Creating Pathways for South Carolinians
By Harris Pastides
Higher education enables upward mobility and expands opportunity. South Carolina residents with a bachelor’s degree earn on average 70 percent more than those with a high school diploma, and $1 million more over a lifetime than someone without a college degree. Moreover, our state’s unemployment rate for a bachelor’s degree holder is 3.5 percent, while those holding a high school degree is over 10 percent.
It’s clear that a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina (USC) doesn’t just make a difference, it makes the difference. That’s why we are collaborating and innovating to ensure more South Carolinians and underrepresented students have access to not only the most affordable and flexible bachelor’s degree programs in the state, but also career-lifting opportunities they help to produce.
Last week, our College of Engineering and Computing approved collaboration agreements with Claflin University and South Carolina State University to establish 3+2 programs, which will provide important pathways for students to achieve dual-bachelor’s degrees in leading STEM fields. More specifically, the agreements will enable students to spend three years at Claflin and two years at USC Columbia and receive a BS in Chemistry from Claflin and a BS in Chemical Engineering from USC. Similarly, students can spend 3 years at South Carolina State University and 2 years at USC Columbia and receive a BS in Electrical Engineering Technology from South Carolina State and a BS in Electrical Engineering from USC.
Our College of Engineering and Computing also approved a cooperation agreement last week to create a clear path for students attending Midlands Technical College (MTC) to transfer into our BSE programs in Chemical, Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering. This follows an agreement signed in June establishing a seamless process for students attending MTC to transfer into bachelor’s degree programs in early childhood, elementary or middle-level education through our College of Education.
These latest collaborations build upon our established commitment to innovative pathways and scholarships, such as University of Possibilities, Gamecock Guarantee, Opportunity Scholars and Raise.me, which are aimed at first generation and low-income students. Our University of Possibilities program, in particular, is a leading example of our work to explore innovative early college programs. This program, established earlier this year, seeks to ensure that underrepresented students, grades 6-12, and their parents, have a roadmap for successfully obtaining a college degree. Correspondingly, we’re also encouraging dual-enrollment credit hours, which have more than doubled over the last five years across our Palmetto College campuses, saving South Carolina families nearly $50 million in tuition costs.
At USC, we also believe that life circumstances and professional commitments should never prevent motivated individuals from the chance to earn a degree. Through Palmetto College, we’re meeting the needs of our working professionals by providing the most flexible and affordable four-year degree in the state. In fact, since 2013, nearly 1,200 students have earned their degree through our online programs, and more than 29,000 seats have been filled by students across all 46 of the state’s counties and 14 different degree programs in high-demand, high-employment fields.
In the end, through collaboration and innovation we will continue to provide not only the lowest cost, but the highest quality, bachelor’s degree in South Carolina – today and over the next decade and beyond. In these efforts, we will also ensure more South Carolinians and underrepresented students achieve the future of their dreams.
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