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Two years after Clemson University’s shameless efforts to artificially inflate its academic rankings were first exposed, the school has seen its standing among the nation’s elite colleges and universities begin to decline. Clemson is now ranked No. 25 among America’s public colleges and universities according to the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings – down from No. 22 a year ago.

Among all schools, Clemson now ranks No. 68 – down from No. 61 last year.

Meanwhile the University of South Carolina gained one spot in the public school rankings – moving into a three-way tie at No. 54 – but dropped a spot from No. 110 to No. 111 among all schools. In other words, 101 spots lower than the school’s current football ranking.

A year ago, the school’s roles were  reversed – with USC falling and Clemson staying flat – but either way our state’s disproportionately large investment in higher education is continuing to produce diminishing returns.

Clemson’s fixation on the U.S. News criteria – reported first on FITS – quickly morphed into outright duplicity and embarrassing childishness on the part of its president, James Barker, who sought to boost his school’s status by ranking it ahead of Harvard, Stanford and other top-tier institutions of higher learning.

Pathetic, we know.

After Clemson was first busted, its climb up the national rankings came to an abrupt halt. Now the school is moving in the opposite direction – even as parents are being forced to pay exorbitant tuition increases.

Tuition at Clemson tripled over the previous decade, rising from less than $4,000 to nearly $12,000, while tuition at USC more than doubled over the same time period. Clemson raised tuition again this year by 3.8 percent – just three months after the school doled out $1.5 million in faculty and administrative raises and launched a new “Canadian Center” in honor of its board of trustees chairman, David Wilkins.

USC voted to raise its tuition this year by 3.9 percent – just two months after the school doled out $2.7 million of its record-setting 2010-11 budget on pay raises for its top employees.

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