AIKEN -Tuition at most state universities and colleges is going up - again.
This time, the cost is anywhere from 3.1 percent to 8 percent higher than last year. The reason is that most boards of trustees have approved increases near the national Higher Education Price Index, which measures inflation in the cost of products that colleges use. The index now is 3.1 percent.
Legislatively mandated increases for salaries and insurance coverage also hit colleges on their own bottom lines, "and guess what, they don't give us money to do that," said Deidre Martin, spokeswoman for University of South Carolina Aiken.
Every one of the Palmetto State's publicly financed colleges and universities, except The Citadel, will raise tuition for this fall.
At USC Aiken, tuition will increase 7.5 percent for in-state students and 7.8 percent for nonresidents. That means a semester now will cost $1,729, but it's still one of the least expensive schools to attend in the state.
The board of trustees approved the raise and the university's $21.8 million budget three weeks ago. South Carolina provides 40 percent of the budget, and the remainder comes from tuition, fees and grants.
Mrs. Martin said administrators will hire four new faculty members in math, sociology, psychology and biology with the extra $120 from every student. The university also plans to buy 94 new computers.
Student enrollment at the campus is expected to be about 3,000, the same as last year. But more freshman have been accepted - 1,008, compared to 860 in 1999.
"I think our secret is out," said Julie Bush, director of student recruitment. "We may be a back-door college, but we have a lot to offer, mainly a small atmosphere where students can get to know their professors and where quality is not sacrificed."
Ms. Bush said part of the university's popularity comes from being ranked as the second-best regional liberal arts school in the South by the U.S. News & World Report guide to U.S. colleges.
This year, freshmen from 33 of the 46 South Carolina counties have been accepted, and 25 states are represented. The average grade-point average of those students is 3.17, and the average score on the SAT is 958 out of a possible 1,600.
The state Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education also has agreed to let technical colleges raise full-time tuition by $100 a semester, from $650 to $750.
Aiken Technical College will raise its tuition, but only by $75, unlike many of its competitors. That means a semester now costs $650.
Throughout the Southeast, costs will rise everywhere except Virginia, according to the Southern Regional Education Board. Reported increases range from 1.2 percent to 14.6 percent in Maryland, 5 percent in Florida and 5.3 percent in Kentucky.
One financial ray of sunshine does brighten the picture a little bit for South Carolina college-bound students. The Legislature raised the LIFE scholarship from $2,000 to $3,000 per year for those who attend four-year schools.
Reach Chasiti Kirkland at (803) 279-6895.
University of South Carolina Aiken: to $1,729 from $1,609, a 7.5 percent increase
South Carolina State University: to $3,654 from $3,410, a 7.2 percent increase
Clemson University: to $3,590 a year from $3,470, a 3.5 percent increase
University of South Carolina: to $3,768 from $3,640, a 3.5 percent increase
The College of Charleston: to $3,630 from $3,520, a 3.1 percent increase
Aiken Technical College: to $650 from $575, a 1.7 percent increase