College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell has reached out to Francis Marion University, offering to work with the Florence school to open a satellite campus in Mount Pleasant.
Former Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails in September invited leaders from Francis Marion to open a campus in the town. He said he was tired of hearing from students who hadn't been accepted at the College of Charleston, despite having decent grades, and he wanted those students to be able to obtain a four-year degree locally.
McConnell, who took the reins at the college in July, said Francis Marion leaders had reached out to the college's previous administration about working together to create a Mount Pleasant campus, but that didn't happen. He decided to talk to Francis Marion President Fred Carter, and other university leaders, and possibly take them up on that offer.
McConnell last week sent a letter to Carter, a decades-long colleague in state government and politics and a personal friend, asking him to move slowly on a new campus in Mount Pleasant and to consider working collaboratively with the college on it.
Many local students aren't accepted at the College of Charleston, a liberal arts school on the peninsula with a growing national reputation, Swails has said. The college enrolls large numbers of high-achieving, out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition rates, and, in most cases, it requires students to have high SAT scores, he said. The college also tries to keep its undergraduate enrollment below 10,000. Francis Marion, on the other hand, has demonstrated success educating South Carolina residents in the Pee Dee region, many of whom don't have super SAT scores or are among the first generation in their families to attend college.
McConnell said he and Carter and provosts from the two schools will meet in September to talk about future plans and possible programs the two schools could offer collaboratively in the 2015-2016 school year. He also will talk to Carter about Francis Marion possibly offering programs at the College of Charleston's North Campus in North Charleston.
Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page was not available Thursday, and Town Administrator Eric DeMoura did not return calls for comment.
McConnell said he doesn't have any specific programs to pitch. "But Francis Marion has identified an unmet need," he said. "I would like to explore how we can work together to meet that unmet need."
Carter said he thinks McConnell's invitation is a positive step, and he will meet with him to discuss possible collaboration. "I'm glad, in retrospect, we hadn't made a determination on a location for the new campus," Carter said. "This invitation puts a new perspective on it."
Francis Marion's board approved the satellite campus plan in November, then university and Mount Pleasant leaders set out to find a site for the campus. But that's proved to be a difficult task, and the team still is looking for a campus home.
Francis Marion will launch its first program this month in Mount Pleasant, which will give registered nurses with a two-year degree a chance to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing. The program, which is mostly online, is being housed at Trident Technical College's Mount Pleasant campus.
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.