Clemson Trustees Hear Good News, Bad News About School’s Achievements, Finances

February 12, 2009

CLEMSON, SC – February 12, 2009 –  Clemson University President James F. Barker told the school’s board of trustees Thursday that despite having one of the nation’s poorest records of funding higher education, South Carolina has one of the nation’s best public research universities in Clemson University.

“If you are looking for a state agency that is delivering quality, value and efficiency, you don’t have to look any further than Clemson University,” he said.

Barker cited several of the school’s recent rankings and achievements, including:

  • U.S.News and World Report’s ranking of Clemson as No. 22 among the 164 public national universities.
  • Kiplinger’s ranking of Clemson 34th nationally — No. 1 in South Carolina — among public institutions that provide the best education for the dollar.
  • SmartMoney’s ranking of Clemson eighth among public and private universities in “payback”: the ratio of graduates’ earnings to tuition paid.
  • 18 nationally ranked individual academic programs.    
  • The Princeton Review’s survey results of Clemson having the happiest students in the country.
  • The National Survey on Student Engagement results that more than 90 percent of seniors would choose Clemson again if they could start over, compared to a peer average of 79 percent.
  • A national study of living-learning communities rating Clemson’s among the nation’s best.
  • • A financial writer’s book citing Clemson’s Creative Inquiry program as a best practice in undergraduate research.

Barker said all were the definition of return-on-investment and efficiency.

“We didn’t achieve these distinctions by outspending the competition.” he said. “These accomplishments are the direct result of the hard work, dedication and creativity of our faculty, staff and students. They have built a nationally ranked university despite being at a significant disadvantage when it comes to funding.”

Barker told the trustees South Carolina ranks first in the nation in cuts to higher education since last year, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University.

During their quarterly meetings on campus this week, the trustees heard evidence of the impact state budget cuts are having on the university: an updated list of facility projects that reflects many that are on hold or deferred because of budget cuts; educational programmatic delivery changes that will enhance revenue or cut costs; and concern in reports from faculty, staff and student leaders.

Since June, Clemson’s state appropriation has been cut by nearly $38 million.

“Our current appropriation for education is about what it was in 1995,” Barker said. “Adjusted for inflation, our current per-student support for education is 40 percent less than it was in 1973, and 45 percent less than it was in 1974. Our records do not indicate a time when support was this low.

“The challenge is: How do we manage the current funding crisis in a way that does not sacrifice all of the gains we have achieved and continue to thrive in this new global economic situation? 

“Our first response was to solve the immediate crisis and balance the current-year budget. We have done this, but it required some drastic measures, including mandatory furloughs, delay of much-needed construction projects and internal budget cuts, including cuts to academic units. No department has been spared.

“Our focus now is on the future, and not just next fiscal year. Our first priority is to develop a responsible and balanced budget for 2009-2010 that does not sacrifice recent gains, but we also need to be thinking longer-term and developing strategies to help succeed a this new economic climate,” he said.

Chris Przirembel, vice president for research and economic development, delivered some good news to the trustees. He said Clemson had a 6 percent increase in research proposals July to December 2008 over the same period of 2007 and a 17 percent increase — to $49 million — in research awards.

The board took actions to approve:

  • a resolution to redirect funds previously budgeted for institutional capital projects, now on hold, to the university’s operating budget;
  • termination of a master’s degree program in counselor education in New Bern, N.C., and Eckerd Wilderness Camp, Fla.;
  • a proposed new bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering;
  • several program name changes and modifications; and
  • a policy requiring all Clemson University student applicants to verify on their applications that they are U.S. citizens, permanent legal residents or are lawfully present in the United States at the time of enrollment at Clemson. The board delegated to the Office of Academic Affairs the responsibility to establish a process to verify that information.