Winthrop OKs tuition increase

Attending Winthrop University just got a little more expensive.

Winthrop's executive board adopted a tuition, room and board and fee schedule Tuesday that totals a 6.24 percent semester increase for in-state undergraduate students and 7.35 percent for out-of-state students.

That tallies $470 more than last year, or a total of $8,005 in tuition and fees, for in-state freshmen living on campus. For out-of-state freshmen living on campus, it is $850 more, or a total of $12,417. Of that, $1,835 is for a double-occupancy room, and $1,065 is for the 21-meals-a-week meal plan.

Tuesday's action allows the executive board to reconvene for modifications if the state budget legislators approved last week is modified through governor vetoes in the coming week. The full Winthrop board delegated budget and tuition authority to the executive board when it met earlier this month.

In the meeting held Tuesday by conference call, Winthrop President Anthony DiGiorgio told the executive board that state allocations most vulnerable to a gubernatorial veto could include the university's some $864,000 share of $19 million the state budgeted for higher education and $1.2 million for Winthrop's maintenance of historic buildings.

The state's roughly $864,000 operating appropriation is $272,423 less than what Winthrop received from the state last year. University officials attributed much of the coming year's fee and tuition increase to that more than $272,000 shortfall, plus inflation and costs of new programs, such as opening the Lois Rhame West Center for health and physical education and Owens Hall.

The percentage increase was less than in some recent years, when Winthrop faced more stringent budget cuts from the state, but includes some fee increases, particularly for athletics and out-of-state students.

Last year's tuition and fee increase including room and board totaled about 7 percent for full-time, in-state students. For several years prior to that, the hike was above 10 percent, largely attributed to a poor post-9-11 economy and state funding cuts.

The university's 1 percent to 2 percent salary merit increase added in recent years to make Winthrop competitive in the Southeast was absent from this year's budget. Current chairman of the faculty conference Tim Daugherty attended Tuesday's meeting and told board members, "I realize it's not possible this year," and urged them to return to it in the future.

"I worry about that," DiGiorgio said. Referring to the state's previous budget formulas, he added, "We have moved far afield from that to an earmark procedure guided more by political influence rather than a dispassionate look at what needs are."

The budget does include a state-mandated 3 percent cost-of-living increase and increases in state benefits.

For the first time, students will pay a $25 library fee and a $20 post office box rental fee, a cost the university previously absorbed. Out-of-state students' tuition alone will increase more than 9 percent compared to less than 7 percent for in-state students.

"Winthrop's commitment is first and foremost to South Carolina students," said university spokeswoman Rebecca Masters. "Because of our national profile, we can raise and capture revenue for the institution so in-state tuition is less. It allows out-of-state students to bring their unique perspective to campus and pay less than they might pay elsewhere."