Taxpayer Watchdog commends school’s ‘level of integrity and heightened management controls’

CLEMSON — Clemson University’s board of trustees is pleased with the findings of an audit by the state’s Office of the Inspector General of the university’s board of trustees’ expenses, and welcomes its conclusions and recommendations.

“This report affirms the Clemson board’s longstanding commitment to excellence and financial accountability,” said Chairman Smyth McKissick. “We strive to be good stewards of every university resource, and we appreciate the Inspector General’s recognition and its findings.”

The state’s Commission on Higher Education requested the Inspector General’s report to evaluate expenses for Clemson board meetings and other activities related to the trustees’ service to the university during a five-year period. The review of board expenses affirms Clemson’s practice of not using state funds for trustee-related expenses is within state law.

The trustee expenses, which support the mission of the university, are covered in part by the Clemson University Foundation and other university-generated revenue sources.

The IG report “found no evidence of intentional abuse or wrongdoing” and “commends Clemson for its efforts to develop avenues outside of the university to raise funds to assist in furtherance of its mission.

“We also commend Clemson for its level of integrity and heightened management controls in relationship with its affiliated nonprofits which provide a reasonable comfort level that its nonprofit funds were budgeted, monitored and distributed toward student aid and Clemson’s priority mission programs in accordance with its established policy and guidelines,” the report continued. 

Clemson’s board provides oversight to a university that perennially is ranked among the top 25 public universities in the country.

Clemson is committed to providing value to students. Out-of-pocket expenses for in-state freshman averaged 36 percent of the posted tuition in the fall of 2016. Clemson’s expense per student has fallen 15 percent since 2008 when adjusted for inflation, and more than half of Clemson graduates leave with no student loan debt.

The university also has received national recognition in recent years as one of the most efficiently run universities in the nation, and its financial strength is evidenced by its historically high credit ratings.

“We value Clemson’s reputation worldwide as one of the best public universities in the country. We take our responsibility as trustees very seriously and hold ourselves to the highest of standards,” McKissick said. “We owe it to our students and the entire Clemson family to be good financial stewards.”

Trustee expenses represented one 100th of a percent (0.0001) of the university’s average annual budget during the five-year (2012-2016) review period. Clemson University Foundation support of trustee expenses was less than four 100ths of a percent (0.0004) of Clemson’s total average fundraising of $123.6 million a year during that same five-year period.  The Inspector General found that all of these expenses were consistent with state law.

Trustees led the fundraising efforts to complete the university’s $1 billion The Will to Lead campaign in 2016 and were critical to Clemson raising an annual record of $151 million in 2017. The report noted that trustees, who volunteer their time without compensation, made personal donations totaling $24 million in lifetime giving. Several trustees serve on a number of university foundation boards, also without compensation.

The Inspector General’s report also included recommendations beyond financial accountability standards, including recommendations on safeguarding the university’s public perception.

“The public’s trust is Clemson’s greatest asset,” McKissick said. “By including these words in its report, the Inspector General echoed what we as trustees are all too aware of – the value of the university’s reputation. We are constantly seeking ways to maintain and grow the public’s trust, and appreciate the Inspector General’s evaluation of the board’s spending practices.”