COLUMBIA — The University of South Carolina’s record-high enrollment and tuition are generating a nice chunk of extra money.
With enrollment up by 3,500 students from four years ago to nearly 31,000 and tuition rising another 3.15 percent this year, school leaders project USC will have $16.7 million more to spend than a year ago.
A majority of the extra money is coming from higher tuition. Annual tuition and fees have increased by $1,650, or 19 percent, in the past four years.
About half of the cash is slated for state-mandated pay raises that USC must cover because its state funding has shrunk due to the lingering poor economy.
Some of the extra money is going toward administrative costs. These include $300,000 to hire more staff for the $1 billion Carolina’s Promise fundraising campaign and $150,000 to cover the costs of additional trustee meetings, USC spokesman Wes Hickman said. Another $1 million will help lower debt.
Other funds are going to student-related programs, including efforts to recruit better students and keep them in school as well as increasing staffing and academic assistance, public safety and maintenance services to match the higher enrollment.
“We’re using the growth to reinvest,” said Stacey Bradley, USC’s associate vice president for student affairs and academics. “We have not adjusted to the [student] growth in past years. As we have been dealing with the state budget cuts, the goal was not to reduce staffing.”
A key target for the new money is an ongoing four-year, $20-million plan to hire more faculty members with greater experience. By 2015, USC expects to raise its faculty staffing by 250 to 1,250, Provost Michael Amiridis said.
In a meeting with reporters last month, Amiridis introduced more than a dozen new faculty members, some of whom had tenure at their previous schools.
The veteran hires help offset an experience drain that resulted when some long-term USC faculty chose to retire early because of possible changes in the state retirement system.
“They are bringing a wealth of academic knowledge to us,” Amiridis said.
Plus with the recent weak economy, he said USC enjoyed a “great buyer’s market out there.”