SC leaders discuss possible changes to colleges, universities in the fall

VIDEO: SC leaders discuss possible changes to colleges, universities in the fall

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Sam Konduros, CEO of the non-profit SCBIO, moderated a discussion among four Palmetto State leaders: U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, UofSC President Robert Caslen and CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Lou Kennedy.

They were also joined by VP of Infections Diseases and Diagnostics Policy at BIO Dr. Phyillis Arthur.

The goal of the Tuesday morning discussion was to talk about how South Carolina can rebound from the coronavirus, and higher education was a large part of the discussion.

“Our goal [was] to bring the diverse viewpoints of top leaders in government, industry, education and the life sciences industry together in one forum to assess where we are, and how we can make a difference for our citizens in recovering from COVID-19′s impact in the weeks to come,” SCBIO CEO Sam Konduros said.

Konduros acknowledged UofSC was one of the first few major, public universities to announce re-opening for the fall semester.

Caslen said it was a difficult decision to close in the spring.

“The decision now to open is even a harder decision in my opinion because it’s an issue of balancing cost and risk,” he added. “The cost from my perspective is not necessarily the cost of lost revenue or the cost of dealing with COVID-19. The real cost is the degrading value of the proposition of higher education as these students...see higher education and they lose its value proposition because their semester was interrupted or their semester of how we delivered education online during the springtime was not in their expectations and they’re starting to look at other career paths.”

Caslen said across the U.S. many colleges and universities have seen a decline in enrollment.

Live 5 News checked on this claim with some Lowountry schools. Charleston Southern University has actually seen a slight increase in enrollment and the College of Charleston said it’s also tracking ahead of last year’s enrollment of new freshman.

However, those numbers could change as COVID-19 cases change and as we get closer to the start of school.

Caslen said he believes they can manage the risk by distancing students in class and wearing masks, but acknowledged they can’t control what students do off-campus.

“Our biggest challenge is going to be separating students in their social life. In the social life, in the residents, in the apartments, the bars and restaurants that they participate with during their off campus time,” Caslen said.

He said the student body president is putting together a pledge document where students pledge to respond and live responsibility with each other on campus and off campus.

“It’s going to be a tough cultural change, but I believe we can be there,” he added.

Caslen also wants all students living on campus to get testing before moving in and encourages students living off-campus to do so as well. The Student Health Center will be providing free tests.

Classes at UofSC are scheduled to begin Aug. 20.

The Citadel said it plans to reopen in the fall, and the president of the College of Charleston said he wants to open for the fall but exact plans have not been announced. Staff from the CofC will meet this week to discuss fall reopening plans.

Live 5 News will bring you any updates about changes students may see.

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