Board of trustees approves a tuition rise of 3.1 percent

Nisheeka Simmons, Staff Writer

The Francis Marion University board of trustees has recently approved a 3.1 percent increase in tuition and fees that will affect all currently enrolled students.

John Kispert, vice president for business affairs, said the increase only raised the in-state student tuition to $4693.

“As you may be well aware of, the university has one of the least expensive tuitions in the state,” Kispert said. “Even with this increase we remain in the bottom three; the only institutions with lower tuition are USC Beaufort and USC Aiken.”

According to Kispert, tuition changes are never the result of any one exact circumstance and actually become the result an accumulation of factors. He explained that in the past five to ten years there has been quite an expansion of degree offerings and facilities at FMU.

“With a growth from 300 acres to 415 acres and new facilities such as the Lee Nursing Building, the Performing Arts Center, the two phases of the Forest Villas apartments, the Center for the Child and the athletic complex, the campus has grown quite a bit,” Kispert said.

Kispert said the process by which tuition for each year is decided is slightly complicated. In the fall, the president of FMU and his senior staff begin to review the changes in the cost of maintaining the university, which includes the above mentioned expansions and increases in benefits for employees.

As a member of the senior staff, Kispert said that they never know what the new budget will be until June.  Kispert said that once the board of trustees meets, the staff proposes the tuition increase based on the new budget.  He said the board members vote on whether or not to approve the proposal once it has been viewed by the finance and facilities committee.

According to Kispert, the amount of state appropriations also plays an important part in the calculation of any changes in tuition and fees.  Kispert said that with the decrease in state funds comes a need to increase the university’s generated funds.

“Initially, the university was run on funds that were 60 percent state appropriations and 40 percent tuition and fees,” Kispert said. “Over the years those numbers have changed drastically. Now only 24 percent of funds are from the state and 76 percent is from tuition and fees.”

President Dr. Fred Carter agreed that the decrease in state funds is important to the decision to change tuition and fees, whether it is at FMU or any other institution.

“Between 2007 and 2011, every public university has loss about one-half of its appropriated money through cuts to the budget,” Carter said.

According to Carter, any decisions to raise tuition and fees are done very carefully and cautiously.  Carter said that he, his staff and the board of trustees remain sensitive to the fact that most of FMU’s students come from the Pee Dee, which is one of the very poor areas of the state.  Because of this, Carter said, each time the board votes to raise tuition the university tries to intensify private fundraising to help offset some of the financial responsibility of the students.

“In the last 14 years, this university has raised about $65 million in private funds,” Carter said. “We understand the tough burden it is to obtain a college education.  It is only fair that as we increase the tuition, we try to offer more in the way of scholarships and the like.”

To learn more about this year’s raise in tuition, contact John Krispert, vice president for business affairs, at (843) 661-1110.