South Carolina’s colleges and universities – routinely under pressure from some S.C. legislators for their annual tuition and fee hikes – spent $58 million on travel within the past year.
Among the state’s public colleges, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina – for the 13th year – came in first and second in travel expenses.
Together, the schools spent about $27.4 million on travel, up about $1.5 million from the year before, according to the S.C. Comptroller General’s Office.
Comptroller Richard Eckstrom said college spending in fiscal year 2016-17, which ended June 30, made up two-thirds of state’s total travel spending of $85.7 million – a 5.7 percent increase over the previous year. Eckstrom added the state’s general fund revenue only increased by 4.3 percent during the same period.
The data, collected from state agencies and schools, includes travel-related expenses paid from state, federal and other sources.
The Medical University of South Carolina, College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina University and S.C. State University all ranked in the Top 10 in travel spending. However, S.C. State dropped six spots to No. 10 from the previous year.
Among other state agencies, the Department of Health and Environmental Control ranked fifth in total travel costs, followed by the Department of Education.
The most recent report moved the state Transportation Department up three spots, recording an 18.3 percent increase in total travel costs.
Of the Top 10 total spenders, only the Judicial Department – the state’s court system – and S.C. State University reported a decrease in spending.
At the S.C. State House, one legislative chamber spent more in travel than the other.
The House’s travel expenses rose 2.3 percent, with House Ways and Means chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, the top spender at $17,425.
The Senate’s travel expenses fell more than 9 percent. The Senate’s top spender was Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, at $19,977.
Among state employees, Clemson outspent others.
Clemson football defensive coordinator Brent Venables was the only state employee in the past year to record more than $100,000 in travel costs, but that was down 15 percent from the previous year. The school’s co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and Clemson President Jim Clements each spent less than $90,000.
Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney spent $77,317, a majority of that from out-of-state travel.
At USC, Associate Dean Kendall Roth spent the most on travel – $45,947 – followed by Vice Provost Paul Allen Miller at $42,820.
When USC faculty and staff travel, “much” of the cost is paid for through private grants and athletic revenue, “so impact on tuition is minimal,” a spokesman said.
The athletic departments at Clemson and USC do not receive money from state coffers but are supported by private donations, ticket sales and sponsorships.
Both schools use private planes for athletic recruitment and other university functions. Clemson also occasionally uses charter and commercial flights.
The top non-university spender was Sharon Taylor, a nurse administrator at DHEC, who spent $21,127.
SC’s top 10 travel spenders
State agencies, including public colleges and universities, spent a total of $85.7 million on travel in the past year. A look at how much the top 10 state agencies spent on travel in 2016-17, the percentage change from the previous year and the agency employee who spent the most.
1. Clemson University: $14.8 million, up 8%; Brent Venables, athletic coach, $112,830
2. University of South Carolina: $12.6 million, up 3.5%; Kendall Roth, associate dean, $45,947
3. Medical University of South Carolina: $7.38 million, up 1.6%; Stephen Ornstein, professor, $28,011
4. College of Charleston: $7.2 million, up 0.4%; James Saleeby, admissions counselor, $35,762
5. Health and Environmental Control: $3.5 million, up 1.1%; Sharon Taylor, nurse administrator, $21,127
6. Education Department: $2 million, up 26%; Kristine Jenkins, education associate with First Steps, $54,308
7. Coastal Carolina University: $1.9 million, up 29.2%; Paul Gayes, director/Palmetto professor, $15,589
8. Transportation Department: $1.7 million, up 18.3%; Darren Celorier, senior geodetic technician, $16,917
9. Judicial Department: $1.68 million, down 0.7%; James Lockemy, COA chief judge, $22,930
10. S.C. State University: $1.4 million, down 18.5%; Delbert Foster, executive director, $15,762
SOURCE: S.C. Comptroller General’s Office