An article published in The Post and Courier on September 19th reported that officials from the Town of Mount Pleasant have made overtures to Francis Marion University in Florence to open a satellite campus east of the Cooper.
This proposal is surprising to those of us who know that the College of Charleston — a nationally recognized institution and South Carolina’s third largest four-year university — is located just a short drive across the Ravenel Bridge from Mount Pleasant.
According to the article, some of Mount Pleasant’s leaders are concerned that the College of Charleston’s acceptance of large numbers of academically gifted, out-of-state students with relatively high SAT scores leaves young people from Mount Pleasant without a nearby public university that will accept them.
Not surprisingly, we disagree with these statements. In fact, the College of Charleston has a very long and distinguished history of serving Mount Pleasant.
As I suggested recently while speaking to the Mount Pleasant Business Association, the College of Charleston is not the College of the Historic District, or the College of the Peninsula. The College has served all of South Carolina for over two centuries, with a special focus on the Lowcountry and the tri-county region.
The College’s ties to Mount Pleasant are quite strong:
■ The College’s athletic facilities at Patriots Point bring thousands of visitors each year to Mount Pleasant. We are proud to contribute to Mount Pleasant’s economy and culture with our athletic events.
■ College of Charleston employees also make an enormous contribution to Mount Pleasant’s economy. Almost 20 percent of our faculty and staff — nearly 400 people in total — live in Mount Pleasant, contributing by their presence to the town’s economic activity, public schools, quality of life, and tax base.
■ College of Charleston alumni live and work in Mount Pleasant in large numbers. From a member of the Class of 1939 to many recent graduates from the Class of 2013, almost 4,000 alumni of the College reside in Mount Pleasant, accounting for more than 5 percent of the town’s total population. Indeed, about 7 percent of all living College of Charleston alumni are proud to call Mount Pleasant home.
Beyond our physical presence in Mount Pleasant, and the impact of our employees and alumni on the town’s economy, the College continues to provide educational opportunities for the town’s residents.
Last year, over 200 students from Mount Pleasant’s Wando High School applied for admission to the College of Charleston. Over 80 percent of these applicants were accepted, and a large number of these students are attending the College this semester.
As Wando’s guidance counselors already know, Wando High School is by far the College of Charleston’s largest “feeder” school in the entire United States. Any recent Wando graduate who walks on our campus will recognize many of her or his classmates from East of the Cooper.
While many Wando students will choose to attend universities away from the Lowcountry — or attend other local institutions — there is no evidence that the College is turning away qualified students from Mount Pleasant, or depriving those students of educational opportunities.
Transfer students from Mount Pleasant also are well represented at the College of Charleston. Each year, more than a hundred Mount Pleasant students — many of whom have attended Trident Technical College — apply to the College of Charleston, and over 90 percent of these transfer students are accepted.
With 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate degree programs, the College of Charleston continues its long tradition as a visible, steady, and transformational force for good in Mount Pleasant, and in Charleston, Ladson, Summerville, Hollywood, and all of the Lowcountry.
In short, residents of the Charleston metropolitan area have the good fortune to be within easy driving distance of three excellent public universities that have their main campuses located in Charleston: MUSC, The Citadel, and the College of Charleston. Our region also is well served by the state’s largest two-year institution, Trident Technical College, as well as by the private Charleston Southern University.
If Mount Pleasant’s political and civic leaders have identified an educational need not being addressed by the College of Charleston and the other colleges and universities already present in our metropolitan region, we at the College welcome the opportunity to work with them to meet that need.
P. George Benson is president of the College of Charleston.