FLORENCE---The Francis Marion University Board of Trustees unanimously approved an increase in tuition and fees and meal costs for the 2003-2004 academic year during its quarterly meeting Friday (May 30).
Tuition and fees will increase 17 ½ percent per semester to help offset cuts in state appropriations. The increase means that full-time South Carolina resident undergraduates will pay $2,541 in required tuition and fees per semester, up from the current $2,170. Full-time out-of-state students will now pay $5,014.50 per semester.
The trustees also approved a 10 percent increase in campus meal plans for next year. The 19-meal plan will go from $995 to $1,095 per semester, and the 14-meal plan will increase from $925 to $1,018 per semester.
These actions are in response to a reduction of $2,723,200 in FMU’s base state appropriation since the beginning of last year. FMU will begin the next fiscal year with a state appropriation of $12,760,567, compared to $15,483,767 at the beginning of the 2002-2003 fiscal year.
Over the last three years, FMU has been cut more than $4 million in state appropriations.
The fee increase will yield $2,304,270 in revenues, still leaving the university’s budget more than $400,000 short of last year’s budget. The increase will allow the university to offset cuts in state appropriations, restore funds lost in mid-year budget cuts to academic and administrative departments, provide a one percent pay increase for faculty and staff, annualize personal service obligations, provide employer benefit obligations, provide performance bonuses, appoint two additional research scholars, and provide a contingency fund.
With the fee increase, the university projects an operating budget of $29.8 million for the 2003-2004 fiscal year that begins July 1. Student fees will make up 55.2 percent of the budget, compared to 42.8 percent in state appropriations and 2 percent in other revenue.
George McIntyre of Bennettsville, chairman of the board’s finance committee, said that despite the increase in tuition and fees, the cost of an education at FMU is still among the lowest of all state institutions.
“This increase will ensure the financial stability of the university,” said McIntyre. “FMU will still be one of the best educational buys in the state of South Carolina.”
McIntyre also pointed out that there have been increases in financial support programs for FMU students to help them with additional costs. More than $21 million in some type of financial assistance was awarded to FMU students during the 2002-2003 year, and that number is expected to grow to $22.9 million during the next fiscal year. This financial support comes in the form of federal grants and loans, state LIFE and HOPE Scholarships and Palmetto Fellowships, institutional scholarships, and student work-study programs.
FMU President Fred Carter said that no one likes to raise tuition even by one dollar, and that the university and the board have worked very hard to hold the line on costs.
Reductions in state appropriations “have created exceptional circumstances for higher education which make it necessary that we seek funding at this level,” said Carter.
In other business, the trustees elected new officers. Gail Ness Richardson of Barnwell became the first woman chosen to chair the FMU board, replacing Robert E. Lee of Florence who has served as chairman since 1999. She had been serving as vice chairman. She served as a FMU trustee from 1988 to 1992. She was reappointed to the board in 1996 and has served continuously since then.
Richardson earned a bachelor’s degree from Queens College and a master of library science degree from the University of South Carolina. She has been a teacher and media specialist in South Carolina public schools.
Other officers are Kenneth W. Jackson of Florence, vice chairman, and Teresa C. Anderson of Florence, secretary.
Meeting dates scheduled for the 2003-2004 year are July 18, Nov. 14, Feb. 20 and May 28.
#172 / 5-30-03