Harris Pastides at the State of the University

President Pastides Shares Vision for USC's Future

Ten years from now, the University of South Carolina will be quite different. On October 3rd, during my 11th and final State of the University Address, I shared a bold vision for the next decade.

Let us begin with the cost of education. A decade from now our university will be more affordable, while not compromising great outcomes for our students. We’re already known as pioneers of timely graduation through our “On Your Time” initiative, as we’ve more than doubled the number of students graduating within 8 semesters and increased the number of students graduating in three years by 170% since 2008.  

But we’re not finished yet. We’re taking this work to the next level by increasing the number of course offerings during our summer and side sessions and launching innovative three-year degree plans and “plus one” master’s programs that will streamline the time needed to earn a bachelors and graduate degree. We’re also emphasizing the importance of not changing academic majors. The average undergraduate changes majors 3+ times, which often prolongs graduation and cost.  Freshman year is for academic experimentation, but a student should have a major in place by the first day of their sophomore year.  

We’re also creating more cost-saving pathways. Through Palmetto College, we’ve established the most affordable pathway to a four-year degree in the state. We’re expanding this work through the initial phases of a new Palmetto Gateway program here in Columbia, which aims to provide a low cost of entry to a bachelor’s degree for approximately $7,000 per year. We’re also launching a new online bachelor’s degree completion program in Interdisciplinary Studies, designed especially for working adults.

These pathways enhance our commitment to enroll more South Carolinians and increase the number of underrepresented students each year. In addition to already being the state’s leader in both areas, our enrollment is up 7% over last year among South Carolinians, and up nearly 20% this year and 43% over the last two years among African Americans. To this end, we will work with state government towards a more secure funding stream that contains tuition and provides greater opportunities for all South Carolina students and families.

We will also continue to advance our leading work to ensure our graduates are equipped with the hard and soft skills to not only secure their first job, but to also earn promotion and excel in the workplace. This effort includes cultivating leaders through our Graduation with Leadership Distinction pathway, and ensuring that within the next five years, 100% of our undergraduates participate in at least one experiential learning opportunity and more than one in ten students participate in study abroad.

A decade from now, we will also enhance our physical footprint across our great city, state and into all corners of our globe. By 2028, we will have a state of the art health sciences campus, which will be the new home for our USC School of Medicine. Our Campus Village project will transform the south side of our campus by offering top-of-the-line facilities, including residence halls, shopping and dining amenities. The comprehensive Coliseum renovation will provide our students with a top-flight, multi-purpose student union unrivaled across America. We will continue our vision towards a more pedestrian friendly campus, including new bike share programs, and better and faster transportation.   

Additionally, one of our leading priorities will be increasing and leveraging the efficiency, effectiveness and collective strength of our 8 campuses and 19 locations, including our stellar, comprehensive four-year campuses in Aiken, Beaufort and Spartanburg, our two-year Palmetto College campuses in Lancaster, Salkehatchie, Sumter and Union, and our newest School of Medicine in Greenville. It’s this broad tapestry that makes us one University of South Carolina – and one South Carolina.

As we grow with these efforts, we will continue our mission to foster a culture that unifies us. It’s a culture built on a foundation of initiatives such as the Welcome Table, Dive-In Lunches and “Finding Common Ground” series, and the reason why, in measure, we’ve been recognized with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for seven consecutive years.

This past year we were also recognized as #67 on Forbes’ 2018 list of America’s Best Employers– No. 2 among flagship universities and No. 1 in South Carolina. A decade from now, our national reputation will help us continue to attract world-class faculty and staff by being a premier employer of choice. Representation matters in this endeavor, and we are committed to increasing the number of unrepresented faculty each year, as well as to do better with diversity officers in every academic unit to support inclusion efforts across our university community.

We will also harness our entrepreneurial spirit to advance public-private partnerships with Fortune 100 companies, and technology startups that have ideas which capture the imagination and are poised to change the world. Over the next ten years, we are positioned to increase the number of new business partnerships each and every year. 

The breadth and prestige of these academic victories will be matched by the success we achieve on our playing fields. In the decade ahead, we will add to the three NCAA Championships we’ve won during the last decade – and we will win more SEC championships and more Bowl Games when compared to the last 10 years, which were, in sum, more than all prior years combined. 

Ten years from now, our university will be quite different. We will be even better than today, stronger and more impactful. Because we must be. And because we are Bantams, Fire Ants, Gamecocks, Indians, Lancers, Pacers, Sand Sharks, and Spartans.   

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