Winthrop trustees give initial OK to 3.1% tuition increase

South Carolina students attending Winthrop University in the fall likely will see a 3.1 percent tuition increase over last year’s cost.

The Winthrop Board of Trustees tentatively approved the tuition hike Friday afternoon.

Trustees have postponed approval of the university’s operating budget until state appropriations for public schools clear the S.C. Legislature and Gov. Nikki Haley’s office.

Tuition bills are mailed to Winthrop students on July 1.

Although Winthrop is waiting to approve its operating budget, it’s not likely fall tuition will increase by more than 3.1 percent, said trustee Karl Folkens, who will begin serving as the board’s vice-chairman next month.

Depending on allocations from the state, Winthrop may have to cut spending out of its operations budget, he said, rather than further increase tuition after sending families their bills.

Less than 10 percent of the university’s budget comes from state allocations.A 3.1 percent tuition increase means in-state undergraduate students would pay $202 more next semester than students did last year. Out-of-state undergraduate students would pay $762 more next semester.

In-state graduate students would pay $16 more per credit hour and $194 more to enroll full time. Out-of-state graduate students would pay $61 more per credit hour and $727 more to enroll full time.

Room and board rates are also likely to increase.

Winthrop’s administration told trustees on Friday that room and board rates and the cost of meal plans need to go up by 5 percent to keep up with rising costs to serve students.

Students in a residence hall with a hall-style bathroom such as Wofford or Richardson would pay $2,346 per semester with the increase.

The cost of a semester-long meal plan for students living on campus would be $1,465.

“The university continues to walk a very fine line” when balancing its budget, President Anthony DiGiorgio said.

DiGiorgio will retire at the end of the month after 24 years as Winthrop’s president.

Higher education finances always have been a “balancing act” in South Carolina, he said, and “tension is going to remain” unless the state’s elected officials give public schools more recurring money.

The state Senate has approved a $350,000 increase to Winthrop’s allocation. The money from the state – if approved by the Legislature and governor – would be the first increase for Winthrop since 2007.

Winthrop has and should continue to weigh the cost of what’s needed to remain an institution of “national caliber,” DiGiorgio said.

Board members and state Sens. Creighton Coleman of Winnsboro and Wes Hayes of Rock Hill honored DiGiorgio on Friday as he sat in on in his final board meeting as Winthrop’s president.

Hayes – whom Haley recently referred to as “the dean of ethics” – said DiGiorgio is “the dean of college presidents, for sure.”

Coleman and Hayes presented DiGiorgio with a copy of a state Senate resolution thanking him for his service.

DiGiorgio’s successor, incoming president Jayne Marie Comstock, starts July 1.Her five-year contract provides a starting annual salary of $169,970 and $5,000 in moving expenses as she re-locates with her husband from Washington, D.C., to Rock Hill.

Trustees unanimously approved Comstock’s employment contract on Friday.The board also presented a resolution to Board of Trustees Chairman Dalton Floyd, who is resigning from his position effective July 1.

Kathy Bigham, current vice-chairwoman, will serve as Floyd’s replacement.After six years as a trustee, “Winthrop will always have a special place in my heart,” Floyd said.

He raised a toast to DiGiorgio during the meeting, saying “I know of no living person who could ever care more about Winthrop.”