USC Rolling in Taxpayer, Tuition Dough

July 1, 2015

Investigative Reports

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University of South CarolinaWhen lawmakers claim state funding for higher education has dropped over the years, they typically don’t mention the other big piggy banks they approve for the state’s public colleges and universities.

Take, for example, the University of South Carolina – the state’s flagship university with approximately 48,000 students at its eight campuses statewide.

The USC system collectively would receive $1.32 billion in total funding for the fiscal year that starts today, under the fiscal 2016 state spending plan adopted by the General Assembly last week. The total includes about $154 million in state funds, $216 million in federal funds and nearly $956 million in “other” funds – primarily tuition and fees.

The $1.32 billion total would be $213.5 million more than the total appropriation for fiscal 2012 for the USC system, The Nerve found in a review of state budget records. That would work out to a collective hike over the period of about 19 percent, or 13 percent after adjusted for inflation.

All three main piggy banks – state, federal and other funds – for the eight campuses collectively have grown since fiscal 2012, The Nerve’s review found. Under the state budget version passed last week by the General Assembly, state, federal and other funding for the USC system would have increased by $27.2 million, $28.3 million and $158.3 million, respectively, during the period.

Total appropriations for each of the eight campuses – Columbia, Aiken, Upstate, Beaufort, Lancaster, Salkehatchie, Sumter and Union – also have grown since fiscal 2012, The Nerve’s review found, though the  total for the Sumter campus – one of four two-year regional campuses in the system – for fiscal 2016 would be somewhat lower compared to its ratified budget for the fiscal year that just ended.

USC’s main campus in Columbia receives the most funding – $1.09 billion appropriated for the new fiscal year. Total funding at the other seven campuses would range from $6.8 million at USC Union, a two-year regional campus, to $93.7 million at USC Upstate.

To put the collective $1.32 billion appropriation for the USC system in some perspective, it would be larger than the total fiscal 2016 budget of every state agency, as passed last week by the General Assembly, except the departments of Health and Human Services ($7.1 billion), Education ($4.2 billion), and Transportation ($1.8 billion). The total state budget for this fiscal year is about $25 billion, which a six-member legislative conference committee finalized in secret, as The Nerve reported last week.

USC’s budget is fueled largely by student tuition and fees, which have been steadily climbing in recent years. Tuition and required fees for in-state, full-time undergraduate students at USC’s main campus in Columbia grew to $11,158 in fiscal 2015 from $7,314 in fiscal 2006, according to state Commission on Higher Education records. That’s an increase of $3,844, or about 53 percent (17 percent after adjusted for inflation) during the period.

The USC Board of Trustees last month approved a 2.9 percent tuition increase for the 2015-16 academic year, The State newspaper reported. In 2013, USC President Harris Pastides proposed that if the Legislature gave the university an additional $10.13 million in state funding for its eight campuses and covered any mandated pay and health-care benefit hikes for fiscal 2015, there would be no in-state tuition hikes for that year.

The Nerve reported then that the university was sitting on a mountain of money. Lawmakers passed on Pastides’ offer.

The Nerve’s review of USC’s annual financial reports filed with the Office of the State Auditor found that as of June 30 for fiscal years 2010 through 2014, USC had an annual average of $347.3 million in “unrestricted net assets,” defined by the university as “resources available to the institution for any lawful purpose of the institution.”

In terms of spending, USC has no problem doling out six-figure salaries to its coaches, professors and administrators. Out of 2,783 employees listed in the most-recent state salary database as earning a base salary of $100,000 or more, 796, or about 29 percent, work at USC, The Nerve’s review found.

USC assistant football coaches Lorenzo Ward and Jon Hoke lead that list as earning a base state salary of $400,000 each; with media contracts, their total compensation is $750,000 each, The State newspaper reported earlier this year. Head football coach Steve Spurrier and head women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley received state salaries of $350,000 and $357,000, respectively, as of March 10, though Spurrier’s total annual compensation as of last year was $4 million, and Staley will make $1.1 million in the 2015-16 school year, according to The State. (The USC board last month approved a $200,000 raise for Staley).

Head men’s basketball coach Frank Martin’s base state salary as of March 10 was $306,000; when hired in 2012, he got a six-year deal worth $12.3 million, including $1.9 million his first year, according to an Associated Press story.

Coaches aren’t the only well-paid USC staff. Martin Morad, for example, a professor in the Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology, makes a base state salary of $392,609, ranking him as the second-highest paid state employee in the salary database.

Ed Walton, USC’s senior vice president for administration and chief operating officer, receives a $327,902 base state salary, ranking him 9th in the database, while Jerry Youkey, dean of the USC School of Medicine-Greenville, makes a base salary of $324,640, ranking him 11th. Pastides ranks 19th with a base state salary of $297,648, though his total compensation, which includes foundation money, was $790,000 as of last year and will jump to more than $1 million by 2017 with scheduled bonuses, The State newspaper reported last year.

In comparison, South Carolina had a per-capita personal income last year of $36,934, ranking it 48th in the nation and which was 80 percent of the national average of $46,129, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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