Outgoing College of Charleston President George Benson blames stingy legislators and crowd-averse downtown neighborhoods for his failure to accomplish many of his goals.
Incoming President Glenn McConnell sees the situation as more of a challenge than an impediment.
A Lowcountry native and C of C graduate, Mr. McConnell understands that it is important to respect the school's surroundings - to limit enrollment and build only what can be appropriately assimilated into the historic city.
He looks forward to finding new ways to use existing resources, making it possible to provide enhancements like technology.
And as for legislators who tenaciously guard the state's purse strings, the seasoned politician (now lieutenant governor after spending 32 years in the S.C. Senate) believes he can talk their language and impress upon them the need for their assistance and financial support.
Mr. McConnell's outlook is reassuring. And it is wise. The General Assembly has failed to provide adequate financial support for higher education.
Increasing undergraduate enrollment might bring in more dollars, but it would compromise students' - and residents' - experience. The College's 10,000 undergraduate students, its professors, its staff and all of their cars already present a challenge to the peninsula, which is simultaneously seeing a significant increase in tourism.
So soon-to-be President McConnell is anticipating other ways to lead the College to more excellence and prosperity.
An important step is a bill being debated at the Statehouse that would expand the potential for the C of C to add post-graduate degrees.
He told us Monday that the legislation would put the school in a position to respond to the needs of business and industry - and to strengthen the College of Charleston's financial picture at the same time. He stressed that it would not erode the College's essential core programs.
If a donor, for example, were to offer to fund an advanced degree in computer science or supply chain logistics, the College would be in a better position to move forward without a change in the law.
The bill is in limbo, but Lt. Gov. McConnell is optimistic that the conference committee discussing it will find a way to accommodate the University of Charleston.
It is the right step. Mr. McConnell says that the College of Charleston would not duplicate programs being offered by other colleges, but would answer needs that are not being met. South Carolina is too small, and too financially strapped, to duplicate programs.
Further, he sees more value in working collaboratively with other colleges than in competing with them.
The more successful the College of Charleston is in its academic programs, the more successful it should be in its fundraising. And even if Mr. McConnell manages to obtain more state money, private fundraising is a necessary component.
Lt. Gov. McConnell was a controversial choice to become the College of Charleston's next president. Some were uncomfortable because of his interest in the Confederacy and because of the search process itself.
But he promises to be a leader who understands the College's challenges and how to face them.
And he appreciates that a healthy relationship with the community is an asset to the College - not a burden.
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