In advance of Tuesday's Higher Education Summit, Gov. Mark Sanford and some South Carolina colleges are jabbing at each other in words and numbers.
Sanford has questioned why the schools need to continue costly building projects and whether they are admitting too many out-of-state students.
The schools have responded by saying Sanford's numbers are off-base, and the University of South Carolina has created a special section on its website to counter what it calls "errors in the translation or reporting of these numbers."
Tuesday's summit will be in the 400-seat auditorium at Midlands Technical College's Airport campus. The school also said it is adding overflow seating for 150 in another room.
Most of the state's higher education leaders are expected to attend, along with key legislative leaders. Some legislators have talked about trying to impose tuition limits on the state's schools during the General Assembly session that begins in January.
"The purpose" of the summit, Fox said, "is to instigate and create an ongoing discussion for change."
But since Sanford will be ending his eight years in office this January, Fox said it would be the next administration's responsibility to "take the ball and run with it."
Sanford first said that postponing campus construction projects would protect students and their parents as tuition has more than doubled or tripled during the past decade.
As an example, Clemson's tuition for in-state students in 2000 was $3,590 and is now $12,346. Over that same decade, the University of South Carolina's has risen from $3,868 to $9,386.
The schools say he Republican governor is off-base on two main points. They say construction projects are largely paid for with other than tuition revenue and that the real reason tuition has gone up is because of sharp cuts in state funding.
USC argues on its website that it hasn't received support from the state for its projects since 2000. It says most of the money is coming from private gifts, county support, athletic revenue and federal-lease funds.
In a more recent broadside at the schools, Sanford said out-of-state students are not covering the per-student cost of education and are a financial burden to schools and taxpayers.
His argument hinges on two numbers – $31,000, which he says is the average cost to educate a student at USC and Clemson, and $22,000, the average that he says an in-state student pays in tuition.
But Clemson spokeswoman Cathy Sams said the average cost per student is $16,300 for both in-state and out-of-state students, and so out-of-state students actually help make up for the state's funding cuts. While the typical in-state student costs Clemson $5,922 a year, a typical out-of-state student contributes $7,100, she said.
About 32 percent of Clemson's 14,702 undergraduate students are from out of state, according to the state Higher Education Commission. About 31 percent of USC's 19,765 undergrads are from out of state.