Clemson University announced a tuition increase Wednesday that will have South Carolina students pay almost $12,000 per year, for now the second-highest tuition among public colleges and universities in the state.
Clemson, citing a $27 million cut in annual state support, raised tuition and required fees by $830 a year, or 7.5 percent, for in-state students and $2,032, or 8 percent, for out-of-state students. Students attending Clemson from out of state will now pay $27,420 a year.
Clemson is the 12th out of the state's 13 public four-year colleges to raise tuition.
State Rep. Chip Limehouse, the Charleston Republican who is chairman of a higher education subcommittee in the House of Representatives, said colleges and universities should not continue passing on state budget cuts to students and families.
"This is just the beginning of a trend," Limehouse said of state budget cuts to higher education and other state agencies. "This is going to continue for the next several years it looks like."
Like administrators at the University of South Carolina, who announced their own tuition increase last week, Clemson officials blamed tuition increases not only on a reduction in state funding but also on the end of federal stimulus cash to cushion the blow of state cuts.
"This plan allows us to manage significant state funding cuts, continue to provide a top-quality education for our students and maintain our commitment to drive economic development and create jobs for South Carolina," Clemson President James Barker said.
Only at the Medical University of South Carolina, which has a tuition range that starts at $12,852, would in-state students pay more than the $11,908 Clemson students will pay next academic year.
Officials at Winthrop University, where tuition is $11,606 for in-state students, have not approved an expected tuition increase this year. An increase there could move Winthrop's tuition above what Clemson charges.
In announcing the tuition increase, Clemson officials said the university's state funding has been reduced by about $75 million since June 2008.
Clemson's tuition increase is expected to bring in an estimated $17 million. Other moves -- the elimination of 450 positions, furloughs, deferring construction projects, outsourcing and administrative and support cuts -- have helped the university handle the reduction in state funding.
The 7.5 percent tuition increase for in-state students at Clemson is higher than the 6.9 percent increase USC officials announced last week. And Clemson's hike is higher than the 4.9 percent increase at Coastal Carolina University and the 6.5 percent increase at Francis Marion University.
The College of Charleston and The Citadel have announced the largest tuition increases in the state so far, 14.75 percent and 13 percent respectively.
John Bednar, a Clemson professor and frequent critic of the university's administration, said the tuition increases there could have been smaller.
"Bleeding the students and their families without showing a willingness to make sacrifices in their own lives is shameful," said Bednar, who has complained about large raises given to senior staff members at Clemson.
Clemson officials have argued that raises were given to retain highly-sought-after staff members or to bring their pay in line with those at other universities who have similar duties.
State colleges continue to walk a thin line. They want to fund their ambitions and maintain instructional quality while also making sure they do not price prospective S.C. students out of a chance to earn a college degree.
"The answer is not tuition increases," Limehouse said. "The answer is for colleges and universities to cut their budgets."