Winthrop uncertain over tuition

Students and parents eager to know the cost of enrolling at Winthrop University this fall will have to wait longer.

The school cannot decide on a potential tuition increase until state lawmakers resolve an impasse over the annual budget. Winthrop administrators are uncertain how much money they can count on next year from Columbia.

"This is a very different year from anything that has been encountered in recent memory," said Rebecca Masters, assistant to school president Anthony DiGiorgio. "We're going to have to take it a week at a time with these legislative sessions. A great deal of it is certainly in flux."

The House has refused to finalize negotiations on a $7.4 billion spending plan until an agreement can be reached with the Senate on how to reform the state's Transportation Department and workers compensation system.

Winthrop and schools across the state hope to know more after lawmakers meet again June 20 through June 22 to hammer out compromises. Families may be forced to wait until later this summer to find out tuition costs.

"I'm fairly confident there will be an increase, but we're using our best efforts to keep it as low as possible," said board chairman Karl Folkens, whose daughter, Elizabeth, will be a senior at Winthrop this fall.

Two other state-assisted universities already have increased tuition: the College of Charleston, by 7.5 percent to $7,778; and Francis Marion University, by 7.3 percent to $7,038.

Currently, Winthrop has the highest tuition among state-assisted schools, at $9,500 annually, followed by Clemson at $9,400.

The uncertainty over tuition was among the topics during a quarterly board of trustees meeting held by conference call on Friday. The board also voted unanimously to extend DiGiorgio's contract to 2013.

DiGiorgio was given the highest available rating of "exceeds expectations" during his formal evaluation. That rating now goes to the State Agency Head Salary Commission, which will make a recommendation on a salary increase.

DiGiorgio, whose current salary is $157,380, will begin his 19th year at Winthrop in July. He is the longest-serving public university president in South Carolina.