lowest-in-the-South average score of 1452. South Carolina students fell further behind their peers during 2009 as students scored 57 points behind the national mean of 1509. That gap expanded by 7 points, or 14 percent, over 2008.

 

 

When the writing component of the SAT score is dropped (most state universities don’t yet use this section when reporting scores for entering freshmen), the state mean is 982 for 2009. This score includes public and private schools, with public school students accounting for 89 percent of the total. The mean score for South Carolina’s public school students was 978.

 

Based strictly on SAT score the average public school student from South Carolina would be ineligible to attend 9 of the state’s 16 senior public institutions. (In total, South Carolina has 33 public universities and colleges and 25 senior private higher-ed institutions). The average SAT score for entering freshmen at South Carolina’s leading public institutions is as follows:

 

 

School

Total Score

Clemson University 

1225

College of Charleston 

1225**

USC-Columbia

1191*

The Citadel

1090

Winthrop University 

1076

Coastal Carolina University

1030* 

Lander University 

1000

USC-Aiken

1000

USC-Spartanburg

990

State Mean

982

USC-Beaufort

976*

Francis Marion University

964

USC-Sumter

956*

USC-Lancaster

921

USC-Union

890

USC-Salkehatchie

834*

South Carolina State University

830

 

*Indicates 2008 mean score, as 2009 score not available

**Estimated average as based on in-state and out-of-state ranges provided by college

 

 

Most out-of-state applicants scored between 17 to 69 points higher on their SATs than their in-state classmates, as based on reported scores from the 2008 entering class. Overall, the average out-of-state student scored 41 points higher than the average in-state college student. Such trends reaffirm those problems highlighted in SCPC’s February 2005 report on student achievement in South Carolina, which found that even the state’s best and brightest students are falling behind their peers at the national and international levels.