Tuition set to rise at 4 SC public universities

The (Columbia) StateJune 16, 2013 

Four of South Carolina's public colleges and universities are increasing in-state tuition for 2013-14, and the University of South Carolina could announce its rates for the coming year as early as Monday.

Among in-state tuition increases announced so far, The Citadel has the smallest, at 3 percent, with Winthrop at 3.1 percent, and College of Charleston and Lander University at 3.16 and 3.15 percent, respectively.

Coastal Carolina University has said it will not raise in-state tuition.

The University of South Carolina's board of trustees will consider on Monday rates for Columbia and its seven regional campuses. USC last year raised tuition 3.15 percent, on par with other state-funded institutions -- and its smallest tuition increase since 1999.

USC President Harris Pastides said at last year's board meeting that future tuition increases would be "this low or lower."

Two years ago, as South Carolinians were struggling to recover from the economic downturn, state Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee that allocates funds to all 12 public four-year institutions, challenged schools to keep tuition hikes below 3.95 percent.

Some legislators had warned at the time of possible budget cuts to schools that didn't comply. Most did, with an average in-state tuition increase the year after that request of 3.29 percent.

This spring, Leatherman sent a letter to college presidents, asking that tuition be increased no more than 3.16 percent for in-state students. His suggested limit does not apply to out-of-state tuition rates.

The increases are modest, compared to some of the double-digit increases over the past decade at some of the state's public four-year colleges and universities. By comparison, the consumer price index for all goods and services purchased in the United States rose 1.1 percent between April 2012 and April 2013, the latest figures available.

But the smaller in-state tuition increases, along with reductions in state funds, have squeezed some of the state's higher education institutions. At USC, for example, state funding has dropped by more than half since 2008, from $225 million to $100 million in the past five years. Both versions of the state budget, which has not yet passed, would allocate more than $112 million to USC, including nearly $6 million for the newly created online continuing education program, Palmetto College.

Several other four-year colleges and universities are still considering tuition. The state's other largest university, Clemson, is likely to announce its tuition rates for 2013-14 in mid-July, when its board of trustees meets in Charleston.

The Charleston Post and Courier contributed to this report.

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