The Daily Gamecock

USC tuition increase highest in 5 years

The Board of Trustees approved a tuition increase of 3.25 percent on Friday, which is the largest increase the university has seen in five years.

For the 2015-16 academic year, students with residency in South Carolina paid up to $11,482 in tuition fees, and non-South Carolina residents paid up to $30,298. Starting in the fall of 2016, resident tuition will cost $11,855 and out-of-state tuition will cost $31,283. This is close to a $1,000 increase for out-of-state students.

The State reported that other public four-year colleges in South Carolina have approved similar tuition increases. Clemson increased tuition by 3.14 percent for in-state students and a staggering 4.27 percent for out-of-state students, who make up about one-third of the student population. College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina hiked up tuition by 3.5 percent and 3.29 percent, respectively.

State funding for USC and other public higher education outlets has steadily decreased since the 1980s and took another big hit after the Great Recession. In 2007, funding from the state accounted for 23 percent of USC's budget — over twice as much as the meager portion, about 10.5 percent, it now funds.

The American Council of Education cites South Carolina as one of the "biggest losers" when it comes to funding for higher education. The state's government has decreased funding for public universities by 66.8 percent between 1980 and 2011. According to ACE, if this trend continues state funding will reach zero by 2031.

President Harris Pastides, who in 2014 pressed the general assembly to account for a 3 percent increase in tuition to no avail, told the state that this year's tuition hike is a small increase. He noted that more than all of the 3.25 percent would account for the pay raise going to faculty and staff this school year.

For in-state students, a 3.25 percent increase would mean paying $373 more than the 2015-16 school year. But for out-of-state and international students, that percentage results in a much greater burden of nearly $1,000.

Rohan Bhandari, a first-year international business student from India, will be at USC for the whole four years. For him, the tuition increase is heavier than it is for most students.

"Even one percent hike is so much for us," Bhandari said. "The population is increasing, and as the population increases they should decrease the tuition."

Fourth-year English student Zoe Henrikson was unimpressed with the tuition hike in relation to the ever-growing population of students at USC. 

"You'd think if we're adding so many students then it wouldn't be necessary to raise tuition that drastically," she said.

Pastides told The State that the increase in student population, questioned by Bhandari and Henrikson, is what keeps tuition from being bumped up even higher.

In addition to a tuition hike, USC will increase dining, housing and parking fees. Housing fees will cost 4 percent more than last year, averaging about $5,130 per student. As for parking, students will pay $80 more for garages and $10 more for surface lots for a full year. According to USC, the increased parking fee will account for an improvement in parking facilities, such as better lighting, more cameras and repainted lines.