Students looking to pursue a college education in South Carolina have a nice range of choices considering the relatively smaller size of the state. In 2013, South Carolina was home to 111 post-secondary institutions serving nearly 340,000 students. Among all states, South Carolina ranks 25th in total number of post-secondary schools and 29th in number of students. One in every 87 students seeking a higher education in the United States did so at a South Carolina college, university or trade school that year. The following chart depicts some of the advanced educational options available in South Carolina:
|College Type||Number in South Carolina|
|Private not-for-profit (religious affiliation)||19|
|Private not-for-profit (no religious affiliation)||6|
South Carolina's Top College Cities
One or more college campuses in South Carolina can be found within a reasonable driving distance for most state residents, with a majority located in or around major metropolitan areas. The following lists break down the most bustling education communities in the state:
Most Popular Centers for College Students in South Carolina (Total)
- Charleston (45,200)
- Columbia (38,500)
- Greenville (33,000)
- Conway (20,900)
- Spartanburg (19,200)
Top Cities by Total Number of Colleges
- Columbia (20)
- Charleston (11)
- Greenville (10)
- Spartanburg (9)
- Rock Hill (5)
Spotlight: Charleston Colleges and Universities
Located centrally on the eastern seaboard of South Carolina, Charleston is home to a number of renowned public and private colleges and universities. Ranked fourth on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Top Public Schools in the South, the College of Charleston’s incoming freshman class averages a 3.9 grade point average in high school. Students at the College of Charleston are encouraged to study abroad and take advantage of independent research to round out their education. Also located in Charleston, The Citadel is consistently recognized as the top public college in the South for master’s degrees. With only 20 students or less per class in 40 percent of the classes and an average student retention rate of 82 percent, The Citadel places on many “top” lists by U.S. News. Medical University of South Carolina has a mission to “preserve and optimize human life,” evident in its growth into one of the country’s top academic health science centers. Its academic hospital was the only hospital in the state to earn an “A” by Leapfrog, an organization that scores hospitals’ health safety based on survey and safety ratings.
Online Courses and Degree Programs
Distance learning opportunities allow students the flexibility to take courses from across the globe. The Citadel offers a combination of online courses and synchronous distance learning, where students attend classes in real time from a location outside the traditional classroom. Some graduate programs, such as a master’s in leadership, are available completely online, while other programs have evening and weekend options. At Trident Technical College, distance learning programs continue to grow as online education gains popularity. From continuing education to associate degrees and accredited programs in accounting, business and technology, students have a variety of options when choosing online programs at TTC.
South Carolina Distance Learning
In the early stages of the online education business, postsecondary programs were mainly offered by private online for-profit providers. Much has changed in the last several years, however, with a growing number of traditional colleges and universities establishing a strong online presence. In 2013, 13 four-year colleges in South Carolina featured some level of online educational services. The University of South Carolina offers a number of bachelor's degree completion programs online as well as online graduate degrees in education, engineering, health information technology, and public health. A wide range of online courses are also offered throughout the academic year.
Tuition and Other College Expenses
Whether in South Carolina or any other state, pursuing a college or university degree is an expensive proposition, payment for which requires a great deal of planning. The first cost that any student must consider is tuition. Tuitions vary greatly from school to school, particularly when it comes to private colleges. South Carolina ranked 26th among all states in terms of average college tuition rates in 2012, with resident students averaging $11,762 per year for in-state tuition costs.
Another major expense for college students is also known as room and board. Again, these costs vary substantially by school and location. Recent cost of living (COL) numbers place South Carolina at approximately one percent below national averages. COL figures for specific South Carolina cities, compared to the national average (100), are indicated below:
|Urban Area||Composite Index||Housing||Groceries||Utilities||Transportation||Health Care||Misc.|
|Hilton Head Island||14.1%||19.8%||11.4%||0.4%||1.6%||10.7%||18.5%|
In addition to tuition, room and board, students should also vet the value of a college’s degree. Specifically, once a student graduates, will that degree lead to solid career and salary potential? This return on investment (ROI) analysis, while overlooked and underrated, could be one of the most important metrics to consider when choosing a college. The following South Carolina colleges had the state’s best ROIs in 2013:
- Clemson University
- Presbyterian College
- Furman University
- University of South Carolina – Main Campus
- College of Charleston
Loans, Grants and Scholarships
The majority of students in the United States, including those in South Carolina, require some amount of financial aid in order to attend college. The three basic forms of financial aid are loans, grants and scholarships. In 2012, approximately 78 percent of South Carolina undergraduate students tapped into federal sources of funding, resulting in a state ranking of 2nd in terms of total federal financial aid received.
Scholarships are another primary source of college funding, sponsored nationwide by private businesses and individuals, professional and industry associations, and nonprofits or other organizations. These programs are available on local, state and national levels. The following list provides examples of the types of institutions offering scholarship opportunities to South Carolina college students:
- Abney Foundation
- Central Carolina Community Foundation
- Charleston Women in International Trade
- Coastal Community Foundation
- Jimmy Rayne Foundation
- Kid's Chance of South Carolina
- Kittie M. Fairey Educational Fund
- MetLife Foundation (Future Farmers of America)
- Myrtle Beach Sun News
- Palmetto Fellows
- South Carolina Chapter - Soil and Water Conservation Society
- South Carolina Farm Bureau Foundation
- South Carolina Wildlife Federation
- Watson-Brown Foundation
Accreditation of South Carolina Schools
Accreditation is a crucial factor when it comes to choosing a college or university degree program. Proper accreditation of an institution is also an absolute prerequisite for students who plan on paying for their education with the help of federal loans or grants. U.S. Department of Education-recognized regional institutional accreditation for South Carolina colleges is administered by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools - Commission on Colleges. Individual programs, colleges, or departments within a larger institution in South Carolina may also hold specialized or programmatic accreditation. The University of South Carolina Bachelor's of Nursing program, for instance, is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
South Carolina students have a lot to ponder when it comes to choosing a postsecondary education program. The above information is provided to help begin the decision-making process. To learn more about the full range of college options available in South Carolina, particularly in regard to online degree programs and course offerings, check out the individual school profiles below.
South Carolina features some of the country's top online colleges, as well as some of the most affordable, but we wanted to take a closer look at what makes them great. We spoke with a representative from the online branch of Southern Wesleyan University to get some inside information.
Southern Wesleyan University
How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?
At Southern Wesleyan, we understand the needs and commitments of working adults. We have been providing working adults with Christ-centered educational opportunities for more than 25 years. At SWU we offer fully online options for select degree programs. Online students will earn the same degree as they would in the on-site classroom. Courses are taught in a flexible virtual classroom experience, designed to be both engaging and challenging. Students have access to an incredible array of learning resources and can complete their online degrees on their own schedule. As a Christ-centered university, our programs offer a faith-based education that combines theory with practical, real-world applications.
What makes your online programs so valuable to students?
- Transfer friendly policies
- Devoted professors and student services coordinators
- Flexibility via no set login times
- Student friendly interface provides 24/7 access to course work
- Established brick-and mortar campus for over 100 years
- Non-profit institution that is regionally accredited
Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?
Dedicating tremendous time and resources to increase program offerings (content specific concentrations) and improve systems and processes.
Ranking: Most Affordable Online Colleges in South Carolina
South Carolina is one of the best places for distance learners to pursue an online degree. An array of four-year, fully online schools in South Carolina boast unsurpassed education through their accredited programs. These programs frequently grant degrees and certifications that are indistinguishable from degrees earned by on-site students. The comparisons continue with similar curriculum, admissions requirements, and tuition assistance between online and on-campus programs. To get a better idea of all the opportunities available via online programs in South Carolina, we’ve listed all your options, beginning with the lowest tuition programs. The very best South Carolina online colleges can be found here.Click here to see our methodology.