Although efforts to forcibly merge the Medical University of South Carolina and College of Charleston were effectively quashed, a state House panel has shown no signs of hesitating to strike while the iron is hot. In its latest meeting, it decided to designate a component of the College of Charleston as a separate but functionally aligned research university, henceforth dubbed the University of Charleston, South Carolina.
It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but the state is increasingly determined to galvanize Charleston’s growing economy as the Lowcountry’s industry weans itself off dredging silt and eyes its accelerating tech community. This rise of the so-called “Silicon Harbor” has state officials eager to capitalize on the area’s growing potential and economic outlook.
It’s a savvy proposal, but its success is contingent on how well the state executes it and how much the College of Charleston buys into the idea. The first go-around to develop such a research university, the one involving merging the college and MUSC, was unpopular and underscored a lack of cultural and functional understanding of the two schools.
Developing a separate research university is a far better course of action, but to do it right, it’s a more expensive plan, too.
By no means are we disapproving of the notion, because we certainly like the boldness to further develop the state’s higher education system, but it’s such a monumental undertaking that we’d be remiss to approve of it without saying that if the state legislature wants a comprehensive university in the Lowcountry, it had better be willing to find the money to fund it.
It’s reassuring to know that both the College of Charleston and MUSC have already expressed their approval of the development, and that a second amendment passed to ensure that the University of Charleston would not offer degree programs that are already taught nearby. Proper due diligence will make or break this prospective university, and it seems like we’re off to a good start.
Ultimately, we need to know that the House has education on its mind as much as it does business. It’s no secret that successful universities are run like a well-structured business, but using the allure of economic development as the sole motivator for creating an institution also has a tendency to clip it before it ever gets off the ground.
Nevertheless, the potential is promising, and we welcome the prospect and competition of another research university in South Carolina.