USC gives 165 S.C. students a second chance for admission

abeam@thestate.comAugust 6, 2012 

Davion Johnson will live in a USC dorm this fall and study in the USC library. He just won’t be taking classes at USC.

The 18-year-old high school senior from Lamar, who said USC is where he wants to go to college, was among the last students to miss the cut for admission to South Carolina’s flagship university. Now, he is one of the first 165 students admitted to USC’s new “Gamecock Gateway” program, an invitation-only program that university officials announced Monday.

The program allows students to live on USC’s campus and participate in student life while taking classes at Midlands Technical College.

USC has had a bridge program with the state’s technical colleges for years, allowing students to transfer to USC. The Gamecock Gateway program, for the first time, will allow those students to live on campus.

“They will feel both as if they are students of Midlands Technical College and students at the University of South Carolina,” USC president Harris Pastides said.

The program is one of several new USC offerings geared toward students who normally would not be able to get admitted for a four-year USC degree.

In July, lawmakers approved $2.1 million for Palmetto College, an online degree program aimed at students at one of USC’s eight satellite campuses who, for whatever reason, cannot take classes in Columbia to earn a four-year degree. And the first Gamecock Gateway class targeted students who had good high school grade-point averages, but missed the required 1,000-point score on the SAT college-entrance exam that USC uses.

“If we are going to educate more students in our society today, we can’t have that Old World thinking that only certain people can go to college and succeed,” said Dennis Pruitt, USC’s vice president for student affairs. “There are many students that are better than their numbers.”

University officials said the program will cost students about $8,000 a year less than if they were enrolled at USC.

The students admitted to the Gamecock Gateway program must live in South Carolina. They will live at The Roost, a dorm that once housed USC’s student athletes. They can’t join a fraternity or sorority, and they won’t get student football, basketball or baseball tickets.

But, after a year, if they maintain the required grade-point average for their major and have at least 30 transferable hours, the students can transfer to USC. In the meantime, they can participate in most of USC’s student life — including its intramural sports, student organizations and student health services.

USC did not advertise the program. Nor did it ask for applications. Instead, it notified several hundred students they were eligible for the program, and 165 accepted. Of those students: 51 percent are women and 49 percent are men; 62 percent are white, 22 percent are African-American, 4 percent are Asian, 4 percent are Hispanic/Latino, and 8 percent are “other.”

“Today, in South Carolina, 65 percent of the jobs right now require an education beyond high school,” said Sonny White, president of Midlands Technical College. “(This program) is about finding a way to give more students access and a different pathway in order to get that degree they are looking for.”

Johnson, who graduated from Mayo High School for Math, Science and Technology, said he wants to major in biology, go to medical school and become an obstetrician. When he found out USC did not accept him, Johnson said he was hurt.

Now, he says he feels lucky to have a chance to experience life at USC while at Midlands Tech. “I would like to do student government and play a couple of intramural sports — even though I’m not that athletic,” he said. “You can always try.”

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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