Clemson University president Jim Clements said Tuesday that he wants to talk with students, faculty and alumni before suggesting whether trustees vote on charging students a $350-a-year fee to bolster the Tigers’ athletics programs.
“I don’t have the full proposal in front of me, but I do know that it’s coming,” Clements told about 150 alumni in West Columbia. “I will study in depth before proceeding any further.”
The Clemson athletics department, led by athletics director Dan Radakovich, has floated the idea of the $350 fee, saying it would add about $6 million to the Tigers’ bank account. The amount of the fee could change, school officials said. Clemson has a $74 million-a-year athletics budget.
Clemson students have opposed paying for athletics. But other athletics programs in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where Clemson plays, receive fees from students. Some of the colleges make students pay for football tickets. Clemson, like the University of South Carolina, does not charge students to attend football games.
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USC’s athletics department receives $172 a year from full-time students, generating about $2.5 million a year for Gamecock athletics. That amount is included in the school’s tuition. USC’s athletics department expects to have income of $94 million next year.
Any additional fee at Clemson would add to the second-most expensive public tuition in the state. Clemson charges in-state students $13,808 a year in tuition and fees — about a third more than the national average.
Clemson student government president Maddy Thompson said she has told Radakovich and the school’s financial chief that students oppose a $350 athletics fee. She said students want to know why the Tigers need the money.
“Why should 21,000 students pay for facilities only used by a handful of students, especially when you have a booster club?” Thompson asked.
Any money raised from a student fee would be used to pay for athletics operations, not for buildings or scholarships, Clemson athletics spokesman Joe Galbraith said. Department officials plan to meet again with student leaders to explain the fee, but the Tigers do not need the money immediately, Galbraith said.
Clements said student input is crucial.
“I’m going to listen very closely to the students because they’re the ones who will be paying the fees,” he said after the alumni meeting Tuesday. “And I’m curious to see what faculty say. And I want Dan to make his case. It’s too soon for me to make any comments on it. But I’m looking forward to seeing what people think.”
Clemson trustees chairman David Wilkins declined Tuesday to share an opinion on the fee, saying the board has not received a proposal. “The story is getting ahead of reality here.”
Wilkins said he appreciates the sensitivity of rising student costs. But, he added, other athletics departments in Clemson’s conference are getting a financial boost from student fees.
Asked if the Tigers needed the extra money to remain competitive with national powers, Wilkins said: “Clemson is holding its own pretty well.”