The Lowcountry Graduate Center is gearing up to move to a new location and expand higher-education opportunities in the region.
The center, which opened in 2001, is located in an office complex on International Boulevard, near Charleston International Airport. That site last year was purchased by Boeing Co., which is forcing the center and other tenants to move by the end of August.
The center is a collaboration between the College of Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina and The Citadel. It was created at the urging of the Charleston legislative delegation to offer advanced education opportunities for adults in the workforce. The University of South Carolina also has offered some programs there.
Center leaders say they will continue to operate even if the College of Charleston and MUSC merge to form a research university that offers more graduate programs in Charleston. Some state lawmakers have filed legislation proposing such a merger.
College of Charleston President George Benson, a proponent of the merger, said there still will be a purpose for the Lowcountry Graduate Center, even if the merger goes through. But the center simply can't provide the kind of programs a research university could offer.
The research university would offer doctoral programs relevant to the local economy, Benson said. But to offer those, "you need to have resident faculty," not faculty members that drop in from other institutions to teach. "A Ph.D. program is a one-on-one experience," he said. "You're like an apprentice."
Nancy Muller, the center's director, said fall classes will be held in the new location at 3800 Paramount Drive in North Charleston. The new building is under construction by Holder Properties.
Some classrooms likely will be incomplete when the center moves in August, she said, but all the classrooms the center immediately needs for fall classes will be ready.
The College of Charleston, which acts as the fiscal agent for the Lowcountry Graduate Center, will lease space from Holder Properties for the center and the college's North Campus. The two programs already share the space on International Boulevard.
The new site is in the Wando Woods community adjacent to Interstate 526 and Dorchester Road, on properties between Paramount Drive and Dorsey Avenue.
The 50,000-square-foot space for both programs will cost $8.9 million over the next seven years.
Godfrey Gibbision, dean of the College of Charleston's North Campus, said that in addition to classroom space, the new facility will have a library, study rooms and a place where students and employees can eat.
More than 1,000 students are enrolled in the center's 10 programs this year.
Center leaders hope to expand that, but it will take some money.
The center receives about $785,000 from the state each year, and center leaders have asked for an additional $250,000 for the 2014-2015 school year. The additional money would be used to develop new programs, upgrade digital marketing and increase advertising and publicity.
Some new programs that possibly could be offered at the center in the future include a:
Master's in engineering management.
Master's in aerospace engineering management.
Graduate certificate in child wellness and obesity prevention.
Doctoral degrees in education administration for kindergarten through 12th grade and higher education.
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.