UNION — The key to ensuring the continued and future growth of USC Union lies in attracting students from outside the county and the key to doing that is providing them with a place to live and that’s just what a real estate developer is looking to do.
In a special joint meeting Thursday afternoon, the members of Union County Council and Union City Council heard a presentation from Wayne McBride of McBride Properties, LLC, about his plans to build housing for students near USC Union.
Union County Supervisor Frank Hart said that McBride is the developer who built student housing at USC Lancaster. Hart said that McBride has obtained an option on property along Depot Street near the old rail depot. He said that McBride is proposing to build facilities that would house two dozen students with two students per apartment.
Hart said that in presenting his proposal, McBride was seeking to learn what they county and the city might do to help facilitate it becoming a reality. He said the county will have to study the proposal and weight its options.
“I feel that USC Union is a key economic driver, not only for the city, but the county as well,” Hart said. “We’ve got a very forward thinking dean and when you look at the collegiate sports being added as well as plans for an RN program, student housing is going to be key to their success.”
USC Union Acting Dean John Catalano said that student house will be a crucial factor in helping USC Union attract the student body it needs to reverse the gradual decline it is facing in student enrollment. Catalano pointed to recent media reports of a projected decline in the number of students enrolled in local schools, a decline that will also affect USC Union. He pointed out that a number of students currently enrolled at USC Union are “concurrent students,” that is students who are attending both high school and college.
Catalano said the solution to this is to bring students in from outside the county and USC Union is taking steps to do this by expanding its athletic offerings as well as with new educational offerings such as its RN program. He said the challenge facing USC Union in doing this is the lack of housing for these students. Catalano said that some property owners have begun to help address this problem by remodeling their properties to accommodate students. He said that currently there are three female students from Aiken living in Santuc while attending USC Union and three male members of the baseball team living in Union.
Even with the aid of these property owners, however, Catalano said there is still not enough housing available for students, especially in light of the fact that USC Union is looking to have 75-100 student athletes in its athletic program from outside the county. He pointed out that USC Union has just received authorization to go from club sports to junior college level sports which means more opportunities for student athletes and more need for student housing.
“We’re going to be getting athletes from all over the place,” Catalano said. “We need to build an inventory of housing for students.”
Catalano said that McBride’s proposal could help build that inventory, pointing that the facilities would be state-of-the-art, ready to move in townhouses having two bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths each.
“That’s what we’re looking for,” Catalano said.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.