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Francis Marion University to open up show in Mount Pleasant

  • Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In September, Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails, whose term ended Nov. 12, announced that he and other town officials were courting Francis Marion University in the hopes that the school will create a Mount Pleasant campus.

On Friday, Francis Marion University came one step closer to that.

At its quarterly meeting, the board of trustees unanimously voted in favor of accepting the municipality’s invitation to offer four-year degree programs to its residents.

FMU President Dr. Fred Carter said after careful consideration, the board arrived at the decision that it would meet the needs of that community, with a focus on upper division students.

Tucker Mitchell, Executive Director of Public Affairs, Francis Marion University, said that the unanimous vote authorized the administration to go forward and work with whatever entities necessary to make a satellite campus become a reality, such as town officials, regulatory and accreditation agencies, legislators and the Commission on Higher Education.

The one thing many focus on first is where the campus will be located. That has not been decided he explained, but it will be a commuter university that feels collegial and has the look and ambiance of higher education.

There will be no dorms, stadiums or fraternities - only educational and support services.

“The building will feel like a college, not a business park,” he said.

Town officials are working with college officials to find a suitable location and there are several possibilities in the works. The hope is to utilize an existing building, Mitchell said. This building would also need to be centrally located for commuters to easily access.

Possible degree offerings have not been decided but will likely include the RN to BSN program to address the growing need for health care professionals, and several business degrees, particularly for those associate degree graduates who are in need of baccalaureate degrees.

The campus is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014, gradually adding programs over time.

The town will provide the facilities to house the new endeavor as part of the partnership and lease it to FMU for $1 per year.

Mitchell said that the aim of the satellite campus is to provide real, solid employment opportunities for students after they’ve completed their degree or to enhance their existing opportunities.

The first one will likely be an RN to Nursing degree.

While there are several thousand nurses in the tri-county area with a two year degree. A four year degree is almost always required for senior level management positions.

Francis Marion University is one of South Carolina’s 13 public, coeducational universities. As one of the state’s six comprehensive institutions, FMU provides a strong liberal arts education.

The university offers a broad range of undergraduate degrees and a select number of graduate programs in serving the needs of communities, businesses and industries of the Pee Dee region.

Francis Marion is the only state university located in the Pee Dee region, and many of its students are the first in their families to go to college.

All faculty members have advanced degrees, and 81 percent of the full-time faculty hold doctoral or terminal degrees.

While 95 percent of its students come from South Carolina, the university enrolls students from 36 states and 16 foreign countries, allowing students to experience the diversity of people from other cultures.

The student-faculty ratio is 15 to 1, and the average class size is 21.

The average age of undergraduates is 21, while the average age of graduate students is 36.

The university offers to the community programs and services in continuing education, technical and professional assistance, industrial and economic development and artistic and cultural enrichment.

Many cultural activities (concerts, lectures, plays, art exhibits, planetarium and observatory shows and film series) are offered free to the public. The university has an NCAA athletic program with six sports each for men and women.

The university’s school colors are red, white and blue and the mascot is a patriot.

Mitchell said that the existing staff at FMU will likely commute to Mount Pleasant to get the facility up and running and to hire staff from the area to teach courses.

The costs associated with attending a satellite campus can be less than one would expect. Because it will be a commuter school, housing and meal plans will not be included. FMU is already one of the most affordable schools in South Carolina, ranking the third lowest among public schools in the state.

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