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The University of South Carolina Beaufort has hired 11 new faculty members this year to absorb a nearly 50 percent increase in full-time enrollment since 2002, university officials said.
The new positions are varied, ranging from a nursing department chair to a math instructor, and all are included in a spate of 16 new hires, some to fill vacant positions.
In 2002, the school had 680 full-time equivalent students -- a number determined by adding up all the course hours taken by all students and dividing that by 15, the average full-time course load. Last year, that number grew to 997, according to the university data, and since 2004, the number of baccalaureate degree programs have doubled from six to 12.
"It's all part of a bigger growth story for the university as a whole," said Deborah Reynolds, university spokeswoman.
The school has been growing rapidly since it was given its baccalaureate status in 2002 and began offering four-year degrees, said Lynn McGee, vice chancellor for university advancement. The university's main Hargray Building opened in Bluffton in 2004, and its on-campus student housing complex opened in 2005, she said. Also, between 2004 and 2006, the number of degrees offered has jumped from six to 12.
"This whole corner of the state, which never had access to a baccalaureate degree-granting institution, suddenly has that," McGee said.
An increasing number of freshman at the school are students who vacationed on Hilton Head Island or whose families own property there, she said, and the area's warmer climate is becoming an important attraction.
At the Beaufort campus Tuesday, students said they noticed growth south of the Broad River, but most everything else was status quo in Beaufort. William Orem, a 21-year-old early childhood education major, has been at the university for four years. He said he has noticed more cars in parking lot.
"If anything, there's more new faces each year to get to know," Orem said. "It hasn't affected anything negatively."
Mindy Davidson, another 21-year-old early childhood education major, said the university offers more student activities and attracts more speakers now. But the emphasis did appear to be in Bluffton, she said.
"It's becoming more of a regular college over there. Not so much here," Davidson said.
Salary information for each position was not available until the university turns salary information over to the state, McGee said.
In other news, she said the university will soon announce the hiring of a new executive vice chancellor for academic affairs or second-in-command to Chancellor Jane Upshaw. Blanche Premo-Hopkins has served since January as an interim vice chancellor and is set to leave the post in January, McGee said.
Under the incoming leader, McGee said the university will begin planning for the future. In the past, as the university expanded into Bluffton, the university looked at both campuses as mirror images of each other. But as the school has expanded into a four-year baccalaureate institution, the approach hasn't survived, she said.
She cited the school's new nursing program in Bluffton, which wasn't matched in Beaufort, as an example. But there have been no discussions to close any of the school's facilities in Beaufort, she said.