Plans for the launch of Francis Marion University's Lowcountry campus in Mount Pleasant are moving forward despite missing one crucial element - a location.
The university has partnered with Trident Technical College to lease classroom space from the school's Mount Pleasant campus while university officials continue their search for a permanent campus, said John Hester, associate provost for Francis Marion.
Francis Marion is moving forward with the launch of a nursing program in August at Trident Tech that will give registered nurses with a two-year degree a chance to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing. Hester called the partnership between the two schools a natural fit, noting that Trident Tech annually graduates about 200 registered nurses.
The university's Mount Pleasant program is starting small with one faculty member. Hester said the bulk of the classes will be online with students meeting one night a week. To get a bachelor's degree, nursing students must earn 30 credit hours spread out over three semesters. Tuition will run $15,500 for the 30 credit hours.
Although university officials previously said they hoped to initially enroll between 50 and 300 students, Hester declined to give an enrollment goal for the fall. Francis Marion eventually plans to add other degree programs, such as business or industrial engineering, at the Mount Pleasant campus.
To drive enrollment, a local marketing campaign for the nursing program recently launched across the Lowcountry with television, print and Internet advertisements as well as brochures mailed to registered nurses. The school is now enrolling students for the Mount Pleasant program.
In the meantime, the university is continuing its search for a permanent location with assistance from the town of Mount Pleasant, which has committed $1.5 million to help the university secure a building.
Mayor Linda Page said university and town officials have looked at several properties, but that so far they haven't found the right spot.
"Ideally they want something that looks like a campus, a wooded facility with adequate parking that is close to bus lines," Page said. "There have been a couple that are candidates, but they haven't met every (criteria) they're looking for.
"When everything else worked, the building was too expensive or parking was an issue," she said. "We haven't found the ideal one but we're certainly working to do that."
Hester agreed that there have been challenges in finding a location, saying that real estate in Mount Pleasant is "very competitive."
It's unclear how close the university might be to finding a location.
Hester wouldn't comment on if the school anticipates still being at Trident Tech in the spring.