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When high school senior Evan Fonner began researching where he'd like to go to college this year, one deciding factor rose above all others.'
"Climate," the 18-year-old from Wheeling, W.Va., said Saturday. "I wanted to be close to the ocean. It snowed in Wheeling last week."'
Fonner chose the University of South Carolina Beaufort, where he plans to study business. He was among about 60 prospective students who got a closer look at the university's south campus during a preview Saturday.'
Apparently, more students, like Fonner, are making the choice to advance their education at USCB.'
Since 1998, student enrollment has grown about 30 percent, from 1,070 to 1,386 students. Much of that growth has taken place at the south campus located on 200 acres in greater Bluffton.'
The south campus opened with the Hargray building in 2004 to reach out to prospective students in southern Beaufort and Jasper counties.'
Since then, a science and technology building, a library and four apartment buildings containing 271 beds have been built. The number of baccalaureate degrees offered jumped from six to 12.'
And USCB announced this week that it will start an athletic program, which will be implemented gradually starting with cross country and golf teams this fall. '
The school, which had been operating out of its north campus in Beaufort since 1959, long had the reputation as a college for part-timers.'
Jane Upshaw, USCB's chancellor, said that reputation is diminishing.'
Since 2002, the number of students taking full course loads has grown by about 47 percent, she said.'
That means USCB has become more of a typical baccalaureate college. Seventy-three percent of the students enrolled are at the typical college age, according to Upshaw.'
"Students are coming to us now as full-time college students," she said. "We've had incredible growth here, something that's created great excitement."'
With that in mind, Upshaw wants to cater more to student life on campus in the coming years. She wants a student center where students can eat and engage in extracurriculars.'
She also wants to continue to improve state of the art technology to ensure success in learning.'
The school heavily markets to out-of-state students like Fonner. Literature is distributed to vacationers who come to enjoy the sea islands and other amenities exclusive to the Lowcountry.'
Right now, about 27 percent of the student population hails from outside of South Carolina. The goal is to encourage those students to make the area their home and work here.'
That's why one of the school's more popular courses of study is the hospitality management program, where students get hands-on learning at various hotels on nearby Hilton Head Island.'
The idea is for students to take jobs with local companies.'
"Our sense of place is very important," Upshaw said. "That's also why our mission is to respond to regional needs and draw upon regional strengths."