USC raising tuition 3.15%

The University of South Carolina again is raising tuition and fees at the lowest rate since 1999 even as the school’s state funding dwindles.

Students will pay 3.15 percent more on average to attend the state’s flagship university in 2013-14 after a vote by the USC board of trustees on Monday.

This is the second consecutive increase at that rate and comes just below the ceiling requested by state Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, in a letter to S.C. college presidents.

USC’s in-state tuition and fees will rise by $328 a year, or 3.13 percent, to $10,816. That’s about the same hike as last year, which was the smallest increase since 1999. Out-of-state rates will increase by $884 a year to $28,528. The 3.2 percent hike is the smallest in 14 years.

The average cost for in-state students is projected at about $4,800 factoring in average scholarships amounts they receive, USC chief financial officer Ed Walton said.

USC trustees and school President Harris Pastides expressed frustration at the school’s dwindling allocations from the state. In 2008, the school received $225 million in state funding. The USC system is expected to receive $131 million this year, 42 percent less than before the recession.

“We’re not funded according to quality or amount of service,” Pastides said. “We need a new dialogue, a new discussion, a new case to be made. ... No one would have preferred a zero percent tuition increase more than you or me, but other priorities were chosen by state government for funding.”

The tuition increases came with the approval of the university’s $1.3 billion budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, a 1.27 percent increase from last year. Ten percent of the entire USC system budget — $131 million — is expected to be funded by the state next year. The state covered about 10.5 percent of this year’s budget.

Tuition at USC’s regional campuses will increase at an average rate of 3.15 percent in 2013-14 with the exception of Beaufort, which will see a tuition increase of 4.9 percent. Beaufort’s tuition is rising more with its switch from a regional two-year campus to a senior four-year campus in 2002.

“Rather than boosting tuition all at once, they’re doing it over time,” USC spokesman Wes Hickman said. “The goal is to eventually get tuition equal to that at (USC) Aiken.”

The USC School of Law’s tuition will go up 3.1 percent, while the South Carolina College of Pharmacy will have a tuition hike of 3 percent and the School of Medicine’s tuition will go up 5 percent, the most of all USC institutions discussed Monday.

The School of Law and College of Pharmacy increases are in line with previous hikes, but the School of Medicine’s increase is 2 percentage points higher this year.

While USC is the largest university in the state, its tuition is not the highest.

Winthrop University recently announced a tuition increase of 3.1 percent, bringing its rate for in-state students to $13,429 per year, most in South Carolina. Clemson University is not expected to announce a tuition increase until July; its rates are already almost $2,000 more than USC. The Citadel’s 2013-14 tuition also is slightly higher than USC’s at $10,838.