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 South Carolina and elsewhere.
The major contributor among South Carolina public online colleges and universities is the University of South Carolina System, which consists of four 4-year campuses (USC Aiken, USC Beaufort, USC Columbia and USC Upstate) and four 2-year, associate degree-granting campuses (USC Lancaster, USC Salkehatchie, USC Sumter and USC Union). The four 2-year campuses, along with the system’s online bachelor’s degree completion program, are collectively known as Palmetto College. Other South Carolina public online schools of note include Clemson University in Clemson, the College of Charleston in Charleston and Coastal Carolina University in Conway.
There are currently 15 private not-for-profit colleges in South Carolina offering distance education programs. Of particular note are Charleston Southern University in Charleston, Converse College in Spartanburg and Limestone College in Gaffney.
A good way to get a feel for the state of higher education in South Carolina is to take a closer look at what is happening on the college and university campuses of its biggest cities. South Carolina’s two biggest cities are Columbia and Charleston. The following two sections examine the current college climate in the greater Charleston metropolitan area.
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 from 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.
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.
Whether in South Carolina or any other state, pursuing a college or university degree is an expensive proposition, which requires a great deal of planning when considering how one will pay. 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 1 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:
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. For example, the University of South Carolina Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
South Carolina is a state with a thriving college and university community, and students will find that the state’s colleges – public and private alike – offer a wide range of distance learning options on every degree level. Locating a top program in terms of quality academics and services can be a challenge, however. The following list of South Carolina schools is designed to help, by ranking those whose excellence sets them apart from their peers. Here are 2015-2016’s Best Online Colleges in South Carolina.
|RANK||COLLEGE||Score||Student-Teacher Ratio||Financial Aid||Cost||MORE INFO|
|1||North Greenville University||99.61||14:1||100%|
When it comes to finding online colleges in South Carolina that offer students graduate degrees, North Greenville University is a great option to look at. With both MBA and MCM programs, students can further their careers in business or ministry, working over the internet with excellent teachers to move forward in their careers.
|2||University of South Carolina-Upstate||97.91||15:1||97%|
University of South Carolina-Upstate offers a distance education program that enables students to takeclasses from home while also participating in clubs and other school organizations. The university offers the final two years of a several degree programs, but it also provides students with a wide range of online courses that span multiple areas of study, including graduate degree programs. Faculty are specially trained in advanced methods of online instruction and craft their courses to capitalize on the benefits of the distance education model. For some online learning opportunities, the university partners with other educational institutions, businesses, industries and community and public agencies.
|3||University of South Carolina-Columbia||95.61||18:1||90%|
The University of South Carolina at Columbia offers a collection of online degree programs at the bachelor's level, including programs in business, criminal justice, education, human services, organizational leadership, and RN-to-BSN. All distance learning programs are available to students with at least 60 credit hours and who possess the minimum required grade point average. The college's breadth of programs make it one of the top online colleges in South Carolina.
Columbia College offers two flexible, online degree programs for adult students: a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice or Bachelor of Science in emergency management. Professional instructors who have real-world experience in their field teach the classes, giving students the knowledge and background they need to be successful after graduation. Students are assigned a student success coach to provide support from pre-enrollment through graduation and ensure they are taking advantage of all of Columbia College's many resources. Classes last five weeks and are presented in a cohort model. The average student completes the programs in about 36 weeks.
Limestone College offers many different degree programs to students enrolling in their extended campus, with five options at the associate level and nineteen at the bachelor's level. This is one of the bigger offerings out of all the online colleges in South Carolina, so Limestone is a great school to look into.
|6||Coastal Carolina University||92.56||17:1||91%|
Coastal Carolina University offers a number of bachelor's and master's degrees online. Students can earn Bachelor of Science degrees in health administration, hospitality or marketing. Students access materials, such as digital texts, photos, videos and streaming files asynchronously through CCU's online Moodle system. They interact with instructors and classmates both on their own time via discussion threads and email and synchronously through real-time web conferencing. Each online student is assigned an academic counselor who assists individual students with adjusting to the online format andhelps to ensure students are on the correct academic path.
|7||Charleston Southern University||90.53||15:1||100%|
Out of the many online colleges in South Carolina, Charleston Southern University does not have the biggest list of degree programs available, but it does have a varied one. Students are able to choose from anything from nursing to organizational management or graphic design. All of these degrees are accredited and can help students seeking employment in the professional world.
|8||W L Bonner College||87.24||N/A||100%|
W. L. Bonner College offers a distance learning program offering bachelor's and associate degrees in religious studies, with courses such as Principles of Bible Interpretation, Evangelism, and Counseling and Crisis Intervention. The program is targeted for students who live outside of South Carolina and who wish to teach in congregations, denominational institutions, and public or Christian schools. Students can choose a fully-online program, with no in-person requirements, or enroll in a hybrid program meeting for one week or one Saturday each month. Courses are hosted through the Blackboard learning platform, allowing students to access readings, submit assignments and contact peers and professors in a virtual classroom
Online college programs provide a great deal of convenience and flexibility for their students. Yet, each college delivers its coursework in slightly different ways, and on different schedules. The key is for each individual student to determine which program best suits his or her particular requirements and preferences. Once that is accomplished, finding the right program becomes a process of narrowing down the choices based on each student’s priority list. The search tool below is designed to allow its users to do just that.
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?
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.
College students in South Carolina – and elsewhere – have access to a wide variety of online tools and resources to support their studies. Some services require payment of a fee, but a surprising number of fully functioning tools and applications are available to the general public free of charge. The types of resources offered include tools for time and money management, help in resume writing and job placement, subject-focused learning databases, tutorial services, math and science calculators, and access to language and writing coaches. Below is just a small sampling of the types of tools and resources that can be found online, along with links to a number of helpful websites specifically for South Carolina students.