FLORENCE, S.C. — New University of South Carolina President Robert Caslen wants to make sure the university is operating more like a business.
Caslen said that one of the first pieces of advice that he got when he became president was to run the school more like a business.
Caslen was appointed by the university’s board of trustees on July 19 by a vote of 11-8-1. Eleven members voted in favor of Calsen’s appointment to replace Harris Pastides, eight members voted against the appointment and one member voted present.
The appointment was controversial because of his lack of a doctorate degree — prior to becoming the newest president of USC, Calsen was superintendent of the United States Military Academy — and alleged statements during campus sessions.
Also, Gov. Henry McMaster reportedly took an active role in the appointment. As governor, he is a member of the board of trustees but normally appoints someone to go to the board in his place.
Caslen said he wants to make sure each department of the university is doing what it can to raise revenue, including seeking sources of funding such as endowments and grants.
Caslen outlined the beginnings of an approach to helping the university grow in its role as the flagship university of the state.
But this approach comes with some difficulties, including balancing the desire to receive the higher out-of-state tuition rate for non-South Carolinians to attend and serving as the flagship for the state.
If the university relies on out-of-state students who pay more in tuition costs and would likely bring higher test scores which would increase the school’s rankings, those students probably will return to their states of origin after graduating, and that does not benefit the state economically.
This would mean the school wouldn’t be doing its job as the flagship institution of the state.
If the university increases the number of in-state students, it loses the valuable source of revenue that are out-of-state students.
Caslen later added that there had to be balance between seeking a higher rating and receiving the out-of-stater students’ tuition money and serving as the flagship institution and benefiting the state.
He also called for an increase in the enrollment of minority students at the school and in its faculty.
At West Point, Caslen was the superintendent when the academy had its highest number of African-American women graduate and the highest number of minorities.
Caslen also said the university needs to do a better job with its online programs, reaching out to the military and working with its two-year and four-year campuses across the state.
He also outlined a plan to send current USC students to high schools, particularly rural and poorer schools, to encourage students to attend college.
The more students that want to go to college and take high school seriously, the better off everyone in the state would be.
One idea Caslen said he wouldn’t consider is raising tuition.
“I’ll take whatever they’ll give me for appropriations,” Caslen said. “We’re not increasing tuition.”
He said he isn’t sure he ever wants to increase tuition.
“We’re so out of balance, it’s terrible,” Caslen said. “We are the worst state in the union when you compare tuition with per-capita employment per salaries.”
Caslen is currently on a tour of the state.
He appeared at BMW’s plant in the upstate last week. He was in Florence and Hartsville on Monday. He will visit Orangeburg and Charleston on Wednesday and will be in Richland and Lexington for the rest of the week. He’s also scheduled to be in Aiken next Monday.
As a part of the tour, he visited South Florence High School, spoke to the Florence Rotary Club and visited the Morning News on Monday.