USCB wants $500K each year from Beaufort County for scholarships

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comApril 28, 2014 

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The University of South Carolina Beaufort wants an additional $500,000 each year from the county to create a scholarship program for residents to encourage them to attend the college.

"This is a pilot program to explore ways to serve local students and retain Beaufort County's best and brightest locally," said Doug Oblander, USCB vice chancellor for student development.

Chancellor Jane Upshaw presented the request at a recent county Finance Committee meeting. The county appropriates about $2 million annually to the college.

County Council will decide whether to include the request in the county budget in the coming weeks, committee chairman Rick Caporale said. But he and county administrator Gary Kubic said they doubted the additional funding would occur this year.

USCB's request also asks the county to continue providing a $125,000 allocation, which it approved last year as a one-time appropriation, to support a health-promotion major that will start this fall and to create a secondary math-education degree.

Over the past several years, USCB has faced a state funding disparity, making it the second-lowest-funded four-year institution in the South Carolina university system. That makes it difficult to expand programs and attract top students, Oblander said.

USCB has an active scholarship program that works with private donors, but it needs more help, according to vice chancellor for advancement Lynn McGee.

"USCB is competing in an environment in which high-performing students are being offered scholarship funding to leave Beaufort County for their education ... (and they) typically do not return to Beaufort County to live and work," she said.

"Stopping the Beaufort County 'brain drain' -- losing these energetic young professionals who have a personal connection to the county -- is the goal of this scholarship program."

While Caporale said the program and its goal are laudable, he doesn't know whether the county can fund it.

Caporale said the county has received more than $5 million in requests from local groups, not including the Beaufort County School District, which is facing a nearly $4 million revenue shortfall.

"In the best of times, I would probably be inclined to support this, but this is not the best of times, with all we have going on, unfortunately," Caporale said. "There will certainly be a lot of discussion."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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