BOT approves budget; tuition increase lowest in 8 years
In the wake of historic state budget cuts, the Executive Committee of the University of South Carolina’s Board of Trustees gave preliminary approval to a 2009-10 operating budget Thursday (June 11) that adheres to President Harris Pastides’ pledge to keep a tuition increase modest while maintaining the university’s core mission of excellence in teaching, research and service.
The $1.08 billion eight-campus budget will take effect July 1. This budget includes the $584 million operating budget as well as the estimated restricted grants and contracts and auxiliary enterprises. The new operating budget does not restore the $55.4 million in state appropriation cuts since last June and does not incorporate stimulus funds, which are intended for non-recurring expenses.
Undergraduate tuition and required fees on the Columbia campus will go up by 3.6 percent, the lowest increase in eight years. The percentage corresponds with the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI), an index that measures the increase in operating costs in higher education.
“The university’s budget cuts have been historic, and we have made some difficult choices,” Pastides said. “However, I pledged that we would not resort to a steep tuition increase to offset these cuts, and for the Columbia undergraduates we did not raise tuition one penny above the inflation rate. I am keenly aware of the burden that a big increase would create for our students and their families, and I want to increase – not diminish – access to the University of South Carolina.”
Pastides said that at the Columbia campus, a tuition increase of 16.5 percent would have been required to restore the university’s base budget to the beginning base level for fiscal year 2009.
Seventy-five percent of the operating budget is slated for categories that directly serve students, including instruction, academic support, student services and scholarships, Pastides said.
The new budget reflects priorities that deans and vice presidents were instructed to honor when recalibrating their budgets to manage midyear cuts, he said.
“Throughout this process, I have remained committed to maintaining the best educational experience possible and preserving students’ progress toward their degrees, supporting faculty development, safeguarding health and safety initiatives, maintaining information technology and preserving the university’s infrastructure,” Pastides said.
This year’s budget also marks a shift in funding sources for the university.
“As state funding has diminished, state appropriations have slipped from No. 2 to fourth as a source of funding for USC Columbia and to third for the USC system,” said Dr. Ted Moore, interim provost and vice president for strategic planning.
State appropriations for FY 2009 -10 will make up 16.3 percent of the total system budget and 15 percent of the Columbia campus total budget, following federal grants and contracts, auxiliary enterprises, and tuition and fees.
Even so, Moore said that because stimulus funds are intended only for non-recurring expenditures, and tuition is recurring, stimulus funds were not factored into the budget.
“Tuition is driven by state appropriations,” Moore said. “If one source goes down, another must go up, or additional recurring cuts must be made, and alternative funding sources must be found.”
However, Moore said, the stimulus is badly needed because it will free up recurring funds that otherwise would go toward one-time items. As a result, it reduces pressure on the need to increase tuition further.
The tuition adjustment for undergraduates on the Columbia campus will raise tuition and required fees for in-state students by $159 per semester, to $4,578 per semester. Non-resident tuition and required fees will increase to $11,866 per semester.
Graduate-student tuition and required fees also will increase by 3.6 percent: $176 per semester for in-state students, for a total of $5,094; $372 per semester for non-resident students, for a total of $10,740.
Tuition and required fee increases for the system campuses are 3.6 percent for Beaufort and Upstate and 4.9 percent for Aiken.
For the regional campuses (Lancaster, Salkehatchie, Sumter and Union), students with fewer than 75 credit hours will see tuition and required fees increase by 5 percent. For students with 75 or more credit hours, tuition and required fees will increase by 5.8 percent.
Pastides said arriving at the budget was not easy but that he is pleased that the university was able to protect its core mission of teaching, research and service.
“I am confident that this budget strongly reflects our priorities,” he said. “I have said that we will not allow this crisis to hold us back, and we won’t allow it to hold back our students. We anticipate having one of the biggest and the best freshman classes this fall, and we want to guarantee that they, and all our students, have a first-rate learning and student-life experience that will serve as the foundation for their futures.
Stimulus funds will be distributed strategically on the campuses, Pastides said. Under his leadership, the university has engaged in a yearlong, comprehensive strategic planning study in which faculty, staff and students identified five bold initiatives for enhancing the university’s impact. These initiatives emphasize teaching and learning; research, scholarship and creativity; service excellence; quality of life in the university community, and recognition and visibility.
The University of South Carolina enrolls more than 41,000 students on its eight campuses and has more than 236,000 living alumni around the world.
2009-10 University Budget
- Tuition: 3.6 percent increase for Columbia campus undergraduates is lowest in eight years.
- State appropriations: Down to 16.3 percent of total system budget.