State cuts could hurt Winthrop

Winthrop University's board of trustees heard Friday what possible state budget cuts could mean for the school -- and the outlook was not good.

If the school's state funds get cut by 3.1 percent as the House Ways and Means Committee has suggested, Winthrop would have to raise tuition and fees $85 just to make up for the lost money.

And that number doesn't include the money it will take to pay for the university's computing system upgrades, new faculty and expenses such as cleaning costs that came with new buildings. If you add up all the things Winthrop has committed to paying for in 2008-2009, the board would have to raise tuition and fees by about $258 to make up for the decrease in state funds.

But don't panic yet, parents.

The state budget is only in the initial stages, and there still is room for a lot of changes. Winthrop President Anthony DiGiorgio said he wanted the information to be presented early on so board members could start thinking about a plan of attack.

"We know where we are, we know how well we are doing things and I don't think we want to take a step back," DiGiorgio said.

Raising tuition and fees is not a given either. The board of trustees could choose to cut programs or other expenses instead.

Tuition typically is set in June.

Dewitt Zemp, Winthrop's legislative liaison, said the fact that it's an election year and also that the House will start with a budget that is about $30 million in the red are reasons why spending on higher education could take a hit.

"Every time someone asks for a dollar for one program, they're taking it from another program," he said.

Winthrop has asked the state for about $3 million, half of which would be used to bring the school's operating budget close to the size it was in 2000-2001 and half of which would pay for science equipment costs.

The Ways and Means Committee's proposal included $50,000 for the science equipment.