Private investment projects will give South Carolina State University students additional off-campus housing options, President Alexander Conyers said.

Conyers spoke during an April 18 university board meeting about the university’s continued work with the non-profit Partnership for Educational Advancement.

“We’ve worked very hard over the last two years with EdAdvancement. EdAdvancement has provided the university well over $2 million in projects and consulting and expertise to help us with our recruitment. … Their focus is now aligned exactly with what we’re aligned with – retention. So, we are now focusing on retention and ensuring that these students are able to matriculate,” he said.

As part of that retention focus, the president said there will be $100 million in construction and renovation projects that will start on the campus within the next two months.

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“We will hire a construction manager to help us oversee these projects. … We’re building student housing in very close proximity to the campus. There are three private investors in the process of breaking ground within the next three months that will give the area about 800 beds. That will assist us significantly as our students can now choose to live off campus, and allows us to have additional beds on campus,” Conyers said.

“This is probably the first time in 10 or 15 years that private investors are now coming into Orangeburg, buying land within three minutes of the university … to build apartments. So, we’re very excited about that because as more private investors come in to build, it lessens our stressors in trying to provide housing for all of our students,” he said.

The president continued, “We certainly cannot build enough housing for every student who wants to live close to campus, or on campus. So, this is important for us, and we hope that we get additional private investors coming in because we don’t want to overbuild on campus in the event that there is ever a time that enrollment declines. … So, we appreciate private investors.”

Conyers said a lot of private homeowners are also renovating older, dilapidated homes around the campus.

“It’s going to help us house these students who are coming to our university,” he said.

Conyers said the top priority remains gaining approval for a new dorm.

“We still must build a new dorm on campus for our freshman, as well as the north end facility at the stadium. So, again, we look forward to bringing those two things back to you for approval hopefully at the next board meeting, and then just continuous campus improvement in facilities, academic offerings and auxiliary services,” he said.

He also said the university is continuing its focus on research, including pursuing a path to make S.C. State an R-2 university under the Carnegie classification system. Higher education institutions are classified as R-2 if they graduate about 20 doctoral students each year and spend approximately $5 million a year on research activities.

He said the university’s Institute for Business, Environment, Communications and Transport sponsored an inaugural faculty-student research symposium. More than 20 research projects were demonstrated.

“It was quite amazing, some of the different topics that they worked on together collaboratively. This is part of us working toward the R-2 status,” he said.

Dr. Louis Whitesides, the university’s vice president of research, has been working diligently on that with a campus-wide committee.

“They’re working on some amazing things. And with the new changes in the Carnegie classification system, we may be a lot closer than we thought we were,” Conyers said.

He also reported that the BECT Institute was able to work with the S.C. Independent Consumer Finance Association to establish a $100,000 scholarship fund at the university in memory of the late state Sen. John Scott, an S.C. State alumnus.

“This scholarship will be awarded to five students at $2,000 each for the next 10 years,” he said.

In other business, trustees heard from Jerry F. Smith and Steve Jankiewicz of Alabama-based JF Smith Group Inc. about the results of a feasibility study for a comprehensive fundraising campaign. The recommended working campaign goal is $22 million

Conyers said he’s glad the university decided against “dusting off” an older feasibility study because “we got a chance to see in real time exactly where we are today, with some additional things.”

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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