Clemson Seeking Big Budget Increase, Sitting on Huge Reserves

January 7, 2014

Investigative Reports

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ClemsonClemson University is requesting more than a 10 percent budget increase for the next school year, despite having $133 million in unrestricted reserves at the start of this fiscal year, records reviewed by The Nerve show.

As of June 30 – the end of fiscal 2012-13 – the Upstate research university had $133,091,000 in “unrestricted net position,” according to its annual Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), which was posted recently on the Office of State Auditor’s website.

That works out to be about $7,825 in unrestricted reserves for each of the university’s approximately 17,000 undergraduate students, which could cover nearly 60 percent of each full-time, in-state undergraduate student’s tuition and fees for this school year.

Tuition and required fees for those students jumped by nearly 18 percent from fiscal 2010 to this fiscal year, including a 3 percent hike this school year, according to S.C. Commission on Higher Education records.

“Unrestricted net position” is defined by Clemson’s CAFR as funds “available to the institution for any lawful purpose of the institution.”

The report notes that although those funds are “not subject to externally imposed stipulations, substantially all of the University’s unrestricted net position has been designated for various academic and research programs and initiatives.”

But the university typically carries over tens of millions in those funds every fiscal year, records show. At the start of fiscal 2012-13, for example, Clemson had nearly $143 million in “unrestricted net position,” according to its most recent CAFR.

As of June 30, Clemson recorded nearly $201.8 million in cash and “cash equivalents,” according to the CAFR.

And Clemson is not the only public university in the state with large reserves. The Nerve reported in November, citing Office of State Auditor records, that the University of South Carolina had $347.8 million in “unrestricted net assets” as of June 30.

The Nerve also revealed in November that according to annual state travel reports by S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, Clemson led all state agencies in travel spending from fiscal 2009 through last fiscal year. During the period, Clemson’s travel increased by more than $2.5 million, or about 26 percent, to nearly $12.4 million.

Clemson’s total ratified budget, which includes general, federal and “other” funds – largely tuition – for this fiscal year is $784.6 million. For next fiscal year, the university is requesting a total increase of $83.2 million, or 10.6 percent, according to Office of State Budget records.

That includes a requested increase of $30.5 million in “other” fund spending for, among other things, “instructional salaries and fringe benefits,” according to the university’s budget request, though the document doesn’t state whether any pay raises would be covered with the proposed increase.

The Nerve in August reported that the number of Clemson employees receiving at least $50,000 annually over the past year increased by 175, or 9.7 percent, to 1,979. The number of those earning $100,000 or more jumped by 146, or 36.8 percent, to 542, while the number of employees in the $200,000-plus category increased by four, or 9.5 percent, to 46, The Nerve’s review found.

Besides the proposed increase in “other” funds spending for next fiscal year, the university also is seeking a $45.5 million hike in general funds, most of which would be spent, if approved, on renovating a business and behavior sciences building, and improving the campus’ electrical distribution system.

The Nerve this morning sent a written request to Clemson spokespersons seeking comment on the proposed fiscal 2015 budget but did not receive an immediate response.

The university’s proposed spending plan will be considered by Gov. Nikki Haley in preparing her annual executive budget to be presented to the General Assembly, which returns to session next Tuesday. Haley is a Clemson graduate.

Reach Brundrett at (803) 254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @thenerve_rick. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.