CONWAY, SC (WBTW) — Although less than three years old — with a pandemic beginning just months after its implementation — Coastal Carolina University’s partnership with the state’s 16 technical colleges is growing in popularity .
“It’s going extremely well,” said Tim Hardee, president of the South Carolina Technical College System. “I obviously think the partnership between Coastal Carolina and Horry-Georgetown Technical College has been very successful, and many members of the South Carolina Legislature see this as beneficial to communities across the state because they want students graduate with lower amounts of student debt, and there is a pathway to be able to do that and get a good job in their local community.
The partnership between technical colleges and CCU began in the fall of 2019 and recently expanded in February.
Under the agreement, students who earn an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree at a technical college can use those credits to enter CCU as a junior.
Greenville Technical College and Horry-Georgetown Technical College students can transfer up to 18 credits of honors courses toward the 24 credit hour requirement at CCU. There are also unique track programs with HGTC for students with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Human Services, and Teacher Education.
A new partnership with Piedmont Technical College allows students to enter CCU with degree credits in graphic design, and an Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College agreement is for students interested in majoring in business.
Additional agreements are also in preparation.
Hardee said about a third of technical college students plan to transfer to a four-year institution eventually. Getting into a technical college first, he said, is a fraction of the cost of a four-year institution and reduces student debt after graduation.
“Anything that helps make this more affordable is definitely good for the citizens of South Carolina,” Hardee said.
According to Lee Brown III, the dean of the CCU College of Graduate and Continuing Services, there are about 450,000 people in the state with college credit but no four-year degree.
South Carolina already lags the national rate in the number of adults with a college degree, with 29.6% in South Carolina, compared to the national average of 39%.
In Horry County, it’s even worse, at 24.3%.
“We know this is a knowledge-based society, and to really have economic development, economic improvement, we need to increase the number of South Carolina with a four-year degree,” Brown said. .
He said first-generation students are turning to community colleges as a way to get a higher education. Once they have completed these two-year degrees at a technical college, they are more confident to move on to a four-year university.
Brown said academic advisors can help students who have college credit identify what their path to a degree will look like.
About 250 to 300 students transferred from a technical college to CCU this fall, just two years after the partnership began. Brown expects that number to double as transfer deals continue to expand.
“We know this population exists and we have to do what we have to do to serve this population,” he said.
Hardee wants to see more new high school graduates use technical colleges as a path to a four-year degree. He also wants the transfer process to be transparent for all universities in the state.
“I think in a way it’s a win for both of us as a technical college system, but also a win for the four-year institutions because they have a pool of thousands of students who are academically ready to transfer within four years. institutions of the year,” he said.
Students leaving technical colleges, Hardee said, have similar graduation rates for a four-year degree as students starting at those universities.
CCU’s efforts will get a boost as the university relaunches its Coastal Bound program on March 14. The program is for students who want to transfer from HGTC to CCU, and gives them on-campus academic and student life experiences.
As a driver of economic activity in the region, Brown said the CCU and technical school partnership will hopefully lead to more people pursuing higher education.
“We have a long way to go to improve this region, and we can do that by providing pathways for a four-year degree to our community,” he said.