University President speaks out against tuition caps
University President Jim Barker spoke out against Governor Sanford’s budget cuts to higher education and his proposed tuition cap at the annual State of Clemson Address last Thursday.
Despite all the achievements the University has had this year, Barker said Clemson still has a long way to go and needs to be aware of potential problems, particularly the budget cuts.
“We must be alert to the things that will slow down our momentum and, in fact, can cause our momentum to come to a screeching halt,” Barker said.
The governor’s executive budget is the most immediate threat the success of the University, according to Barker. The executive budget cuts include a $4 million cut to Clemson public service activities, 3.5 percent cut to the maintenance and facility budget and a 1 percent cut to the education and general budget.
In addition, the budget cuts mean no pay raises to faculty and staff and $10 million reduction in funding endowed chairs.
Governor Sanford is also proposing a tuition cap.
"Capping tuition is a much-needed short term way to force more collaboration in the higher educational system, but we believe restructuring higher educational governance is the long-term solution," Gov. Sanford said in a press release.
"We can't price our kids out of the market for higher education if we're going to compete in the knowledge-based economy, and recent tuition increases are largely a result of duplication and inefficiency within the higher educational system. I believe this group's results will not only illustrate the real benefits of restructuring higher educational governance, but in the near term will come up with some solutions for reining in these spiraling tuition increases."
Barker, however, disagrees with Sanford. “On the surface the cap seems like a good idea. Sanford has said that the cap needs to be implemented because a (South Carolina) in-state student pays higher tuition than an in-state student in North Carolina or Georgia and that’s true, but let’s tell the whole story,” he said.
Over the past 10 years, state appropriations per student has increased by 24 percent in Georgia and 11 percent in North Carolina but has decreased by 26 percent in South Carolina. That makes South Carolina’s per student appropriation 72 percent less than that of the southern regional average.
To put that number into perspective, South Carolina appropriates less that $4,000 per student than North Carolina, $2,500 less than Georgia and $3,500 less than Florida.
“If South Carolina provided an adequate base for funding …, we wouldn’t need the tuition cap,” Barker said.
Along with fighting the tuition cap, Barker cited a number of priorities for the next 12 months including recruiting 140 new faculty members (and hiring 117), developing a resource and campus facilities plan and enrolling a Top 20 student body.
Barker began his address on a positive note by noting all the accomplishments the University has had over the last year. The average freshman SAT score rose 21 points to 1225, and the number of Palmetto Fellows, the top 1,000 students in the state, attending Clemson increased 24 percent.
“We’re not just moving forward; we’re trying to listen to the things we need to improve on, and we’re trying to take action in that regard,” said Barker.
However, Barker said, the City of Clemson has contributed to the success of the University.
“This partnership that makes up the word ‘college town’ is really one of equal parts, and we at the University pledge ourselves to look as much at the second part of that phrase as much as the first part as we look into our future. We’re proud to be a part of that,” he said.
Clemson Mayor Larry Abernathy also spoke Thursday afternoon on the state of the city. Mayor Abernathy said $100 million in new development has come into Clemson this year in various forms including condos, new apartments and a grocery story.