South Carolina is a great location for students to begin or continue their higher education. In fact, the 2012 Leaders & Laggards Report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that South Carolina has exceptional completion rates for four-year universities, putting it in the top third of all states in the nation. As more colleges embrace online education, students are finding it easier than ever to enroll, attend, and graduate from courses and degree programs in South Carolina.
Educational opportunities are not the only reason to consider South Carolina. With a cost of living that is lower than the national average, a favorable climate, and numerous recreational and cultural opportunities, South Carolina is just as attractive outside of the classroom. Even those pursuing online degrees in South Carolina can take advantage of the many libraries, museums, and cultural organizations that put a wealth of information online. Here's what students need to know about traditional and online education in South Carolina.
- Why Should I Earn a Degree in South Carolina?
- What Makes South Carolina Ideal for Online Education?
- Top Industries in South Carolina
- Top Careers in South Carolina
- College Roadmap
- Scholarships and Financial Aid
- Discover Degree Opportunities
Why Should I Earn a Degree in South Carolina?
South Carolina offers a wide range of higher educational opportunities, including large universities, small private colleges, community colleges, religious and liberal arts schools, and much more. The state offers 12 public universities and 20 two-year institutions scattered among its large cities and small towns. The largest is University of South Carolina, a research university catering to over 30,000 students. Clemson University is home to 18,000 students. Furman University, Winthrop University, and Lander University are a few examples of smaller institutions in the state with enrollment in the thousands.
The oldest institution of higher learning is the College of Charleston, founded in 1770. The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, prepares students for military life but also offers courses for civilians. Students who want to learn in a religious atmosphere can opt for Bob Jones University, Presbyterian College, Spartanburg Methodist College, or Erskine College, among others.
With all these fantastic options in traditional education, why would students opt for online learning in South Carolina? Jane C. Owen, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at Midwestern State University, can name a few good reasons. "One of the most promising advances regarding online education is the possibility for truly implementing differentiated instruction -- tailoring instruction to meet individual needs, learning styles, and information gaps for each student," she says. "Advances in delivery methods will allow the best of face-to-face instruction to blend with the ease and convenience of asynchronous instruction."
Speaking of individual needs, students are often empowered by online learning. "We are already seeing that the degree of anonymity offered through online education can empower students," Owen notes. "Students who typically would not speak out in class are more willing to post online, and students who struggle with interpersonal relationships find it easier to contribute to the class. Students who would be reluctant to approach the teacher to ask questions or challenge a grade in the traditional classroom are quicker to communicate through email. Physical differences are masked, allowing the minds of the students to engage with the content without distractions."
The charm of South Carolina goes far beyond a good education. The state is home to numerous historic sites, national monuments, and battlefields. The arts have a significant foothold in the state; cultural industries generate over $9.2 billion annually, according to the South Carolina Arts Commission. With hundreds of miles of lake shoreline, popular coastal areas, and the Appalachian Mountains, recreation and tourism are thriving. Those who choose to stay in South Carolina after completing a degree will enjoy median housing values of $137,400, a median household income of $44,623, and a mean travel time of 23.4 minutes to get to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Those who plan to work in healthcare are in luck; three of the top five employers in the state are in the health and medicine field, according to Career One Stop. These include Medical University of SC, Greenville Memorial Hospital, and Palmetto Health Richland. Bartercard USA, an e-commerce company, is the largest employer in South Carolina with over 55,000 employees -- a popular option for those who graduate with degrees in computer and technology fields. The BMW plant employs about 7,000 people, and could be a potential opportunity for engineering graduates.
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What Makes South Carolina Ideal for Online Education?
Larger universities and colleges in South Carolina are slowly getting into the online game. University of South Carolina offers Palmetto College, an online-only option that features seven bachelor's degrees in the fields of business administration, criminal justice, human services, elementary education, liberal studies, nursing, and organizational leadership. Clemson University lists all available graduate programs and distance learning courses on Clemson Online. Students can choose from 10 different degree programs and dozens of online courses. And thanks to this embrace of online learning, Clemson students will find an abundance of hybrid education opportunities available to them.
South Carolina TechOnline Consortium offers information on individual courses available through the state's community college system. The 20 community colleges in the state boast a wide range of online options for those who want to earn a certificate, associate degree, transfer credits, or continuing education credits. For instance, Spartanburg Community College offers numerous online courses, three certificates, and six associate degrees that can be earned entirely online.
Why has South Carolina been slow to join the ranks of states that embrace online learning? Owen has a few theories. "Universities have historically seen their roles as being venues for transmitting knowledge, not as vehicles for change," she says. "Because many university professors are well advanced into their careers and were not exposed to technology as students, and because the tenure system makes these individuals virtually 'fire proof,' it has been an uphill battle to convince them that face-to-face classroom instruction is not the only way (perhaps not even the best way) to teach."
Another point of contention is the fact that for so many years, online education earned a negative reputation through for-profit schools that offered a less-than-stellar educational experience. "While the traditional Tier I and regional universities with a physical bricks and mortar presence have built reputations based on their history, the plethora of online universities and technical schools with no campuses, unidentified faculties, and little to no accountability are luring students based on nothing more than promises on a web site," Owen warns. "For online education to grow into a healthy alternative to face-to-face education from a known and respected school, a framework of accountability measures and accreditation procedures from nationally recognized educational agencies or accrediting bodies must be designed and compliance mandated. Until information on the quality of online classes/programs/schools becomes easily accessible and completely transparent to the student, unscrupulous for-profit entities will continue to tarnish an educational model that can be extremely effective."
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Top Industries in South Carolina
South Carolina is not just a great place to live, but a great place to work. According to the South Carolina Department of Commerce, numerous industries are thriving in the state, including:
- Aerospace. Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, 3D Systems, and General Electric all have large operations in South Carolina. Boeing might have the biggest presence, as much of the 787 Dreamliner is manufactured in the state.
- Alternative energy. Wind turbines are big business in the state, and the solar industry is quickly picking up the pace. South Carolina is also home to a commercial biomass plant, which uses wood waste to create energy that is then used by residents all over the state.
- Automotive. Michelin has a headquarters here, and BMW chose SC as the location of their only North American assembly plant. Over 200 auto parts suppliers support operations in the state, and Daimler AG and American LaFrance have a presence.
- Biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Several biotech companies have found a welcoming atmosphere in South Carolina, and they join the pharmaceutical heavy-hitters who have been in the state for quite some time: Bausch & Lomb, GlaxoSmithKline, and Roche, just to name a few.
- Distribution. South Carolina has the perfect location on the eastern seaboard to allow for easy distribution, and many large retailers have taken advantage of that. Walmart, Walgreens, and Target are just some of the companies who have built large warehouses in the state.
- Food processing. Just as many retailers have put down roots here, so have many food companies, including Perdue Farms, Nestle, and Tyson Foods. Starbucks chose South Carolina as the location for their first roasting and distribution facility in the southeast.
- Forestry and wood products. With over 270 wood product companies and over 150 paper products plants, South Carolina attracts some of the world's biggest names in industrial and consumer packaging. International Paper and Georgia-Pacific are well-known companies in the state.
- Plastics and chemicals. The large plastics industry continues to grow, and so do chemical manufacturers, such as DuPont and DAK Americas. In fact, DAK Americas' South Carolina plant is now the largest manufacturer of PET polymer in the nation.
- Tourism. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Appalachian Mountains, there is no wonder that tourism continues to boom in the state. Numerous businesses capitalize on the outdoors here, including Honda, Scout Boats, and Jarrett Rifles.
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Top Careers in North Carolina
Curious about the fastest-growing jobs in the state? Projections Central offers long-term projections for the workforce, including those jobs that will be growing at the greatest rate from 2012 to 2022. Here are the occupations expected to boom in the Palmetto State:
- Audiologists. Treating hearing and balance problems is the work of the audiologist, who must earn a doctoral or professional degree in order to practice. The University of South Carolina and South Carolina State University are the only two graduate schools in the state accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.
- Mechanical insulation workers. This job typically requires intensive on-the-job-training, but those who earn a degree in construction management or the like might see better job prospects. Students can begin the career journey at any number of community colleges in the state, including Aiken Technical College or Central Carolina Technical College.
- Home health aides. Those who work for home health or hospice agencies must have formal training, which can be found at community colleges or vocational schools. Midlands Technical College and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College are good places to begin.
- Interpreters and translators. Earning a bachelor's degree is a must for this position, and most graduates are required to be fluent in at least two languages. Many colleges in the state offer foreign language degrees, including Clemson University, University of South Carolina, and Duke University.
- Diagnostic medical sonographers. In order to operate the ultrasound machines and other equipment necessary to help diagnose medical conditions, sonographers must earn an associate degree. This two-year program is currently offered through Greenville Technical College and Horry-Georgetown Technical College.
- Assistants to brickmasons. Those who work with brickmasons to create straight, true walls typically learn their trade on the job, but those who earn college credit or a degree might see better hiring opportunities. The masonry program at Greenville Technical College is a great option.
- Personal care aides. Individuals who need help with everyday tasks look to personal care aides. There are training programs and certificates available through many community colleges and technical schools in the state, including York Technical College, Carolina Career Institute, and Forest College.
- Orthotists and prosthetists. Certification for this position requires at least a master's degree and one year of residency. South Carolina does not currently have an accredited orthotist or prosthetist program available; however, a bachelor's degree in a related field can be earned through places like Clemson University or University of South Carolina.
- Information security analysts. In order to begin protecting the information of an organization, students must earn a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. South Carolina offers numerous colleges with degree programs like this; a few include College of Charleston, Winthrop University, and Coastal Carolina University.
- Skincare specialists. A state-approved cosmetology or esthetician program is necessary to begin work, and that can be found at a places like Bob Jones University, Denmark Technical College, and Miller-Motte Technical College, just to name a few.
Students who are interested in pursuing any of these degrees through online schools might be tempted to jump right into the opportunity, but it pays to do some homework first. "My best advice to a student who is considering an online school is to take an online class from a local university and see how it goes," suggests Owen. "Comparison shop to determine if the tuition/fees for the online school are in line with similar schools, both online and traditional. Online classes from a credible institution are an excellent way for some people to further their educations. Online classes from a less-than-reputable institution can leave a student with a huge debt and nothing to show for it."
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Top Cities for South Carolina College Students
From Hilton Head Island to Myrtle Beach, and across the charming midstate to the Blue Ridge Mountains, South Carolina has a wealth of beauty to enjoy -- and several large cities that are home to happy residents and many colleges and universities. Here's what aspiring students might find in some of the most highly-populated areas of the state.
- Columbia. This is the capital of the state and its largest city, with over 133,000 people. Columbia enjoys a revitalized downtown area and the "fall line," the boundary between the upper Piedmont region and the Atlantic Coastal Plain, where rivers turn into waterfalls. It is also home to Fort Jackson, a large U.S. Army training facility.
- Charleston. The oldest city in the state, Charleston was named the top U.S. city by Conde Nast Traveler in 2013 -- the third straight year it held the distinction. About 128,000 people call the city home, and they enjoy world-class restaurants, entertainment, downtown areas, and more.
- North Charleston. Home to the H.L Hunley Museum, the renowned Jenkins Institute for Children, and numerous convention centers and performing arts venues, North Charleston hosts a population of over 104,000. And with the Port of Charleston, major highways, railroads, and airports all nearby, the area is very conducive to business.
- Mount Pleasant. Seventy-five thousand people call Mount Pleasant home, and more are poised to do the same, as the growth rate had reached a whopping 10.4 percent in 2013, according to the U.S. Census. Nestled right near the Atlantic Ocean, with a huge cultural vibe, the town is perfect for tourists and residents alike.
- Rock Hill. Home to about 70,000 people, this gorgeous town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians is only about 20 miles south of the bustling city of Charlotte, NC. Rock Hill is often recognized for its expansive parks and outstanding school system.
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With several major interstate systems cutting through South Carolina, aspiring students might find that a roadtrip is in order. It's an especially sweet state to drive through, considering that the land moves from gorgeous beaches to a picturesque midstate and ends at the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Let's start with Highway 85, coming up from the metro area of Atlanta, GA. The first stop is Clemson, home to -- that's right -- Clemson University. Skip over to Easley for Tri-County Technical College, and say hello to Furman University or Bob Jones University in nearby Greenville. Drive on to Spartanburg and Gaffney, taking time to enjoy the gorgeous scenery along the way. In Spartanburg, Wofford College awaits, and Gaffney offers Limestone College.
Head out to enjoy North Carolina for a bit, then come back into SC on I-77 for a stop at Rock Hill. Winthrop University and York Technical College are two must-stops on the journey, and then some relaxation at a mountain retreat is in order. Refreshed and renewed, move on down the road to Columbia, the heart of the state. Here the colleges and universities abound, so time should be carefully managed to take tours. Big considerations are University of South Carolina, Benedict College, Columbia College, and Allen University, just to name a few. Plan on spending a few days in the area to enjoy everything the midstate has to offer.
Where to go from here? A trip toward the northeast goes through Florence, where Francis-Marion University welcomes prospective students. Head south to get to North Augusta and Aiken, which offer Victory Baptist College and University of South Carolina at Aiken, respectively. Heading toward the coast leads to the major metro area of Charleston, where history and a potential new future await. The college atmosphere here is huge, including the Citadel, College of Charleston, Medical University of South Carolina, the Charleston School of Law, and so much more.
Now the coast is calling, so why not spend some time exploring? From famous Hilton Head Island to the Port of Charleston, there is something for everyone who loves the sea. Head up along the coast to eventually reach Myrtle Beach -- it's packed with tourists during the peak season but during the off-season, the beaches are roomy and the food is spectacular.
Don't forget the many small, winding roads that lead to colleges hidden away in the pines. Though the traditional roadtrip is a feast for the eyes, students who can't make the drive can take a virtual roadtrip through any of these colleges, as well as those that cater to only online students. Just get comfortable in that desk chair and go!
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Scholarships and Financial Aid
Whether a student chooses a traditional college experience or online learning in South Carolina, the question of how much that education will cost is always a top consideration. According to the Leaders & Laggards Report, state and local funding per completion at a four-year college was $36,114 in 2012, which was lower than the national average. The funding at the two-year level was $33,351, which was just slightly less than the national average. Students who need to bridge the gap can look to scholarships through their chosen institution, or seek out national, state, regional, or local scholarships that can help take the sting out of tuition costs.
There are a few financial options that are unique to the state of South Carolina. The Lottery Tuition Assistance Program makes use of the state lottery to provide students with help in covering their tuition costs at a South Carolina school. The LIFE Scholarship, HOPE Scholarship, and Palmetto Fellows Scholarship are a few other options. To learn more, students should visit the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. Information on grants for South Carolina students can be found through the South Carolina Higher Education Tuition Grants Commission.
Students can help ensure the most possible funding by ensuring that the school they choose is accredited. Besides that, students should always be sure that the educational path they choose will truly meet their needs upon graduation. Owen recommends students ask the following questions before enrolling: "Is the school credible? Is the program accredited by a recognized accrediting body, is the school recognized by the education agency in your state, and will credits earned in the online school transfer to a traditional university? Is the curriculum for the program aligned to the national standards for the program area? If you are pursuing a professional degree such as teaching, does the online school have the authority to recommend you to sit for the state certification test in the state in which you intend to practice?"
Federal financial aid is only available to students who attend accredited schools, so proper accreditation is vitally important. To be absolutely sure of an institution's accreditation status, speak to an admissions counselor at the school, or look to the U.S. Department of Education's Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
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Annual Cost of Living Index, 2012, South Carolina Department of Commerce, June 2012, http://sccommerce.com/sites/default/files/document_directory/cost_of_living_index_for_south_carolina_2012_with_south_carolina_sub-state_index.pdf
The Arts and the Economy, South Carolina Arts Commission, http://www.southcarolinaarts.com/economic/talkingpointsbrief.shtml
Audiologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/audiologists.htm#tab-4
Brickmasons, Blockmasons and Stonemasons, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/brickmasons-blockmasons-and-stonemasons.htm#tab-4
CAA Accredited Program Listing, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, http://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/CAAAccreditedPrograms.pdf
Charleston SC Official Site, http://www.charlestoncvb.com/
City of North Charleston, http://www.northcharleston.org/
Clemson Online, http://www.clemson.edu/online/index.html
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm#tab-4
Home Health Aides, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home-health-aides.htm#tab-4
Information Security Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-1
Insulation Workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/insulation-workers.htm
Interpreters and Translators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm#tab-4
Interview with Jane C. Owen, PhD, Professor Emeritus at Midwestern State University
Leaders & Laggards Report, South Carolina, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/reportcard/south-carolina/
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, http://www.tompsc.com/
Orthotists and Prosthetists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/orthotists-and-prosthetists.htm#tab-4
Palmetto College, http://www.sc.edu/study/academic_overview/online_education/degree_completion/index.php
Personal Care Aides, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/personal-care-aides.htm#tab-4
Programs and Courses, Spartanburg Community College, https://www.sccsc.edu/programs-courses/
Projections Central, South Carolina long-term projections, http://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
SC Technical College System, Distance Learning, https://www.sctechsystem.com/distancelearning.html
Scholarships and Grants for SC Residents, South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, http://www.che.sc.gov/Students,FamiliesMilitary/PayingForCollege/WhatFinancialHelpIsAvailable/ScholarshipsGrantsforSCResidents.aspx
Skincare Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/skincare-specialists.htm#tab-4
South Carolina Department of Commerce, Business Sectors, http://sccommerce.com/sc-advantage/industries/business-sectors
South Carolina Higher Education Tuition Grants Commission, http://www.sctuitiongrants.com/
South Carolina State and County Quick Facts, U.S. Census Bureau, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/45000.html
South Carolina State Profile: Largest Employers, Career One Stop, http://www.acinet.org/oview6.asp?soccode=&id=&nodeid=12&stfips=45&from=State
Visit Rock Hill, SC, http://www.visitrockhillsc.com/