Stimulus tempers USC tuition increases

COLUMBIA --- University of South Carolina officials gave key approval Thursday to a budget plan that would raise tuition for most students by 3.6 percent, saying stimulus funds helped avoid even higher increases and saved vital programs.

In-state undergraduates at the school's largest campus in Columbia will pay about $300 more a year in tuition and fees under a $1.08 billion budget plan. Students at the school's Beaufort and Upstate campuses could see annual increases of $250 and $300, respectively. The committee approved a 3.6 percent increase for tuition and fees for those two campuses, while tuition at the Aiken campus will rise 4.9 percent or around $370 a year.

"Frankly without the stimulus funds there would have been no way -- even with a hefty tuition increase -- to have even begun to fund the changes that we seek," said USC President Harris Pastides, adding that a tuition increase of 16.5 percent would have been needed to offset budget problems at the Columbia campus.

The state Supreme Court last week ordered Gov. Mark Sanford to seek $700 million in federal stimulus money over the next two years that he had refused to request. USC will get around $30 million in each of the next two years, but has lost $55 million in state funding over the past year for its main campus and its seven branches.

Students at the university's regional campuses will see increases of at least 5 percent. That's an increase of between $260 and $440 annually for students at the school's Lancaster, Salkehatchie, Sumter and Union campuses.

USC's full board of trustees will give a final vote this month.

CUTS MADE

The University of South Carolina was forced to make some cuts:

- There will be 500 fewer class sections

- The school's soft hiring freeze will continue

- Adjunct faculty will not be rehired

OTHER UNIVERSITIES

- The board of trustees at the College of Charleston approved 7 percent tuition increases for undergraduate students earlier this week.

- South Carolina State University trustees have voted to raise tuition 8.4 percent for the coming year.