Updated August 24
The University of South Carolina has changed radically since I graduated in the early 2000s.
But much is still the same at USC’s Columbia campus—the rusty newspaper boxes at busy intersections still hold inky stacks of The Daily (USC) Gamecock and The (Columbia) Free Times.
At the school’s center, a fountain streams into the reflection pool in front of the Thomas Cooper Library, where I spent countless hours poring over tomes in the basement and listening to the elevator whine.
The fingerprint the school’s modern-day building boom has left on the city is unmistakable, too.
The Moore School of Business, a $106 million environmentally friendly structure, lies on the city’s edge along Assembly Street.
Across the walkway from the library sits a newly opened $27.5 million, 68,000 square foot student health facility, which is adjacent to the existing Thomson Student Health Center. That center will continue to serve a growing student population—roughly 34,000 students, compared to 29,000 in 2010.
Students flocked to USC as tuition rates crept up, and as the university pursued a growth strategy to subsidize in-state students’ tuition by attracting non-resident students and to expand and modernize the campus.
“We all know why we’re here,” university president, Harris Pastides told a Senate panel on Tuesday. “We’ve had to increase out-of-state enrollment because of the drastic cuts that you have given to us in state funding.”
Non-resident tuition and fees are the university’s leading source of revenue, followed by grants, in-state tuition, auxillary funds like those raised through athletics, and finally, state appropriations.
General funds appropriated to USC in the state budget grew from $164.5 million to $178.8 million from fiscal years 2007 to 2009. Funding dropped to $140.8 million in fiscal year 2010, after the Great Recession took full effect.
General funds grew from $122.5 million to $129.5 million from fiscal years 2017 to 2018, which began in July. The fiscal year runs from July through June.
Annual in-state tuition and fees grew—before the recession led to steep funding cuts by lawmakers—from $7,808 to $8,838 from 2006 to 2008. Non-resident tuition and fees grew from $20,236 to $22,908 during that time.
In-state students paid $5,429 on average for the 2016 fall semester, Pastides said, while non-residents paid an average of $9,445.
Roughly 3,200 students annually pay the university’s top tuition rate,—out of four rates—currently set at $31,282, but no South Carolinian pays that much, he said. Forty-two percent of students aren’t state residents.
The university may begin winding down its expansion soon. “We are beginning to be saturated,” Pastides said, citing a new campus village, student apartments and renovated classrooms. “That cannot go on forever.”
“I think we’ve achieved as much growth as we should,” he said. “I don’t think it’s too much, but I think it’s about right there, and I think any more or much more would be detrimental.”
University and state officials have cobbled together funds to pay for new construction and renovations through a variety of sources including—
- State institution bonds—debt based on funds to be collected from tuition. The university had $147.9 million in SIBs outstanding as of June 2016.
- Institutional capital project funds—surpluss of student fees collected from state institution bonds. Required to be spent on capital projects.
- Revenue bonds—payable by various sources of the university’s revenue.
- Student fees—students pay a bond fee, which pays down debt on the university’s bonds. Surplusses from the bond fee must be spent on capital projects. A standard student fee increased from $275 to $319 between the 2006-2007 school year and the current year. That fee for non-resident students is currently set at $815. Student health fees range from $123 to $184 per semester, depending on a student’s course load, and go to fund the new student health facility.
A USC spokesman was unavailable to comment prior to publication.
New buildings and significant renovations:
Moore School of Business at Greene and Assembly streets—cost—$106.5M
-$65M revenue bonds
-$15M state institution bonds
-$2.1M insitutional funds—operating funds for capital projects
Law center on Senate Street—cost—$80M
-$48.1M state institution bonds
-$10M capital improvement funds
-$10M other funds
Student health center—cost—$27.5M
-$14.5M student health fees
-$13M state institution bonds
Law center renovation between Assembly and Main streets—cost—$47M
Use—to be used for classrooms and labs. Work projected to begin this fall.
-$43.5M state institution bonds
-$3.5M from the state Capital Reserve Fund, which is a recurring appropriation that is a small percentage of the General Fund
Close-Hipp renovation—formerly housed the business school—cost—$16M
Use—College of Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management. Part of the project has been approved. Renovations have begun.
-$13.2M institutional capital project funds
-$600,000 institutional funds