June 16, 2012

USC to hike tuition by 3.15%

Like other public colleges statewide, the University of South Carolina plans its smallest tuition hike in recent years for in-state students, the school said Friday.

Like other public colleges statewide, the University of South Carolina plans its smallest tuition hike in recent years for in-state students, the school said Friday.

Tuition for in-state students at USC Columbia will rise 3.15 percent next school year – the smallest hike since 1999 and an amount about the same as inflation last year. Students will pay $320 more for a total of $10,488 when mandatory fees for technology and student activities are included.

Out-of-state students will see a bigger tuition hike – 4.9 percent. They will pay $27,463 in 2012-13, up $1,291 from last year. The out-of-state increase was not a new low. Out-of-state students saw an increase of 3.9 percent a year ago.

This is the first time in recent memory that out-of-state students have been charged a different rate hike than in-state students, USC budget director Leslie Brunelli said.

The school decided put more of a burden on out-of-state students to make up a $10.7 million budget gap due to higher employee salaries, and retirement and health insurance costs, USC president Harris Pastides said. Out-of-state students account for 12 percent of the student body on the Columbia campus.

“It’s a trade-off,” Pastides said. “We wanted to demonstrate that we do get state support, and so we’re going to be a little bit better to our in-state residents.”

Pastides said USC could hold off bigger tuition hikes if the General Assembly approves a performance-based funding plan that would give USC additional money because it meets state guidelines for fiscal responsibility and educating more South Carolinians.

“We are holding the dam. We can hold it this way this year,” Pastides said. “If next year there is some hope of real reform, we would love nothing more than to be able to have tuition increases this low or lower.”

Two other four-year USC campuses, Aiken and Upstate, also will have 3.15 percent hikes for in-state students.

But USC Beaufort students will see their tuition increase by 4.9 percent, or $200 for the year, because of lower state appropriations and lower pricing, Brunelli said. Beaufort’s annual tuition last year was $600 less than Aiken and $1,300 less than Upstate.

Over the past 10 years, USC’s tuition increases have ranged from 3.6 to 15 percent, according to S.C. Commission on Higher Education data. Tuition has more than doubled since 2002, when in-state students paid $5,024.

Most state schools – including Clemson, Winthrop and College of Charleston – have announced in-state tuition hikes of about 3 percent for next year. Those are decade lows, according to state data.

S.C. State and Coastal Carolina will not charge more for tuition for 2012-13. Coastal Carolina, however, is offering a one-time $100 credit for in-state students next year, which lowers tuition at the Conway school by 1 percent from 2011-12.

State taxpayer funding of USC Columbia has fallen to $90 million from $230 million since 2008. The school has brought in extra revenue by increasing the size of its incoming classes by more than 900 freshmen a year and hiking total enrollment by nearly 3,500 students.

USC has no plans to increase the freshman class past last year’s record of 4,636. But its enrollment will continue to grow as the larger freshmen classes move through the university.

The proposed tuition increases will become final when the full USC Board of Trustees meets on June 29. The board’s executive committee approved the tuition hike on Friday.

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