Gov. Haley vetoes $300,000 for Lowcountry Graduate Center

A new facility for the College of Charleston North Campus and Lowcountry Graduate Center is being built at 3800 Paramount Drive in North Charleston by Holder Properties. (Photo/Lowcountry Graduate Center)

A new facility for the College of Charleston North Campus and Lowcountry Graduate Center is being built at 3800 Paramount Drive in North Charleston by Holder Properties. (Photo/Lowcountry Graduate Center)

By Ashley Barker
Published June 12, 2014

Gov. Nikki Haley has vetoed $300,000 from the Legislature’s budget that was designated for the Lowcountry Graduate Center, a consortium of local institutions that is already set to receive state funds.

The center’s director and associate dean, Nancy Muller, said the $300,000 was requested to help pay for marketing and new program development as well as a possible increase in rent payments for the center’s new facility.

In a letter to the S.C. House of Representatives (.pdf, page 13), Haley said she supports expanded access to higher education, but the center is already set to receive around $785,000 from the state.

“The Lowcountry Graduate Center is a shared setting in which a consortium of colleges and universities offer a limited number of their programs” Haley wrote. “If operating this site is such a money-loser for these institutions, then they should either recapture this from the students enrolled in courses at this site or else consider another method of offering this instruction.”

Gov. Nikki Haley discusses budget vetoes.

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Muller initially proposed $150,000 for marketing, but she cut it down to $98,000. She said the lease payment for the new facility under construction at 3800 Paramount Drive in North Charleston remains budgeted at the same rate as the existing building because the board expects the College of Charleston to pay the extra amount.

“The College of Charleston, we’re hopeful, will carry the ball on this, which makes sense because they’re also putting some of their undergraduate classes there,” Muller said.

The 50,000-square-foot facility will include lobby space, administrative offices and classroom areas for the College of Charleston North Campus and the Lowcountry Graduate Center. Annual rent is expected to be $353,663, which is about $143,000 more than the current facility’s rent.

Without the state’s appropriation, Muller said the center will be forced to use carry-over funds.

“We have some leftover funds to the tune of about $800,000 from previous appropriations that weren’t used because, for example, my position was empty for a couple of years. There were also some other vacant positions when there was no new program development,” she said. “We accumulated a little bit of funds during that period. That’s what we’ll be using instead of the new $300,000 appropriations.”

Muller said she wants the governor and other elected officials to see the Lowcountry Graduate Center’s value to the community.

“The LGC really represents a unique opportunity to leverage the state’s resources in higher ed. We’re going to prove that through collaborations that we’re putting together,” Muller said.

Haley vetoed 76 budget items totaling about $18.5 million from the Legislature’s $7 billion budget. Next week, state lawmakers return to Columbia and will have the opportunity to consider and possibly overturn Haley’s vetoes.

“I know that, as a legislator, it is tempting to look at how each budget item benefits your own district, but as you prepare to act on these vetoes, I ask that you consider the unfortunate precedents that would be set by allowing some of these items to stand,” Haley wrote to House members.

New programs in the works

In the fall, the Lowcountry Graduate Center is going to host a master’s degree in engineering management program from the University of South Carolina for Charleston-area working adults.

With weekend classes, some of the program’s lectures will be streamed from Columbia and some will be held at the graduate center. Instructors will travel, not students.

In the spring of 2015, the center is planning to partner with South Carolina State University to offer an EdD in K-12 educational administration, a new health services track for the university’s existing MBA program and a master’s degree in nutritional sciences.

The EdD program, designed for teachers and administrators who have an educational specialist degree and superintendent or principal certification, is only now offered in Orangeburg, according to College of Charleston North Campus Dean Godfrey Gibbison.

“They have clusters of students in this program all over the Lowcountry, from Georgetown all the way to Beaufort. This would really be a very good move,” Gibbison said. “Those students from Beaufort could come here rather than go to Orangeburg. This would be a very brilliant move for S.C. State.”

The University of South Carolina is also expected to begin offering master’s degrees in system design through the Lowcountry Graduate Center in the spring.

Next fall, the center expects to host the Medical University of South Carolina’s graduate certificate in child and adolescent wellness and obesity prevention and The Citadel’s graduate certificate in sustainable public infrastructure.

The programs are not finalized yet; approval from the S.C. Commission on Higher Education is necessary.

Reach staff writer Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker on Twitter.

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