College of Charleston has extended a hand of collaboration to Francis Marion University as the Pee Dee’s flagship institution embarks on its first year extending its reach into the Lowcountry.
Last week FMU President Dr. Fred Carter shared a letter with the school’s board that he received from College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell this month. In it, the former lieutenant governor indicated that he would like the strengthen the relationship between the schools and would like to set up a meeting between himself, Carter and the provosts of the two schools early this fall so they can discuss “cooperative programs that we could offer in 2015-2016.”
FMU Provost Dr. Richard Chapman said he and Carter are really looking forward to meeting with McConnell and his provost, Dr. George Hynd, some time after Labor Day.
“We will certainly take up that invitation and expect to have pretty far-reaching discussion about the possibilities afforded with that relationship,” Chapman said. “I think that’s a very encouragement development and it’s really what we were hoping would happen when we approached College of Charleston last year when we started this process.”
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This school year FMU is offering a registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing (RN to BSN) degree program in Mt. Pleasant, a town adjacent to Charleston, for the first time. FMU’s board voted to expand to the Lowcountry earlier this year after Mt. Pleasant officials reached out to the school, proposing a partnership to bring more educational options to the area and offering to find the school space to operate in.
Identifying the right facilities hasn’t gone as smoothly as initially planned, but Trident Technical College offered the use of its Mt. Pleasant campus in the mean time.
The RN to BSN program is largely online, as it builds on the experience of nurses with associate degrees, giving them more managerial, theoretical and business skills and eventually a bachelor degree. The approximately 10 students enrolled in the program in Mt. Pleasant will meet with an FMU faculty member in person for instruction weekly and do the rest of the work online.
FMU also offers an exclusively online version of the program out of Florence, so the advertisement of the Mt. Pleasant version may have bumped enrollment in unexpected ways. Currently there are more than 30 students enrolled in all versions of the RN to BSN program, which is double last year’s fall enrollment.
Currently there is a surge of nurses going back to school for higher level degrees as the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a national think tank for health care issues, has set a goal of having at least 80 percent of RNs to be BSN certified by 2020 to promote best nursing practices. In South Carolina about 40 percent of the state’s nurses have completed a BSN.
When the board approved the expansion, the administration stressed that providing quality, economical liberal arts education to the Pee Dee would still be FMU’s top priority and that any expansion of programs at the Mt. Pleasant satellite campus would be slow, deliberate and careful to only fill gaps in the educational opportunities in the area.
In McConnell’s letter, he expressed hope that FMU would move slowly in the development of programs in the area.Chapman said that hasn’t changed and that the school will “look for programmatic offerings in the Lowcountry that will enhance educational opportunities available there, not duplicate what’s already there.”
He said the partnership with College of Charleston has a lot of potential to make that process smoother and help students, echoing McConnell, who wrote to Carter, “I applaud FMU’s commitment to ensuring public higher education is available for all qualified students who wish to access it. Aside from our personal friendship, this initiative would allow our two college to work together in providing community education throughout the Lowcountry.”
McConnell’s letter also made mention of possibly working with FMU to bring programs to College of Charleston’s north area campus or a potential location it might expand to in the next three or four years.