The Lowcountry is growing by the day. Industrial, commercial and residential sites popping up in full force; whether its retirees, recent college grads or manufacturing workforce members and their families relocating to the area to start a new life season, one of the nation’s top tourist destinations is quickly crowding.
But it’s not just the Charleston region’s luxurious beaches, proximity to the port and Southern hospitality drawing in new residents—and vacationers at top speed—nearly three dozen added to the population daily, according to stats from the Charleston Regional Development Alliance. It’s quality of education at local four-year universities that add to the area’s enticing features.
According to local economic development experts, the grouping of universities like College of Charleston, The Citadel, Medical University of South Carolina and Charleston Southern University are among the bundling of prestigious names that headline secondary education in the Lowcountry.
“I think all of the schools are a part of that,” said Johnny Cribb, Berkeley County supervisor. “When industries come here, they want to be able to know they’re going to find employees so Charleston Southern is certainly an important part of that; not having Charleston Southern would not be a good thing.”
John Truluck, economic development director for Dorchester County, agreed that secondary education is a factor in marketing the region to industry prospects.
“We almost have to talk about the…universities in mass…when people ask about higher education questions,” he said.
Dondi Costin, CSU president, said he knows for certain that industry considers his school when selecting locations to operate.
“Smart businesses plant themselves in climates capable of sustaining growth, where resources are readily available to take them to the next level," he said. "Knowing that Charleston Southern is there to develop a productive workforce committed to innovation is clearly a factor in choosing Charleston as the best place to do business."
Cribb also touted CSU for the impact it’ll soon have on his own family.
“My daughter’s going there next year so I’m a big fan,” he said with a laugh.
However, CSU is the only faith-based curriculum offered in the area and one of the Palmetto State’s largest accredited, independent universities.
“Charleston Southern’s demonstrated commitment to produce academic excellence in a Christian environment adds another dimension to higher education in this region,” Costin said.
Each year about 3,500 students enroll in the school, located in North Charleston within Charleston County; while it’s one of multiple renowned four-year schools in the region, CSU remains the closest one to Dorchester County residents and is a top choice for many across all three counties in the tri-county.
"Many visit Charleston Southern for the first time and share they feel at home, commenting on the sweet spirit and beautiful campus," Costin said.
The private school is feeling the impact of the region’s rapid growth, and about 1,300 students are expected to live on campus next school year, an increased n umber from last year due to the addition of a new campus residence hall, according to Jenna Johnson, CSU Spokesperson. In May, CSU graduated the largest class in its 55-year history. School officials said more than 770 were added to the Buccaneers’ alumni list.
The school’s degree programs are also vast—CSU offering more than 50 undergraduate programs and 20-plus graduate programs, in addition to a Doctor of Education degree and online degree programs. But expanding current programs and adding to the list is always in the works as school leaders work to meet industry needs.
“CSU has a track record of responsiveness to community needs and a history of launching new programs to meet workforce demands across the Charleston region and beyond,” Costin said. “We’re keeping our finger on the pulse of our region’s needs, so there will be plenty more where that came from.”
Starting in the fall semester, students can expect new undergraduate degrees in computer engineering, electrical engineering, supply chain management and accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing. Also new will be an MBA in health care management and a master's degree in education with a choice to specialize in teacher leadership, literacy coaching, physical education and sport coaching.
Cribb said he’s also confident CSU is helping create skilled employees who can, in turn, stay in the area to join the local workforce.
“The challenge right now is finding good employees and Charleston Southern certainly pumping out good employees,” he said.
“Any university worth its salt awards credentials and kick starts careers,” he said.
But the university’s top leader said he thinks CSU also “goes the extra mile” by developing students’ character and helping each determine an individual calling.
“Because our graduates know they have been placed on this planet for a purpose much larger than themselves, they live with an eternal perspective in full view,” Costin said. “This outlook marks them as leaders of character ready to change their part of the world for good.”