Two Beaufort leaders are challenging residents to show their support for maintaining a full-service university in Beaufort by digging into their pocketbooks.
Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling and former Lt. Gov. W. Brantley Harvey Jr. formed a fundraising committee and seek 25 people to donate $1,000 per year for the next four years to fund 25 scholarships for students at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.
All of the scholarships would support students in the university's art program who study full-time at the Historic Beaufort Campus.
"A college is very important to the quality of life in a community," Keyserling said, "not only for the students in this area who cannot afford to go away to school, but for the continuing learning opportunities."
"It is imperative that we keep a four-year college campus here in Beaufort," Harvey said.
USCB received approval in 2009 to offer a four-year degree in studio art and has renovated the Beaufort campus to support fine-arts education.
Keyserling said the school has invested more than $1 million in the campus in the past year. It added a graphic design lab and ceramics studio, as well as a cafeteria to offer food service to students on the north campus.
The school wants the smaller of USCB's campuses to grow, said Lynn McGee, vice chancellor for university advancement. The university purchased the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's offices at Bellamy Curve and is negotiating to buy property that could house about 15 students next fall. The Hilton Head Gateway Campus in Bluffton is the larger of the two campuses.
An environmental science program that would be based on the Beaufort campus also is being considered, she said.
Keyserling said despite declining state funding -- USCB now receives about 6 cents of every operating dollar from the state -- the school presses on, and the community must support it.
"If we don't, as a community, get behind them, phooey on us," he said.
Keyserling said he hopes to secure donations within the next month so USCB officials can make the scholarship applications available and award them to students who will begin the art program in the fall. He said about 10 residents have committed.
Harvey said residents who want to support the university's growth in Beaufort but can't afford to fund a full scholarship are encouraged to send smaller donations.
"Ten checks of $100 each, and we'll have a scholarship," Harvey said.
McGee said demonstrations of community support, such as the scholarship effort, are essential to building the campus in Beaufort and recruiting new students.
"It will say, 'We value you and we want you to be part of our community ... a community that cares about the arts and will embrace you,' " she said.