USC’s annual tuition for most undergraduate students will top $9,000 this fall.
In-state undergraduates at the Columbia campus, the Upstate campus and the Beaufort campus will pay 3.6 percent more in tuition and required fees, bringing the cost of attendance to $9,156.
Thursday, USC trustees gave preliminary approval to a $1.08 billion budget for USC’s eight campuses.
The 3.6 percent increase, which breaks down to about $300 more in tuition and required fees annually, is the smallest increase since 2001. The USC increase is roughly half of those announced at two other public universities over the past week.
USC president Harris Pastides said the increase could have been as high as 16.6 percent if not for a $29.2 million influx of federal stimulus money that will be split among the campuses.
The university also will receive an additional $29.2 million next year.
“The stimulus funding was the lifeline,” Pastides said, noting the money will be used for one-time expenses like updating buildings, buying research equipment and paying for programs for students.
“We will be careful with (the stimulus dollars.) We will monitor them. We will be transparent with them,” he said.
For rising seniors like Meredith Roso, USC’s student body president, tuition has increased about 17 percent since her freshman year. Meanwhile, USC offers fewer class sections and fewer faculty and staff members.
Roso said she’s pleased university officials have chosen to increase class sizes and cut faculty rather than increase tuition, which would have made a USC education inaccessible to some students.
“It’s remarkable and a testament to the hard work put in by the administration that we can take those kind of budget cuts and keep our tuition increase so low,” she said.
“We did not turn to our students and our families and say, ‘We’ve got to get that money from you,’” Pastides said of the $55 million in state budget cuts USC has absorbed since June. “We felt, with the economic crisis, it was just not the right thing to do.”
The governor’s office was unimpressed.
Joel Sawyer, spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford, said USC trustees could do more to limit tuition increases.
Specifically, he cited a plan by the university to spend $800,000 in athletic department funds to leverage state research grants. The governor criticized the move as a misuse of the Centers for Economic Excellence grants program because schools are required to attract private sector funding for research.
“The university’s priorities have to be questioned when they’re spending $800,000 on a risky research scheme” instead of spending the money to offset tuition increases, Sawyer said.
Since 2003, tuition and fees have been a greater source of money for the university than state appropriations, said Ted Moore, interim provost and vice president for strategic planning. This year, the $123 million USC received from the state represents about 16 percent of the university system’s budget.
Even though USC is expecting to admit the largest class in its history this fall (more than 3,800 freshman at the Columbia campus) there will be:
About 500 fewer class sections
Fewer adjunct faculty and staff. “That means our core faculty are doing more,” Pastides said.
Other fee increases. For example, student housing will rise to $1,930 per semester from $1,810.
Two other S.C. universities also have approved tuition increases.
College of Charleston’s board approved a 7 percent tuition increase for undergraduate students earlier this week while South Carolina State University trustees voted to raise tuition 8.4 percent.
Staff writer Leroy Chapman Jr. contributed to this report. Reach Smith at (803) 771-8658.