Look for More Growth at Clemson

February 3, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveIt would appear Clemson University, the public institution that seemingly can’t say no to expansion, is setting its sights on more growth.

The school was recently approved for a $1 million appropriation from Congress to establish the Clemson University Veterinary Institute. If signed into law by President Obama, funding would become available for school faculty to pursue collaborative research grants.

Clemson officials stressed there are no plans to start a veterinary school of its own, but said the one-time grant would be used to encourage collaborative research to improve animal and human health between faculty at Clemson, MUSC, the USC School of Medicine and the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

Collaborating on joint research with other institutions should help Clemson officials in their quest for funding from the National Institute of Health and other sources, an official with the school said.

Potential future plans for the school include the addition of masters and doctorate programs for veterinary students and practicing veterinarians.

Included in the FY09-2010 federal agriculture appropriation bill, the request will be used to expand “opportunities for South Carolina students to pursue careers in veterinary medicine, improve the veterinary care of agricultural and companion animals, safeguard the health of our animal industry and the public health of its citizens, and increase research that leads to new products that foster economic growth.”

Among items not discussed: what the long-term cost will be to taxpayers to get the veterinary institute up and running, and whether such a program is needed.

Also not mentioned is the breakneck pace at which Clemson has been expanding in recent years, despite constant bleating about diminished funding:

  • Earlier this month, school trustees approved a new academic Center for Economic Research on the Family in the College of Business and Behavioral Science.
  • Last year, trustees approved four new degree programs: a masters in communication, technology and society; a masters in nuclear engineering, a joint degree with a Belgium university; masters and doctorate degrees in photonics; and a doctorate in economics, to be separate from the current doctorate in applied economics.
  • Currently, Clemson is renovating and expanding the building that houses the architecture program, as well as the departments of art, construction science and management; and planning and landscape architecture.
  • In 2005, it took over operations at the lab restoring the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, opening the Clemson Restoration Institution with a $10.3 million grant from the state following the city of North Charleston’s decision to give the university 80 acres of land worth $14.5 million.
  • Clemson launched the $215 million International Center for Automotive Research, a public-private research complex, in 2003.

At the same time, tuition has been rising steadily in recent years. Earlier this year, the school announced a 4.5 percent increase in tuition, along with the elimination of 450 jobs. Overall, tuition at Clemson is up 23 percent since 2006.While it’s true that there are no veterinary programs offered in the Palmetto State, South Carolina students can attend several veterinary schools in the Southeast – including the University of Georgia and Mississippi State University – while paying in-state tuition rates.

They’re able to pay in-state rates at those institutions through “contract seats,” which are arranged by agreements among the states. Contract seats are filled by South Carolina residents, so S.C. students are only competing with other S.C. students.

Contract seating negates the need for South Carolina to undertake the considerable expense involved with designing, constructing, staffing and operating something as complex and as expensive as a veterinary school, of which there are fewer than 30 nationwide.

For example, the state of Georgia appropriated more than $10.1 million this fiscal year just for the University of Georgia’s Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital, and another $3.2 million for its veterinary medicine experiment station.

While it would be a nice luxury if state schools such as Clemson could offer more programs, it makes little sense financially, particularly during the current difficult fiscal times. And, the fact is, the resources simply aren’t there for any school in South Carolina to be all things to all students, no matter how much fiefdom building administrators pursue.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022 or kevin@scpolicycouncil.com.