About 39 percent of the federal stimulus money the University of South Carolina system received - just under $11 million - was directed to what the school calls "quality of life" areas, such as building upgrades and renovations, according to an overview provided by university officials Thursday.
All told, USC Columbia, the School of Medicine and the seven regional campuses that make up USC's system received $27,828,064 in federal stimulus money.
"The stimulus money has been very, very valuable to us," William "Ted" Moore, USC's vice president of finance and planning, said after a meeting during which he and his colleagues outlined the university's finances for a committee of the Board of Trustees.
About $10.3 million in stimulus funds went into what the university called "teaching and learning" areas, such as academic support, faculty enrichment and technology equipment.
Research and scholarship got $4.9 million, and the university directed $1.67 million toward increasing its recognition and visibility. A final $100,000 was spent on what the school called "service excellence," a symposium series on the rule of law.
Other specific examples of where stimulus money has been directed include:
- $500,000 to mitigate tuition increases at USC Upstate
- $481,777 to increase the number of baccalaureate degrees available to students at USC Beaufort
- $1.45 million in facility renovation and repair at USC Aiken
- $575,463 to hire about 30 employees and install 11 defibrillators at USC Sumter
- $5.45 million in asbestos abatement at USC Columbia's Jones Physical Sciences Building
Stimulus money could not be used for new construction projects, and university officials said they were careful not to use the money for recurring costs.
Stimulus money was used, however, to bring in faculty members the university had planned to hire later, school officials said.
Deans and program leaders submitted a wide range of projects they wanted the university's administration to fund. Those wish list projects cost a combined $150 million, Moore said.
But USC's administration pared that list down to what they considered the most important projects.
"Every dollar that we allocated was part of a competitive process and in accordance to our strategic plan," USC president Harris Pastides said.
Another big chunk of stimulus money is expected to come to the university in the next fiscal year, but because school officials don't want to use those funds for costs that will extend into future years, that money won't plug the hole created by state budget cuts.
The State Budget and Control Board is expected to approve a 3 percent cut Tuesday. Such a cut would pare just under $5 million from the USC system, bringing the amount the system has lost in state cuts over the past two years to $67.2 million, USC budget figures show.
Moore said USC budget writers planned for a total of 10 percent in state cuts during this fiscal year.
They used a three-pronged strategy to cope with that cut:
- Academic units - colleges like engineering, education and arts and sciences - were asked to reduce their budgets by an average of 1.5 percent.
- Savings from deeper-than-necessary cuts last year are being used to cushion this year's blows.
- And parts of the university's 30-year-old data processing system will not be replaced immediately, as school officials had planned.
If Tuesday's 3 percent cut is approved as expected, that would bring the total cuts so far this fiscal year up to 7 percent.
USC's plans include another cut of about 3 percent this spring, but university officials said they are hoping that proves to be unnecessary. No one is betting another cut won't be ordered.
Even if such a cut comes, USC has no plans to order furloughs for faculty or staff.
"That's a last resort," Moore said. "It saves you money exactly one time."