The College of Charleston has gotten the first level of approval it needs to become a research university that offers doctorate degrees.
A state Commission on Higher Education academic affairs panel on Tuesday agreed with C-of-C’s request to change its mission statement — a move that would eventually allow the school to become only the fourth public institution in South Carolina to offer doctorates.
The Associated Press covered the meeting and first reported the news Tuesday.
State law does not allow colleges to offer the degrees unless it is designated a “research university.” Currently only the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) have that designation.
“This isn’t a decision that’s being made about tomorrow or even a year from now,” Interim Provost Brian McGee told South Carolina Radio Network. “But it’s about future generations and how, in the coming decades, we’re going to create the kind of economy that we aspire to for this city and this region.”
Even though MUSC is also located in Charleston, McGee said the Lowcountry currently lacks a college that can give advanced degrees in industrial and high-tech fields.
“Having local talent produced in local universities has to be a part of the mix,” he said.
But he added College of Charleston is still years away from accepting doctoral students. Another vote of approval is needed at the full Commission on Higher Education meeting in October before the school can even present the plan to its own faculty and trustees for approval.
The College of Charleston sits in a unique position among the state’s 10 comprehensive four-year non-research colleges in that it houses a research program known as the “University of Charleston, South Carolina.” This graduate program is technically separate from the historically liberal arts college, although it is overseen by C-of-C officials.
Legislators representing the Charleston area tried to press their colleagues to change the law this past year to expand the school’s research capability. The bill cleared the House, but died in the Senate after two powerful lawmakers worried the measure needed more study. The bill was proposed as an alternative after the same Charleston legislators considered merging C-of-C and MUSC this spring.