The value of a Winthrop University education will be even higher next school year, after a majority of the school’s board of trustees voted to increase tuition and room and board costs.
Undergraduates will pay 2.5 percent more in tuition for the 2016-17 school year, or an additional $354, after board members voted 9-2 to increase student fees on Friday. Trustees also voted on a 2 percent increase in what students pay for on-campus housing, and an extra 4.7 percent on students’ meal plans.
Graduate students weren’t spared either. Their tuition increased 3.5 percent.
An in-state undergraduate will pay $7,255 for the fall 2016 semester, and graduate students will pay $7,156. For an out-of-state student, the price tag for undergraduate studies will be $14,045 this fall – $343 more than last year.
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While board members acknowledged the increase will be difficult for students, the school said it was close to the lowest tuition increase Winthrop has adopted in 17 years. In recent years, tuition has increased by $382 for 2014-15, and then another $344 in 2015-16.
Winthrop leaders say they had little choice to raise tuition again after state legislators approved a 3.25 percent pay increase for all state employees. Winthrop will have to cover 75 percent of that additional cost.
“Nobody likes it, but recurring revenue is not enough to fund the increase,” said newly-elected Winthrop board chairman Karl Folkens, adding that Winthrop’s planned increase is “less than other institutions have already raised their rates.”
2.5% increase in tuition for a Winthrop undergrad in 2016-17
3.5% increase in tuition for a Winthrop graduate student
2% increase in the cost of on-campus housing at Winthrop
4.7% increase in the cost of a Winthrop meal plan
Two board members, Timothy Hopkins and Ashlye Wilkerson, voted against the increase, arguing the school was asking too much of its students.
“This might be conservative this year, but not if it goes up every year,” Wilkerson said. “Starting as a freshman, you’ve seen tuition go up every year.”
Ray McKetty, the student representative on the board, asked how student leaders could explain the rate hike to their classmates, “because this is probably the biggest thing that we hear about.”
Winthrop President Dan Mahony said in context, a 2.5 percent increase is the best the university can do for students.
“I know students see it as a loss every time tuition goes up,” Mahony said. “But 2.5 is holding the line. Others have seen it grow a lot more.”
Folkens said Mahony has worked to balance Winthrop’s books, but the school will not be able to get its finances in order and continue to provide the same level of service without raising more revenue. At its Jan. 29 meeting, the board voted unanimously to issue $9.1 million in new higher education revenue bonds, which are expected to save the university $526,000 this year.
“I challenge a trustee to tell us the alternative,” Folkens said.