A new audit from the South Carolina Inspector General found members of the Clemson University Board of Trustees did nothing wrong when they spent nearly $700,000 over five years on travel and entertainment. However, it also recommends they scale back on some of those expenses.
The state Commission on Higher Education had requested the audit to review expenses for Clemson board meetings and other activities related to the trustees. The request came after a series of media reports which noted high expenses among South Carolina’s college trustees as tuitions steadily rose for students.
Most of the money came from either the Clemson University Foundation (CUF), funded largely by donors and the athletic department. The spending did not come from the school’s general fund of money from the state legislature. State budget language bans schools from using those dollars for travel costs.
The audit found Clemson was transparent about its spending and did not violate the law, but warned the high costs (the board of trustees was reimbursed more than $144,000 in the 2015-16 school year by the school’s foundation) could damage the school’s perception by students, parents and other members of the public.
“An analysis of the (board’s) current Travel and Event policy benefits would deem them as, conservatively, ‘generous’ by governmental standards,” Inspector General Brian Lamkin notes in the report. “Which comes at an opportunity cost of using CUF funds for higher-priority Clemson needs.”
The review found the board’s reimbursements were more than $198,000 for athletic events, roughly $50,000 more than its entire operation costs for the rest of the year. Those sports expenses were entirely paid by the athletic department.