Carolina Completion Initiative to help improve college success

Posted on: 1/15/2014; Updated on: 2/7/2014
By Hope Derrick, 803-777-7709

A new University of South Carolina initiative is being launched at a White House summit Thursday to address college achievement for economically disadvantaged students.  The Carolina Completion Initiative is USC’s commitment to raising the six-year graduation rate of its Pell Grant recipients by 5 percent over the next five years. 

“We know that nationally graduation rates correlate with family income,” says Harris Pastides, president of USC. “Rates decrease as financial need increases. USC is committed to improving college access and affordability for all students and we are pleased to join with the White House in this effort.”

Nationally, the completion rate among Pell Grant recipients – typically a family of four earning less than $40,000 a year – can fall 25 percentage points below the rate for wealthier students who do not receive need-based aid.

“We’re already beating the national average,” said Dennis Pruitt, vice president for student affairs. “Our difference in graduation rates between Pell recipients and those who don’t receive the aid is about 14 percentage points and this effort will help us close that gap significantly.”

USC is launching the Carolina Completion Initiative to address this challenge for Pell Grant recipients in the following ways:

  • expanding freshman orientation programs to better prepare students for the demands of college;

  • providing intensive pre-preparation in biology and mathematics to improve performance in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses;

  • discounting housing fees for qualified students during summer session to improve access to flexible study options through USC’s On Your Time initiative;

  • enhancing summer course offerings including STEM and other high-difficulty subjects and bolstering online offerings;

  • and implementing new technology and academic advising to improve course planning for all USC students.

This new Carolina Completion Initiative will build on USC’s existing programs that recruit economically disadvantaged students and ensure their retention, progression and graduation.

The USC system has created bridge programs between its campuses and each of the state’s 16 technical colleges to improve college access.  Palmetto College offers online courses for non-traditional students wanting to complete their degrees.  USC-Columbia offers special advising services to students applying as transfers, and the campus’s Gamecock Guarantee provides tuition and technology fees for qualified low-income, first-generation students.

USC is one of about 100 colleges and universities participating in the White House effort to boost higher education opportunities for all students.


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