Some Beaufortonians smart from the perception they have been forgotten by the University of South Carolina branch that bears their city's name, but school and civic leaders have presented an opportunity to secure the future of the Historic Beaufort Campus.
Mayor Billy Keyserling and former Lt. Gov. Brantley Harvey Jr. recently formed a fundraising committee. They are seeking 25 people to donate $1,000 a year for the next four years to pay for 25 scholarships for students at the university.
All of the scholarships would support students in the university's art program. The program is a pledge from the school to ensure the city campus remains integral to the university's mission.
Frankly, some northern Beaufort County residents have doubted that commitment in the past decade or so, since the school started its drive for four-year degree status and developed its Hilton Head Gateway Campus, replete with new offices and dormitories the northern campus lacks. Feelings were further bruised when the school declined an offer to convert a motel into dorms that might transform the northern campus into something more than a commuter college.
But those sensitivities should be soothed by USCB's goal to offer a four-year degree in studio art, for which it received approval in 2009, and renovations to the Beaufort campus to support fine-arts education, which fits hand-in-glove with the character of the historic city. The school also purchased the former Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce office at Bellamy Curve and is negotiating to buy property that could become on-campus student housing.
These are positive steps, but they are only first steps. Community support would be important to the university's new enterprise, and that is particularly true in the current environment, in which state funding for higher education is uncertain.
The long and short of it: If Beaufortonians think it's good to have a vibrant four-year university in the city, they must put their money behind it.
"Ten checks of $100 each, and we'll have a scholarship," Harvey said, encouraging smaller donations from residents who want to support the university's growth in Beaufort but can't afford to fund a full scholarship.
Harvey has committed no small portion of his personal wealth to help USCB grow. But it would behoove all Beaufortonians -- not just a few well-heeled benefactors -- to answer his call.