With state lawmakers contemplating budget cuts for higher education, state college leaders must look to other sources for revenue. But we salute Clemson University President James Barker for not boosting the school's budget by opening the door to more freshmen.
With tuition for South Carolina residents at $10,000, he could raise $1 million in additional revenues simply by admitting 100 more students. But Clemson has capped its freshman enrollment target at 2,800 for several years, and Barker said he intends to do the same next fall.
Barker has pursued a Top 20 ranking among public universities nationwide, and keeping enrollment at a manageable level is one of the components to achieving that goal.
"Clemson is always going to focus on quality, not quantity," Barker said recently. "The idea of increasing numbers is not part of our future."
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Unfortunately, that often means students are faced with higher tuition and fees. Clemson's board of trustees recently approved a 6 percent increase in the cost of housing and meals.
A variety of factors go into decisions regarding the ideal student population at a particular college or university. At some point, however, growth can overcome the ability of an institution to best serve its students, at which point the quality of education suffers.
Unfortunately for South Carolina's public universities, enrollment decisions must be made at a time of declining support from the state and threats to cap tuition and fees. If the state college system were adequately funded year in and year out, the decision about how many freshmen to admit could be made with the best interests of the students in mind -- not just the bottom line.