Coastal Carolina considering raising tuition

Coastal Carolina students will have to pay more in tuition next fall.
Coastal Carolina students will have to pay more in tuition next fall.

Coastal Carolina University's tuition likely will increase for the second straight year.

The university's board of trustees is preparing to approve a 3 percent hike for in-state students. The increase would amount to $155 more per semester. Out-of-state tuition would rise by 3.2 percent or $380 per semester. The board is scheduled to vote on the proposal Friday morning.

“It’s already so expensive,” said Kayvon Bahery, a freshman health promotion major from the Boston area. “I definitely really hope they don’t do that. ... It’s definitely going to make a difference for some people, including myself.”

Graduate students also are expected to see a 3.2 percent tuition increase. For those in state, that would mean $17 more per credit hour. It would be an extra $30 per hour for their out-of-state peers.

Although campus housing costs will remain flat, the price of the unlimited meal plan is jumping by $125 per semester. School officials said their food provider, Aramark, will charge students more because Coastal wants to provide meals during fall and spring breaks. They said some students don’t go home during that time and need to eat on campus.

Coastal leaders blame higher operating costs and limited state funding for the steeper tuition.

Between the 2008 and 2012 fiscal years, the university lost $7.8 million as recession-weary lawmakers slashed higher education funding to balance budgets. Modest increases in recent years haven't made up for those cuts.

The school also continues to grow. And with the hiring of additional faculty and the extra utility costs from new campus buildings, what the school brings in isn’t covering expenses.

Coastal leaders asked state officials for an additional $3 million last fall to stave off any tuition increases. The state budget hasn't been finalized yet, but the House of Representatives spending bill includes $500,000 more for Coastal.

During a meeting of the board’s finance committee Thursday, some trustees urged the staff to look for ways to trim expenses. They would rather do that, they said, than resort to raising tuition.

“There’s got to be some things around the school that we waste money on,” said board member Charles Lewis. “A lot of times when you give an agency, a division, a department money, they make sure they spend every bit of that money because if they don’t they don’t get it the next year. I just think we need to look at those things. I’m not opposed to how much we’re increasing, but if we can lower that I think we ought to do it for the students and their parents. I don’t think most of the One Percenters are sending their kids to Coastal Carolina.”

Other trustees, however, argued that holding the line on tuition hasn’t worked out so well for Coastal in the past. Before last year’s hike, in-state tuition had remained the same for two years. During that time, state officials told the school leaders they should make small tuition increases but they opted not to.

“We went two years without an increase and we didn’t get any state dollars additional,” said board member William Biggs. “It actually came back to bite us in the rear end. If we don’t put in this increase, we’ll never be able to go back and get it.”

For the upcoming academic year, state Sen. Hugh Leatherman, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has suggested a 3.25 percent tuition increase. Several board members noted that the proposed hike still falls below Leatherman’s recommendation.

Eddie Dyer, the university’s chief operating officer, stressed that educational improvements won’t come through budget cuts.

“If we’re ever going to get better academically, we’re going to have to spend money,” he said. “There’s a price tag to it.”

Contact CHARLES D. PERRY at 626-0218 or on Twitter @TSN_CharlesPerr.