CCU | An economic engine for Horry County

The primary mission of Coastal Carolina University is to be an educational and cultural resource for the state and, more specifically, for the Waccamaw region. This was the principal goal of our founders in the summer of 1954, when they met in Conway and resolved to bring higher education to this area.

A significant additional benefit of the university is the role it plays in the local economy. Our total economic impact on Horry County is conservatively estimated to be about $296 million for this coming year. This figure excludes the additional economic boost from the numerous construction projects on our campus that are under way or soon to be under way, which total $246 million. The calculated impact of these dollars is approximately $413 million over a six-year period. Less than $1 million of these construction dollars – $832,000 to be exact – is coming from Columbia, by the way.

Our budget this academic year will be $182 million. We currently have 1,033 full-time and 429 part-time employees and, during the school year, we employ approximately 1,070 students in part-time capacities through a work-study program that assists both the institution and the students financially. The median salary of our full-time employees is a little over $51,300.

Only 5.3 percent of our budget comes from the state. This means that we must generate from other sources nearly 95 cents of every dollar we spend and we do this primarily in two ways.

First, we vigorously market the institution to prospective students and recruit energetically all over the state, the East Coast and the Midwest. Our student population will exceed 9,000 this coming academic year. About half of our student body comes from other states and countries. Those students will account for roughly $60 million of our revenues in the form of tuition, room and board. They also spend money off-campus for things like entertainment, gasoline, clothing and other goods and services.

It is true that a lot of the tuition dollars we receive are from federal student loans, but our students have a very low default rate and are reliable in paying back those funds. Our default rate for the most recent years calculated – 2009 and 2010 – is just over 4 percent, while the national average is close to 7 percent.

Second, we operate in an entrepreneurial fashion in a number of areas and generate revenue by contracting out the bookstore and food service, for example, and by hosting a large number of camps in the summers.

We raise funds in the form of philanthropy from private sources, but we neither solicit nor receive any donations for our operating budget. Donors tend to give to capital projects, scholarships and special programs, rather than operations. The university also receives an appropriation from Horry County Council through the Horry County Higher Education Commission, but few of these dollars go into the operating budget, as most all of this money goes for scholarships to Horry County students and construction of new facilities.

The university will generate about $8 million in sales tax revenues this year for the state’s treasury. Our out-of-state student population accounts for close to $4.5 million of that revenue. State income tax from our payroll will be in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. All totaled, CCU will contribute somewhere around $10.5 million in revenues to the state this year. By any measure, our net cost to the taxpayer is a very, very low number and we actually believe that we account for more money being sent to Columbia than we are receiving from the state budget. Accordingly, Coastal Carolina University is definitely a good investment – financially and otherwise – for the taxpayers and citizens of South Carolina and especially for the Waccamaw region.

During this continuing economic downturn, we’ve still been able to increase our student population and expand our infrastructure and facilities. The bulk of our new construction has been financed by the university’s share of the penny sales tax that is dedicated to K-16 education in Horry County and we cannot thank the people of the Independent Republic enough for these funds. Without them, we would not have been able to grow. Period. Another large portion of construction funds have come from bonds financed by a tuition increase that the students themselves requested. These funds built the new student convocation and recreation center, for example.

At the direction and guidance of our board of trustees, our current president, Dr. David DeCenzo, has instituted a number of management modifications and innovations that have moved us toward a business model for our administrative functions. This has resulted in numerous efficiencies and cost savings. As a result, we’ve been able to cut several million dollars in expenses from our operating budget and, for this coming year, we were able to announce a zero increase in tuition for in-state students and a nominal increase for our out-of-state students. This puts us in a very small and elite group of higher education institutions nationally for the coming academic year. And we are resolved to continue to hold down costs to our students and their families, while maintaining the growth that we have enjoyed for virtually every year of our existence, growth that helps our local economy in so many ways.

Edgar Dyer is Chief Operating Officer at Coastal Carolina University and has been at the institution since 1976.