Housing and tuition costs are going up again for Clemson University students.
The university's board of trustee voted almost unanimously via teleconference Thursday to raise tuition rates for the 2016-17 year for in-state and out-of-state students, and pass along state-mandated cost-of-living increases for Clemson employees.
Undergraduates from South Carolina will pay an extra 3.14 percent, or $218 on average per semester, while out-of-staters will pay an extra 4.27 percent, or $700 per semester on average. That translates to per semester averages of $7,159 for tuition and student fees for in-staters, and $17,100 for out-of-staters.
Meal plans will rise 4 percent per semester on average, from $1,860 to $1,940, and housing will go up an average of 6 percent, from $2,698 to $2,865.
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Vice President for Finance and Operations Brett Dalton told board members the tuition hikes are in line with increases from the last few years. He said the room and board is going up primarily because the Legislature mandated improved pay and benefits for all public employees in the new state budget that goes into effect next week.
Students will tolerate the annual tuition hikes as long as Clemson remains affordable, said undergraduate student government president Joey Wilson.
"Tuition is going up everywhere and students understand that ... we just hope to keep it as low as possible so students don't have to go deep into debt," said Wilson, a senior from Duncan.
Wilson credited university administrators for working with student groups to hold down student fees for health services, online and information technology services and the like. An athletic department proposal to introduce charges to students for prime football tickets was shot down this spring after getting stiff opposition from students and alumni.
The trustees voted 12-1 for the increases, with a rare dissent from former Lieutenant Governor Bob Peeler. He voted twice against the hikes, first as a member of the trustees' finance and facilities subcommittee and again in the full board vote. Disagreements are not unheard of in board deliberations, but individual trustees typically stick with the group or abstain when it comes time to vote.
Peeler did not respond to a request for comment from the Independent Mail.
President Jim Clements participated in Thursday's meeting via telephone. He issued a statement later defending the hikes as being "crucial in funding our efforts to offer the best college experience possible for our students. We also are committed to keeping Clemson affordable, and we appreciate the support of the state and leaders of the General Assembly that has enabled us to keep this tuition increase low."
Dalton and Clemson President Jim Clements will submit a final 2016-17 spending plan to replace the expiring $989 million budget when the trustees gather on campus July 14-17 for the summer quarterly meeting. Direct state aid should cover about 11 percent of Clemson's overheard next year, said Dalton. That is approximately the same help as last year, but state support for Clemson and other universities has dropped over 70 percent since 2000.
Legislators have insisted in recent years that the state's LIFE and Palmetto Fellows scholarship programs for in-state students should offset that drop in direct state dollars and help mitigate tuition hikes. Palmetto recipients get $6,700 as freshman year and can receive up to $7,500 for each of their next 3 years; LIFE recipients can receive as much as $7,200 during their time at a state university, plus help with book fees.
House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White and several other legislators were contacted for comment Thursday, but did not respond.