Students studying to be teachers could save thousands of dollars on tuition through a new partnership between Midlands Technical College and the University of South Carolina.
Amid a "crisis" level teacher shortage in South Carolina, the program, announced at a Tuesday afternoon news conference, aims to get more teachers in the classroom while saving students money.
"Two years with MTC is a lot lower than, say, spending the first two years with USC. So they're going to be able to become teachers at a much lower cost and, hopefully, get to the classroom much sooner," said Midlands Tech President Ronald Rhames.
Though all 50 states are facing some sort of teacher shortage, the shortage has hit South Carolina especially hard. Last year, 6,705 S.C. teachers quit their jobs. By the 2027-2028 school year, 11 percent of teacher positions are expected to be vacant.
Starting this fall, students who enroll in the program would spend their first two years at Midlands Tech — where tuition, fees and books cost $6,246 per year — and their second two years at USC, where tuition, fees and books are twice that, according to the two institutions' websites.
The savings, according to USC and Midlands Tech websites, comes out to roughly $14,000 over two years.
"We are certainly enthused about seeing those prospective teachers as they come through our college," said Jon Pedersen, the dean of USC's College of Education.
Whether students spend their first two years of college at USC or Midlands Tech, their degrees will look the same, Pedersen said.
"The USC degree is the USC degree," Pedersen said.
Students already are able to take their first two years of college at Midlands Tech and their last two at USC, but course credits earned at Midlands Tech don't necessarily transfer to USC, meaning transfer students either miss lessons or cover topics more than once. This program is designed to make the transition "seamless," Rhames said.
Last school year, about 45 USC students transferred from Midlands Tech to USC, said assistant dean for academic and student affairs Rob Dedmon. Once the program begins, Rhames said he hopes to see "hundreds and hundreds" of students taking advantage of the program.
The partnership is similar to Clemson University's Call Me MISTER program, where students study for one or two years at a technical or regional college before transferring to Clemson.
The USC-Midlands Tech partnership also helps give students who may not be ready for living on campus, or whose test scores are too low, a chance to get a degree.
Pedersen, who said he scored Bs and Cs in high school and was the first in his family to go to college, said he would have taken advantage of this program if it were available when he graduated high school.
"We know that some students just aren't ready to move to a four-year campus," Pedersen said. "So, we know that working with MTC and helping the students transition is going to be key in terms of retaining them and ... recruiting them into teacher education."