The Daily Gamecock

State of USC's union: USC promises careful look at tuition raises

Speech brings 750 attendees

President Harris Pastides said USC will be cautious in future tuition hikes and won't ask for more money unless it is "directly tied to improving the already high quality of their education."

Currently, USC's in-state tuition rate of $10,168 per year is the highest of any SEC school, minus Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt is a private school and doesn't rely on state funds. The out-of-state rate is the second highest of any public school in the SEC at around $26,000 each year.

"We will be restrained in any future tuition increases, but the quality that has become the cornerstone of our education cannot be allowed to recede," Pastides said.

The remarks came as part of USC's annual state of the university speech, this year underneath the Horseshoe's sweeping trees on a cool, crisp Wednesday morning.

Pastides said USC will consider "more significant" and possibly permanent raises for faculty and staff who earn $100,000 or less in upcoming years. His comments on permanent raises came just after some employees criticized the university's 2011 bonus plan as not enough.

Faculty and staff earning less than $100,000 are eligible to receive a one-time average bonus of 1.5 percent — or $750 on a $50,000 salary — in October. But Clemson employees will receive permanent bonuses that average above 2 percent in 2011.

"Employees asked, 'Are we not as good as them?'" Pastides said of what he called the Upstate school. "They wanted to know, 'Do we not work as hard as them?'"

Pastides said the terms of future "merit salary adjustments" would be determined by Provost Michael Amiridis and Ed Walton, USC's chief financial officer.

During the 25-minute speech, Pastides also briefed the audience on the Carolina's Promise capital campaign. Pastides said the university will try to raise "around" $1 billion by June 2015, but an official goal hasn't been announced. The campaign will launch during a November black tie gala at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center and will later continue with public events across the state and nation.

The university's last campaign, dubbed Bicentennial, raised about $500 million and concluded in 2002.

Other themes of the speech included the university's intersection with the legislature. Pastides said USC officials no longer expected significant financial support from the state. Less than 10 percent of the university's revenue came from state government in 2010. Instead, USC now wants limited state regulation on building projects. The university recently hired Trey Walker, formerly a top aide to Gov. Nikki Haley, for added legislative pull.

"We recognize that the state will not be in the position or have the inclination to provide substantial increases in our appropriation, which is now below 10 percent," Pastides said. "Our budget model is more like that of a private university today than that of a public university of yesterday."

He also thanked the legislature's one-time $11 million commitment for maintenance projects in 2011. Pastides said USC will request a "continued allotment" for such projects.

The speech was attended by about 750 and preceded with a rousing performance by the marching band.

"It was well-written and well-articulated," said Elliott Hawkins, a first-year history student. "I liked what he had to say. This university has a bright future."

USC heavily promoted the event with dozens of tweets, posters all over campus and several email alerts that cost USC about $3,200.