President, Board Chair Release Statements on Legislative Proposal

President, Board Chair Release Statements on Legislative Proposal

Today College of Charleston President P. George Benson and College of Charleston Board of Trustees Chair Greg Padgett released statements on a proposal by the South Carolina Legislature to expand the graduate culture in the Charleston region by creating a research university at the existing University of Charleston, South Carolina.

For more information, please read the press release announcing the proposal.

Statement of Greg Padgett, Chair, Board of Trustees

At our meeting two weeks ago, the College of Charleston Board of Trustees approved a position statement in response to recent discussions on the future of higher education needs in the Lowcountry, and the role of the College of Charleston in meeting those needs. The statement affirmed our commitment to forever preserving the name of the College of Charleston for our undergraduate institution. In addition, the Board stated its support for the College’s liberal arts and sciences mission and its student-focused community.

At the time, the Board of Trustees recognized the changing needs of the city and region. Consequently, our statement emphasized our interest in supporting the expanding business and higher education environments of the Lowcountry. To address these needs, the Board suggested the College be granted the authority to offer doctoral programs.

Today, legislation has been introduced in the South Carolina House of Representatives to allow the College of Charleston to develop doctoral programs to meet regional and community needs. These doctoral degrees would be offered by the “University of Charleston, South Carolina,” which has long been the official name of our graduate school.

This legislation also would respect and preserve the history and traditions of the College of Charleston, one of the nation’s oldest institutions of higher education. The name and the character of our undergraduate institution, the College of Charleston, would be unchanged.

The University of Charleston, South Carolina, would continue our tradition of collaboration with The Citadel, MUSC, and other South Carolina universities. In particular, I expect our recent conversations with MUSC to lead to new collaborative opportunities.

This legislation would meet many of the economic development and higher education needs of our community. It has my full and enthusiastic support. I am grateful for all that the General Assembly is doing to improve higher education in South Carolina.

Statement of President George Benson

As business and community leaders have suggested, the thriving economy of today’s Charleston – what I have called “New Charleston” – requires the ideas, the research, the talent, the thought leadership, and the inspiration of a research university.

In recent months, we have had robust and sometimes passionate debates about the potential advantages and disadvantages of merging the College of Charleston with the Medical University of South Carolina to create such a university.

I have come to the conclusion that the fastest and most efficient way to meet the needs of New Charleston would be to put aside the merger proposal for the time being and, instead, allow the College of Charleston to offer doctoral programs.

By law, for over 20 years our graduate degrees at the College of Charleston have been offered by an affiliated institution, known as the University of Charleston, South Carolina. Today, new legislation has been proposed in the South Carolina House of Representatives that would take full advantage of the distinction between the College and the University.

Specifically, it would preserve the name and the undergraduate identity of the College of Charleston. And, for the first time in our 244-year history, our status as a liberal arts college would be formally recognized by the state.

At the same time, the University of Charleston, South Carolina, would become a research institution, meaning, among other things, it could grant doctoral degrees. With this change, the University is finally in a position to be able to meet the economic development needs of New Charleston.

The designation of the University of Charleston, South Carolina as a research university would leave the College of Charleston virtually unchanged. The majority of our current faculty would continue the great work of the undergraduate, student-focused College of Charleston and its historic liberal arts tradition.

I congratulate our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and volunteer leaders on speaking out about the potential benefits and drawbacks of merger. Their voices have been heard. Today’s legislation will meet the needs of New Charleston, while preserving the very best attributes of the unique undergraduate experience at one of the East Coast’s premier public liberal arts and sciences institutions.

I also want to applaud the vision of our legislators who have listened carefully to community feedback. I believe the current legislative proposal will secure a brighter future for New Charleston and preserve all that we love about the College of Charleston. This legislation has my full and enthusiastic support.