Clemson tuition goes up

By Eric Sprott
Courtesy The Journal

CLEMSON — Due almost entirely to mandates at the state and federal levels, tuition, housing and meal plan rates are going up at Clemson University.

But, for the time being, students won’t have to face the decision of having to pay an additional fee to sit in the lower bowl at Memorial Stadium during the upcoming football season.

During a teleconference that originated from Sikes Hall on Thursday morning, the university’s board of trustees passed by an 11-1 vote undergraduate tuition increases of 3.14 percent for in-state students and 4.27 percent for out-of-state students — resulting in $218 and $700 increases per semester, respectively.

Graduate student tuition will be raised by more than 6 percent, while housing and dining costs will be up by an average of 5 percent across the board, depending on specific housing and meal plans.

Clemson vice president for finance and operations Brett Dalton explained the increases are primarily due to a 3.25 percent state-mandated cost-of-living increase for employees, state-mandated health and retirement fund increases and the federally mandated Fair Labor Standards Act.

Those mandates alone total $15.7 million — the majority of the $18.8 million in mandatory and inflationary costs the university is facing.

“The trustees are happy with the plan, and they realize the vast majority of the increase is to cover mandated costs and critically important health and safety issues,” board of trustees chairman Smyth McKissick said. “They get that.”

Of note, Dalton said a proposed plan set forth by athletic director Dan Radakovich to charge students $225 for the right to sit in the lower bowl at football games was not part of Thursday’s discussion. With that, Clemson will remain the only school in the ACC that does not charge its student to attend sporting events.

“Those (discussions) are not really on the table,” he said. “There’s no specific proposal, and that’s not even being discussed.”

The plan drew harsh backlash from both Clemson students and alumni, as an online petition against the proposal on has more than 9,200 signatures.

Dalton said he doesn’t expect Radakovich to raise the issue anytime soon, which runs counter to a statement made by Clemson associate athletic director of communications Joe Galbraith.

“The athletic department has continued discussions with the students about football tickets for the past few months,” he told The Journal. “We’re hoping to announce our final plan for the 2016 season around the July board of trustees meeting, but student tickets will remain free for the upcoming season.”

Dalton said state funding helps cover 11 percent of the funding for the 2016-17 fiscal year budget — down from 40 percent in 2000. Mandatory, inflationary and life safety costs totaling $20.7 million alone required a 2.1 percent increase to the university’s budget. The life safety costs are $1.9 million.

“We are committed to protecting the high level of academic quality that our students have come to expect and ensuring that students are able to get the courses they need to graduate on time,” Clemson president Jim Clements said in a news release. “Tuition is crucial in funding our efforts to offer the best college experience possible for our students.

“We also are committed to keeping Clemson affordable, and we appreciate the support of the state and leaders of the General Assembly that has enabled us to keep this tuition increase low.”

The only dissenting vote Thursday came from trustee Bob Peeler, who also cast the lone dissenting vote during the finance and facilities committee meeting that immediately preceded the full board vote.