I know some unusual people who look forward to the latest installment of the university’s annual comprehensive budget report with the same sort of excitement that they await the newest John Grisham novel, or the next installment of that Netflix thing everyone is talking about. Before you pity them exceedingly, consider for a moment what’s in that report. The 2021 report that the University of South Carolina has an economic impact of $6.2 billion. That’s equal to about one-third of the entire state government’s most recent annual budget. The report also says that 1 in 35 jobs in South Carolina are tied to the university and our alumni, and that UofSC graduates earn on average 71% more than South Carolinians without a college degree. About half, the report notes, leave college with no debt. Many graduates work in health care, as the university—home to two medical schools—generates over 5,000 health degrees per year.
Numbers and statistics, as in the budget report, can be incredibly useful and interesting, even mind-boggling, but we all know that someone has to make sense of the data. That can be tricky. What for instance do the latest numbers regarding the Honors College mean? Our freshman class has grown over the past decade from 349 to 594, and the size of the Honors College overall has grown from about 1,400 to over 2,300. Is this growth cause for celebration or concern? Because we’ve had the strong support of the university’s leadership, of the faculty, and of friends and alumni, we have been able to grow our resources—courses, staff, scholarships, experiences—and continue to deliver an extraordinary educational opportunity.
With 45 staff, almost 600 honors courses, and three residential communities on campus, the Honors College continues to thrive. Students have set new records for national and international awards won, with guidance from the National Fellowships office. Our numbers for retention, acceptance to medical schools, admission to prestigious graduate programs, and much more are quite gratifying. So we celebrate and give thanks.
But numbers and their interpretation can only take us so far. We often need stories, portrayals of individuals, to understand better what’s going on. This issue of AHA! features a wide array of Honors alumi who have chosen wildly different career paths, and yet all of them are striving successfully to make an impact on the world. Far from being a comprehensive report, they represent only a small sample, but I think they convey some sense of why so many of us treasure the Honors College.