COLUMBIA — Touting “The Quality of USC Online,” South Carolina’s flagship university launched a web-based college Thursday that allows students to complete their bachelor’s degrees online.
“We want to bring the university to them -- to their dens, to their kitchens, to their living rooms,” University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides said.
The new college should help USC better compete with for-profit colleges for students who have the equivalent of a two years of college credits but cannot attend classes on a residential campus.
The university hopes to triple the number of students taking web-based courses by 2018. Already, USC is offering more classes online to “traditional” students, who go to classes on campus, to help ease the strain of its increasing enrollment and entice more students who want to take classes on their own schedules.
Palmetto College quietly opened its enrollment last week. It has attracted more than 25 students who can take classes in seven majors. Many of those students attended a news conference at the State House that included the school’s own version of a ribbon-cutting -- the unwrapping of a laptop.
Pastides said former USC star running back Marcus Lattimore, who is leaving college after three years to enter the NFL draft, will complete his degree through Palmetto College.
The online programs offered through Palmetto College come from each of USC’s four-year campuses.
USC Columbia is offering elementary education, liberal studies and organizational leadership courses. Criminal justice and nursing classes come from USC Upstate, business classes from USC Aiken and human services courses from USC Beaufort.
USC is starting a marketing campaign for the online college and expects it to have 500 students when classes start in the fall.
Pastides said the university did not put the South Carolina name on the college to emphasize that all students -- regardless of where they went to college previously -- can enroll with at least 60 hours of college credits.
A semester of tuition to Palmetto College will cost S.C. residents $4,367 -- about $900 less than tuition at USC’s main campus this year.
The school also kicked off a scholarship campaign Thursday to help pay tuition for adult students to attend Palmetto College. New Palmetto College chancellor Susan Elkins, who developed an online program at Tennessee Technical University before joining USC, said she would make the first donation.
The college got off the ground with $5 million from the state this year, but about $2 million of that money was guaranteed for one year only.
South Carolina wants to make all $5 million in state funding permanent, starting next year. The state House approved that money in its version of the budget that now is under consideration in the Senate. The state money and revenue generated from tuition should cover the new college’s expenses, Pastides told a state Senate panel this week.
USC’s president thanked S.C. lawmakers for their financial backing of the college, which he called the most significant investment ever toward making a four-year degree affordable and accessible across the state.
The news conference Thursday included appearances from three legislative leaders, all USC graduates: House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston; Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson, R-Richland; and House Education Committee Chairman Phil Owens, R-Pickens.
“We can all agree that a more educated South Carolina is a better South Carolina,” Owens said.
Reach Shain at (803) 200-1760