The first class will be in session at the University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Hospitality Management campus on Hilton Head Island on Jan. 14.
On that day, around 102 students will file into the south end campus for hands-on classes in everything from menu management to hospitality accounting, according to the dean of the new school, Dr. Charles Calvert.
The enrollment for the campus is just over half of the number of students administrators advertised during the construction of the campus, which sparked controversy because of its location on the already-congested south end.
But USCB officials are hoping that the campus will grow.
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The junior and senior-level courses are now “permanently assigned” to the Hilton Head building, according to Calvert.
“We’ve always said we’re hoping to grow into the campus,” Calvert said. “We are super excited, and we believe the schedule is going to work for the students.”
Getting students to and from the island
Area residents concerned about traffic and students have worried about how 100 new people will access the campus, which almost exclusively requires drivers to take the Sea Pines Circle.
The university’s solution is a single-route shuttle.
The shuttle will run from the Bluffton USCB campus Monday through Thursday around 9:15 a.m. to Hilton Head. Then, the shuttle will bring students back from Hilton Head at 3 p.m., Calvert said.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure we don’t have extra cars on the road,” Calvert said.
This requires students, who live throughout Beaufort County, to meet at the shuttle stop in Bluffton. Calvert said students can also drive their own cars to the campus, which has around 300 parking spaces.
“We have block scheduling from Monday to Thursday,” Calvert said. “So classes start at 10 a.m. and end at 2:15 p.m.”
Experiencing Hilton Head through the window of a shuttle
However, the shuttle-in, shuttle-out idea isn’t thrilling some of the students who will soon be taking classes on the island.
Taylor Roberts, a sophomore studying hospitality management and communication at USCB, said the idea of a shuttle to and from the island misses the point of studying on Hilton Head.
“I was excited... to get to go to the beach after class or head straight to my work at the (Tanger) Outlets,” Roberts wrote in a Facebook post. “Now they’re saying I can’t and I can just take the shuttle.”
The shuttle is meant to calm the concerns of locals who have opposed the campus’ construction due to the likelihood of more cars clogging up south end traffic, according to Calvert. But Roberts said she doesn’t see how a shuttle will satisfy everyone involved.
“The shuttle is a nice option, but it completely ruins our opportunity to experience and discover Hilton Head,” she wrote. “I wanna be able to go places after class like the beach, not just get back on a bus.”
Other students have floated ideas such as carpooling to the island on class days and a student-run, ride-sharing service to cut down on gas prices for the students who choose to drive themselves.
A multi-million dollar project
Constructing the new USCB campus cost around $24.5 million, which Calvert told The Island Packet in 2018 included buying the land, demolishing the old building and the development of the new, two-story hospitality building.
It was almost exclusively funded by tax increment financing (TIF), which is a property tax advance on some commercial areas of the island such as the Pope Avenue area, the north end plaza and the Skull Creek coastline.
Assistant town manager Josh Gruber said the property taxes in these areas were allocated towards the project, and property owners did not see an increase in taxes for the TIF.