CLEMSON -- Clemson University President James Barker, like all the other state college leaders, faces possible state budget cuts for the year that begins July 1.
But don't look for him to balance his budget by opening the doors to more freshmen.
With tuition for South Carolina residents at $10,000, he could increase revenue $1 million by admitting 100 additional students. But Clemson has kept its freshman enrollment target at 2,800 for several years, and Barker insists that is the right size for his institution as he pursues a Top 20 ranking among public universities nationwide.
"Clemson is always going to focus on quality, not quantity," Barker said after a board of trustees meeting in Columbia on Friday, at which a 6 percent cost increase for housing and meals was approved for the fall semester. "The idea of increasing numbers is not part of our future."
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The other way to get more money to make up for a shortfall in state support would be to increase tuition and fees that individual students pay.
"The very last thing we'll do is increase tuition," Barker said. "We'll exhaust all other efforts first, including reducing spending."
Graduate school enrollment has grown; doctoral candidates numbered 1,130 last year, compared with 684 in 2001. Doctoral applications have soared 25 percent over last year, Barker said in his report to the board.
"We believe we have not reached critical mass in some of our graduate programs," Barker said. "But increasing the size of the freshman class is not something we have considered."
There's no shortage of people who want to become Clemson freshmen; Barker said applications are running 10 percent higher than this time last year. Officials said more than 40,000 people comprising families of would-be students have visited the campus in the past year.
So far, Clemson has received 14,095 applications, with 4,838 from South Carolina residents and 9,257 from out-of-state residents. An additional 1,500 applications are expected.
Keeping a lid on enrollment despite the demand is part of Barker's strategy to win the Top 20 ranking among public universities from U.S. News and World Report magazine.
The University of South Carolina has taken a different approach, allowing freshman enrollment to top 4,000 this year for the first time, while continuing to raise the academic bar for admission.
USC also is experiencing record-level applications for its fall 2008 freshman class.
USC has not fared as well in the rankings with its strategy, but it has pleased a faction of its trustees who believe it is their mission to educate as many South Carolina students as possible.
Bill Hendrix, the Clemson board chairman, agrees with Barker that increasing enrollment is not the way to balance Clemson's budget in a lean year.
"Certainly not this year," Hendrix said. "We are looking carefully at ways to utilize the capacity we have. Right now, we think we are at capacity in a number of areas."
"As certain programs develop further, like the Bridge program (with Tri-County Technical College), like study abroad, we might be able to make some small increases in enrollment. But that won't occur until we have those programs established."