Expand C of C advanced degrees

The College of Charleston is now offering a degree in commercial real estate finance. File/Staff

One way or the other, the College of Charleston ought to be on the way to offering more advanced degrees soon.

Either the Commission on Higher Education’s permission for the college to enhance its advanced degree programs needs to be honored or the Legislature needs to support a bill that would do the same thing.

College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell said in light of confusion about who has authority to approve the C of C’s expanded offerings, it is wise to pursue approval from both the CHE and the General Assembly.

If reason prevails, achieving such approval won’t be a problem.

The logic for supporting the C of C as the state’s third research university is clear:

The Legislature and the governor are interested in attracting new and expanded business and industry.

Employers want to fill their high-paying jobs with people ready and able to handle them. Increasingly that means candidates with advanced degrees.

Mr. McConnell has said that the regional economy will dictate which degrees are offered. Likely candidates are doctoral degrees in information management, computer science and supply chain and logistics.

“We don’t want to be universal,” he told The Post and Courier last year.

Knowing that should comfort legislators fearful that the College of Charleston would duplicate programs already existing in the state system.

Regional leaders have also expressed support for higher-level degree programs in the Lowcountry. Not only do they give the area an economic edge, but they honor and build upon the liberal arts and science mission of the undergraduate school.

Medical University of South Carolina officials have endorsed the College of Charleston’s adding advanced degrees, some which could augment studies at MUSC.

The two institutions had been talking about a merger, but supporters say C of C’s expanded mission will fill the region’s higher-ed needs just as well without so much controversy.

Last year Reps. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, and Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, filed a bill to expand degree options. It passed the House but died in the Senate.

After that, College officials learned that the CHE had the authority to OK the plan without going to the Legislature, so they did so.

But not all members of the Legislature are so sure. Rep. Merrill said it is better to get legislative approval than to move forward with new degree programs based on CHE’s endorsement and face possible legal challenges.

Given the CHE’s stamp of approval from an educational standpoint, the plan’s economic justification and the area’s support for the expansion, the General Assembly should pass the bill.