College of Charleston feels squeeze
Students at the College of Charleston have a lot of things their colleagues donít have on and around campuses in other places: an 1829 administrative building, a rare book collection including some of the finest works on natural history and proximity to one of the countryís most beautiful, historic cities.
But what others have that students here donít is adequate classroom space, College officials say.
Steve Osborne, executive vice president for business affairs, said the C of C has 18 square feet of classroom space per student. The state standard is 22 square feet. The national norm is 25.
ďOur students are cramped in the existing classrooms, and this has a profound impact on the learning experience,Ē he told us.
But a November report by the independent South Carolina Policy Council and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni concluded that the College doesnít use the space it has to best advantage.
The report said that the state estimates efficient colleges should use classrooms 30 hours a week. Other states set the bar higher.
The College of Charleston?
In 2010, classrooms were used an average of 24.09 hours a week.
Coastal Carolina University was the most efficient in the state, using classrooms 41.87 hours weekly. USC-Columbia was at 37.38 hours, Clemson was 28.28 and S.C. State was the lowest at 18.75.
Mr. Osborne said usage was up to 25.89 this past fall. And he added that the measure doesnít include hours when classrooms are used for study groups and other ancillary activities.
That is an improvement, but if the College wants the public to feel comfortable with an ambitious 20-year plan to add 863,000 square feet of building space under consideration, it should increase efficiency further.
Taxpayers are all too aware of the degree to which students struggle to pay for college.
The ACTA/Policy Council report said the average student in South Carolina in 2009 left college owing $22,277. And the median income of South Carolina families is lower than in most states.
If South Carolina wants to be economically competitive in the world market and attract high-paying jobs, its colleges and universities have to play a key role by equipping young adults with the knowledge and skills they need to fill those jobs.
The College of Charleston is to be commended for aiming for a bright future ó as long as students can afford to go there and taxpayers can be assured their money is being spent to best advantage.