Save Greenville's University Center

Here in the Blogland, we've railed against the idiocy that has been represented by the duplication in our state's higher education system, especially by two-year "feeder" USC campuses which should have been merged into the state's technical college system, which specializes in issuing two year degrees.

But our argument is about "right-sizing" our higher education system as much as it is about "down-sizing" because higher education can play a vital role in developing our state's workforce, which is key to an economic development approach which brings quality jobs to our state, which pay higher salaries and tend to stick around longer.

The lack of a public college or university in Greenville County has never made sense to us, and this need is partially met by the University Center initiative, which is similar to the Lowcountry Graduate Center. Both facilities use collaborative approaches which cut the education bureacracy while allowing for flexibility and innovation. Needless to say, hearing that major budget cuts are planned for the University Center didn't sit well with us:

Gov. Mark Sanford's proposed $5.8 billion state budget includes cuts of $301,000 in the University Center's recurring-funds allocation for the fiscal year beginning in July. Fred Baus, president and chief executive officer of the University Center, said that would put it "in the position of going from $2.25 million to $650,000" in operating funds.

"That is not viable," he said.

Without the University Center, which serves about 2,200 students a year, Greenville would be the only major metropolitan area in the state without a public institution of higher education, he said.

Ben Haskew, chief executive of the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce, said, "I think closing it would be catastrophic for Greenville. We are on a mission to improve per capita income and transition to a new economy. It's all about education."

Bruce Yandle, dean emeritus of the Clemson University College of Business and Behavioral Science, said the University Center has been important and will continue to be important to the Greenville area because of the students it educates and the businesses it helps attract to the Upstate.

Without the consortium of seven universities that make up the University Center, calls would increase for a public university in Greenville County, costing a minimum of $20 million, said former Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore, member and former chairman of the center's board of visitors.

We hope the final budget will allow for the resources needed to keep this center open and operational. It's certainly a lot cheaper than building a college for the area, as well as an economic development investment that adds value to the Upstate.

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