UofSC budget to address strategic needs, state pay package
By Wes Hickman, email@example.com
The University of South Carolina Board of Trustees today approved the $1.5 billion budget for the state’s flagship university system that covers FY17 operations at USC’s eight campuses and Palmetto College online. With 50,000 students enrolled throughout the system preparing to enter the workforce as highly employable graduates and a $4.1 billion annual economic impact on the state, USC is one of the key drivers of South Carolina’s economic and overall well-being.
Only 10.5 percent of USC’s budget will come from state appropriations next year while tuition and fees comprise 48 percent. Grants, contracts and gifts account for 25.5 percent; auxiliary enterprises like housing, parking and athletics make up 13 percent; and, sales and services contribute 2.7 percent.
“In South Carolina, as in many other states across the country, public policy has shifted the burden of paying for college away from the state to students and their families,” said USC President Harris Pastides. “To help keep costs down for South Carolinians, we’ve become more efficient. We’ve made cuts, eliminated programs, innovated, looked for new sources of revenue, made better use of our facilities and launched initiatives to help students graduate in four years or less, ready to enter the workforce, well-educated in their discipline, with real-world experience under their belt and leadership experiences to set them apart.”
Pastides noted that on average, a bachelor’s degree holder will earn $15,000 more per year and $1 million more over a lifetime than someone without a four-year degree.
USC students also graduate with less debt. Forty-six percent of USC Columbia students do not borrow at all and those who do graduate with an average debt of $28,233—below both the national and state averages. In addition, USC students can repay their debt—the three-year cohort default rate is 4.1 percent compared to 11.8percent nationally.
According to Pastides, that is attributable both to the employability of USC graduates (the unemployment rate for four-year degree holders in South Carolina is about half the overall state average) and the school’s ability to keep actual out-of-pocket tuition costs well below the sticker price. When combined with benefits from private scholarships/grants and the South Carolina Education Lottery (where scholarship dollars flow directly to the student not the institution) USC’s efficiency holds those out-of-pocket costs to $2,750 per semester on average.
Investing in academic excellence and student experience
“While efficiency and affordability remain institutional imperatives, we cannot shy away from our pursuit of excellence,” added Pastides. “We must continue to improve, to strategically invest in the educational and research mission, academic support and student experience that constitute the essence of a USC education. And, we must do so while facing increasing costs and, this year, a well-earned state pay package. Our faculty and staff work tirelessly to support our students. I’m extremely appreciative of their dedication to our mission.”
The budget approved by Board of Trustees includes a modest 3.25 percent increase in tuition at all system campuses. That new revenue will help USC pay for the state-mandated pay and fringe package.
According to USC Chief Financial Officer Leslie Brunelli, the total cost of the 3.25 percent pay and fringe package for the core operating budget at the Columbia campus is approximately $11.8 million. Of that, the state is expected to provide about $4.4 million. USC is responsible for funding the balance with tuition revenue. The pay and fringe impact to auxiliary enterprises, grants and all other funds is an additional $4.5 million which must be covered through fees or other revenues.
The remaining portion of the new tuition revenue, combined with enrollment growth and $6.5 million in new recurring funding the state provided to support strategic initiatives, will be invested to address strategic needs including $10.8 million to support academic instruction and the hiring of additional faculty and $2.5 million in academic, student and administrative support initiatives in areas including law enforcement and safety, library research resources, student success and diversity and inclusion. Those projects represent less than one-quarter of the $58 million in meritorious strategic initiatives proposed by faculty and staff on the Columbia campus, according to Brunelli.
Pastides thanked the General Assembly for what new funding they were able to provide in the FY17 state budget, particularly recognizing Sen. Hugh Leatherman and Rep. Jim Merrill for their support and work on behalf of higher education. In addition to the $6.5 million in recurring funding for Columbia, the rest of the system received approximately $2 million. The state budget also contained $8.5 million in one-time funding for capital projects across the system, including $5 million for the South Carolina Honors College building in Columbia.
However, Pastides noted, change must occur.
“We’ve been saying for years, with little success, that the current model is unsustainable,” said Pastides. “As a state, we made the hard decisions and drastically cut funding to survive the Great Recession. At USC, we not only survived, we thrived. We grew enrollment, cut expenses, focused on our strengths and became a destination of choice for students in South Carolina and across the country.
“Our state has made it through, we’re in post-recovery; yet, public investment in higher education continues to stagnate, small but much appreciated increases are wiped out by increasing costs and tuitions continue to rise as universities strive to improve. As I speak to university presidents in South Carolina, we recognize the problem and we are ready to engage in a serious conversation about public policy. Unless there is real and significant dialogue, that pattern will hold.”
“Higher education is the key to South Carolina’s economic well-being and prosperity. The state needs 70,000 more baccalaureate degree holders in the next 15 years to meet the demands of business. To get there, higher education must be kept affordable. To do so will require a new dynamic in South Carolina; a new partnership between state government and higher education that commits to investing in a better future.”
FY2017 tuition per semester
Columbia Campus (3.25 percent)
Medical School – Columbia & Greenville
Resident- $20,136 (3 percent)
Non-Resident- $43,875 (no change)
Law School (3.25 percent)
USC Aiken (3.25 percent)
USC Beaufort (3.25 percent)
USC Upstate (3.25 percent)
Palmetto College Campuses - under 75 credit hours (3.25 percent)
Palmetto College Campuses – 75 or more credit hours (3 percent)
Palmetto College Online (3 percent)
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