February 21, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

Six-figure clubs growing at USC, Clemson


Last week, the Clemson University Board of Trustees gave president Jim Clements a five-year contract extension and an $86,200 raise through the university’s private fundraising arm, bringing his total annual salary to nearly $1 million, according to media reports.

About a third of his new salary – $318,781 – comes from the state of South Carolina. And Clements isn’t the only six-figure employee at Clemson and the University of South Carolina – the state’s two largest colleges.

The Nerve’s review of the state salary database, maintained by the S.C. Department of Administration (SCDOA), found that as of Sept. 1, a total of 2,102 USC and Clemson employees were making at least $100,000 yearly. That represented 48.5% of the 4,330 state workers in the database with salaries of at least $100,000.

In comparison, South Carolina’s per-capita income as of last December was $45,438, according to the state Department of Revenue.

The number of six-figure employees at USC and Clemson as of Sept. 1 totaled 1,269 and 833, respectively, up by 76 and 26, respectively, from July 2020, The Nerve’s review found. As of Sept. 1, USC had a total of 6,063 employees, while Clemson had 3,926 workers, SCDOA records show.

USC head football coach Shane Beamer is the top-paid employee listed in the state salary database with an annual salary of $1.1 million. That doesn’t include other income sources; his total base salary as of January was $2.75 million, according to a State newspaper story.

Of the 24 employees in the database with salaries of at least $400,000, 14 work in college athletics departments – 11 at USC.

The database lists the salaries of state employees making at least $50,000. As The Nerve previously has pointed out, the database doesn’t include the salaries of 17 agencies, including the S.C. Judicial Department and state-owned utility Santee Cooper.

Of the total 24,911 employees in the database earning $50,000 or more, 6,578, or 26.4%, work at USC or Clemson, The Nerve’s latest review found.

That includes Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney, whose state salary as of Sept. 1 was $245,000. His total compensation as of October 2020 was $8.3 million, which included non-university income sources, according to a report from USA Today.

At USC, Harris Pastides, whose total compensation as president was more than $1 million before he retired in 2019, returned to his former position in May following the resignation of Robert Caslen. Pastides’ annual salary as interim president was set at $750,000, according to a story in the State newspaper; the SCDOA database lists his state pay at $312,643.

Clemson and the eight-campus USC system have plenty of money for well-paid employees, state budget records show. Clemson’s total budget for the fiscal year that started July 1, which includes state, federal and “other” funds, is $1.28 billion; the collective budget for the eight-campus USC system is $1.61 billion.

“Other” funds includes such things as college tuition, fees and fines, lottery proceeds, state gasoline taxes and part of the state sales tax earmarked for K-12 education. The Nerve last month revealed that the state ended last fiscal year with at least $5.6 billion in total other-fund surpluses.

The other fund surpluses included $251.4 million at Clemson and $455.4 million at USC’s main Columbia campus.

Clemson, which, according to its website, has 26,406 undergraduate and graduate students, and USC, which on its website lists a total of 35,468 students at its Columbia campus, kept their tuition and required fees for full-time, in-state undergraduate students at $15,120 and $12,688 (Columbia campus), respectively, for the current academic year, according to the S.C. Commission on Higher Education.

Lawmakers for this fiscal year appropriated about $6.5 million and a collective $14.8 million to Clemson and USC’s eight campuses, respectively, for “tuition mitigation,” state budget records show.

Brundrett is the news editor of The Nerve (www.thenerve.org). Contact him at 803-254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @RickBrundrett. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.

Nerve stories are free to reprint and repost with permission by and credit to The Nerve.


We need your help to continue our mission of holding government officials accountable! As part of the South Carolina Policy Council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, we rely on donations to operate. Please consider giving today so we can keep bringing accountability to government. It’s your power, and it’s time to take it back!
The Nerve