ORANGEBURG — South Carolina State University’s board of trustees approved a 2.5 percent tuition jump and increases in some student fees for the 2013-2014 school year, moves that will bring in about $1.6 million.
The board approved the increases with a 7-1 vote Tuesday at a one-day retreat on the campus of the state’s only public historically black university. Trustee Patricia Lott was opposed.
S.C. State did not raise tuition or fees last year.
At the retreat, the board focused on financial concerns at the struggling school, after learning that the university has accumulated a deficit of about $8 million over the past several years.
South Carolina undergraduates will pay $9,775 in tuition and fees next year, up from $9,258 in the 2012-2013 school year. Out-of-state students will pay $18,910, up from $18,170
Those rates include a 2.5 percent increase on the tuition portion of what students must pay, and an additional $150 for athletics and health center fees.
Some board members initially objected to the tuition increase, because many low-income students attend the university and it already is hard for them to cover the cost. Thomas Elzey, the university’s new president, said the jump was necessary. “We’re a business and we have a serious financial problem.”
S.C. State is facing a $1.6 million deficit for fiscal year 2013, which ends June 30, said Eric Eaton, the university’s assistant vice president for finance. The school began the year with a $6.4 million deficit, which means it has a rolling deficit of $8 million. Eaton said the tuition and fee increases will cover the fiscal 2013 shortfall.
Elzey said the only way to eliminate the deficit is to create an annual surplus and reduce it over time.
The board will discuss other deficit-reducing measures at its next meeting in September, Eaton said. It’s too early to know specifically what those measures would include, he said, but they could include reducing the number of employees. For instance, he said, university leaders have identified 42 positions that they possibly could cut, for a savings of $3.7 million.
Eaton also said the school’s budget problems are largely due to declining enrollment.
In the fall of 2011, about 4,300 students had enrolled, he said. Last fall, enrollment had dropped to around 3,800. The university expects about 3,500 students to enroll this year.
Eaton said S.C. State enrolls many low-income students, and he said that most students who don’t return do so for financial reasons.
Elzey said it’s possible that students who have chosen not to return in the fall would do so if additional financial assistance was available to them. He plans soon to meet with leaders from the school’s foundation to see if they can make more aid available.
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.