I just returned this week from spending an energizing day at the South Carolina State House with hundreds of Clemson employees and advocates who gathered to learn about the university’s legislative agenda and to “paint the Capitol orange” for a day.
The amazing show of support was a visible reminder of the passion that members of the Clemson family share for this great university and served as a timely reminder to our friends in the state legislature of Clemson’s importance to South Carolina.
In fact, the university has spent a good deal of time and energy during this legislative session talking about the value the university provides to our students and to the state of South Carolina. In particular, we have worked hard to provide context to the public around the cost and value of a Clemson education in the face of broad claims by the state’s Commission on Higher Education (CHE) about “skyrocketing costs” at South Carolina’s public universities.
At Clemson, the truth is quite different. On a per-student basis, the cost of a Clemson education has actually fallen 15 percent when adjusted for inflation over the past decade. And, thanks to strong scholarship support from the state and university, nearly all of our in-state undergraduates receive scholarships, bringing the average cost of tuition to about $5,400 – or 36 percent of the posted tuition rate.
I’m also proud of the fact that more than half of our undergraduates leave Clemson with no debt and those that do take out loans have, on average, a debt level at graduation that is significantly lower than the national average. Our graduates also leave Clemson with relevant degrees that allow them to land good jobs, leading to student loan default rates of under 3 percent, which is one-fourth the national average.
Our efforts to spread the facts about Clemson’s value have received some nice media coverage, both in the local press and in the national higher education media. We will continue to work hard to tell the great Clemson story, and for more information related to Clemson’s value proposition, I encourage you to read this terrific piece that we recently created.
As the legislative session nears the halfway point, we continue to make good progress on our legislative priorities. We have had constructive meetings regarding both our operational and Public Service Administration (PSA) budgets in the state House and Senate. We understand the difficult decisions that need to be made by the legislature and are grateful for the ongoing support Clemson receives from the state.
Aside from the budget, perhaps the most important piece of legislation that directly affects Clemson this session is the Higher Education Efficiency Act (H.4182) introduced by Rep. Brian White of Anderson and in the Senate (S.542) by Sen. Scott Talley of Spartanburg. This legislation would allow Clemson and other universities in the state to create “auxiliary divisions” for operations such as Athletics, health services, housing, and research and economic development-related entities such as CU-ICAR that would be operated free of some of the current layers of state oversight, while still being accountable to the General Assembly.
The legislation would allow Clemson to become nimbler in areas such as procurement, personnel and – most notably – capital spending, where the CHE would be removed from the approval process for auxiliary projects. The bills are modeled after MUSC’s Hospital Authority, which was approved by the General Assembly more than 15 years ago and which has proven to be very successful for the university and the state.
We are hopeful that this legislation will be brought forward for a vote this session, and would appreciate your support on this important matter that will allow Clemson to better serve the state.
In closing, I want to share some work that our University Relations and Governmental Affairs teams produced to showcase Clemson’s budget priorities to the legislature. In addition to this video about our Connected Vehicle Center, the other video stories can be found here.
As always, I am deeply appreciative of everything you do to keep Clemson among the very best universities in the country.