The South Carolina Technical College System is part of a national initiative called Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count, aimed at helping low-income and minority students attain a post-secondary education. Currently, five colleges in South Carolina are participating in the effort, joining over 100 institutions nationwide committed to increasing the number of students that graduate with a certificate or degree. Once performance standards have reached approved levels, statewide expansion will take place, and all technical and community colleges will join the initiative.
This is an important step because, according to a report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 349,000 job openings in South Carolina created between 2008 and 2018 will require post-secondary credentials. The report also states that, by 2018, 56 percent of all jobs in the state will call for some form of training beyond a high school diploma. Expanding access to higher education, including offering students online degree programs, may play a role in helping create the qualified workforce South Carolina needs for the future.
Online Education Resources for Students in South Carolina
The South Carolina Technical College System features a page on its website where students can search for online classes offered by community and career colleges in the state. According to the site, distance learning is important because it "can be delivered in a format convenient to the student, so that citizens of South Carolina will have one less barrier to address in the pursuit of their educational goals." This means working adults can typically maintain their busy schedule and take online classes at the same time. Even more, thanks to online education, students living far from local campuses now have the opportunity to attend classes from the comfort of their own home.
In addition to community and technical colleges, many four-year universities in South Carolina now offer online courses and degree programs. Prominent institutions such as the University of South Carolina, Charleston Southern, and Davenport University feature fully online degree programs, and others, like South Carolina State and Clemson University, offer courses students can take for credit. There are also a number of schools with a national presence, such as Walden University, where students can earn an online degree. These colleges often boast a wider range of online options than state schools, which are relatively new to e-learning.
Importance of Accreditation for Online Colleges in South Carolina
Accreditation demonstrates that an institution has met certain benchmarks proving it provides a quality education. Employers may not hire someone who graduates from a college or university that is not accredited, as its degrees are not backed by a reputable organization. Accreditation is often handled by private, regional agencies maintained by the Secretary of Education and the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. Most colleges and universities in South Carolina are overseen by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
The SACSCOC, however, is not the only agency responsible for accrediting online schools in the state. Institutions based outside South Carolina often receive their accreditation from national organizations, or specific degree programs can be evaluated by more specialized agencies. For example, programs in fields such as career or marriage counseling may be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Students should contact prospective schools and inquire about their accreditation status before enrolling in any education program.
South Carolina Online Colleges and Tuition Rates
As with brick-and-mortar schools, online colleges in South Carolina have a variety of methods for charging tuition. The University of South Carolina, for instance, has different rates for in-state and out-of-state students. Clemson University, on the other hand, does not charge separate rates for resident and non-resident students, but it does offer different prices for education provided on-campus vs. online. To learn more about tuition and the admissions process, prospective students should contact a representative from their school of interest.
Selected Online Degree Programs in South Carolina
Online Public Health Degrees in South Carolina: In these programs, students typically learn about the organization of public health systems, and the economic and social obstacles impacting the distribution of health services. Other areas of focus may include the evaluation of existing implementation, strengths and weaknesses of current public health policy, and technology used for data analysis. Graduates of public health degree programs can go on to become community outreach coordinators, epidemiologists, or health services managers.
Online Education Degrees in South Carolina: Online degrees in education help prepare individuals to teach students of their own. Undergraduate courses tend to focus on child development, educational psychology, children's literature, and exceptional learners, while graduate courses generally teach students classroom management skills, curriculum planning, and educational leadership. With a degree in education, graduates may qualify to become K-12 educators, special education instructors, curriculum coordinators, or even educational administrators. Those interested in teaching typically must possess both a bachelor's degree and state-issued certification or license, particularly if they want to work at a public school (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012).
Online Business Degrees in South Carolina: Business students can choose from a variety of areas to specialize in, including management, finance, or marketing. Undergraduate business programs typically introduce students to accounting practices, business statistics, communication skills, and organizational behavior. Graduate programs, such as an MBA and DBA, tend to focus on management-level data analysis, multinational operations, financial management, and research practices. Students who earn a degree in business may qualify to become accountants, product managers, financial advisors, or securities analysts.
Today, online schools in South Carolina offer degree programs in a wide range of fields, including graphic design, criminal justice, psychology, engineering, and many more. For information on available programs, or to speak with an admissions counselor, contact one of the schools listed below.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition: Middle School Teachers
Clemson University, Tuition and Fee Schedules, 2013
Davenport University, DU Online
The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018, South Carolina [PDF]
SC Technical College, Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count, 2012
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
South Carolina Commission on Higher Education
South Carolina Technical College System, Distance Learning, 2012
University of South Carolina, Palmetto College