The S.C. Higher Education Tour visits Sumter

As promised, the Blogland has started its tour of our state's higher education facilities. We start this tour in Sumter, a town where defense, industry, and agriculture fit together with some really nice country to make a nice place to live and raise a family.

In the middle of this, not too far from the center of town, is the town's techical college - Central Carolina Technical College. Right next door is the USC-Sumter campus. These two schools, both of which offer an Associate Degree as their terminal degree - not only duplicate services, they even share a parking lot.

In the past, efforts to upgrade USC-Sumter to a four-year college have been led by State Senator Phil Leventis, a local endangered species who barely won re-election in 2004, and who hasn't seen sixty percent of the vote since the 80s. These efforts have even been opposed opposed by the President of the USC system.

The effort to strong-arm this was so outrageous that legislation to make it a four-year campus was bobtailed into the 2004 Life Sciences Act, without the support of the USC President or the Commission on Higher Education.

While it may have made some sense to have two-year "feeder" campuses for USC once upon a time, that time has passed. The technical college system has grown and evolved to offer transfer programs (I was one student who did the transfer route), and several of the two-year campuses in or near larger cities have grown into full-fledged four year campuses.

It seems to make more sense to merge those campuses into the two year system, and put those resources to work to improve our technical colleges and allow the USC system to focus on their undergraduate and graduate programs. Unless, of course, politics, turf and job security are your priorities. Then having two public colleges issuing Associate Degrees while sharing a parking lot makes perfect sense.

USC Sumter advocates claim there are more students at USC Sumter than USC Beaufort, which just became a four-year college. But people in and near Beaufort are 80 to 110 miles from a four-year public college, and the area is booming, with tens of thousands of people moving into the area every decade. By contrast, the Sumter region is, for the most part, pretty stagnant, and is about 40 miles away from both USC in Columbia and Francis Marion in Florence. Sumter's need is, at best, questionable, but Beaufort's need was real.

What Sumter needs is a State Senator with a little less ego and a little more concern for the educational needs of his district. If a hundred or so more of his constituents agree in '08 than in '04, maybe they can get one.

Stay tuned for the ongoing saga of the South Carolina Higher Education Tour ...

8 Response to "The S.C. Higher Education Tour visits Sumter"

  1. Brian McCarty 21/3/07 02:27
    Actually, Earl, you need to keep in mind that USC Sumter is geared to help students go on to a four year degree in most cases. There are many degrees offered at the techinical college that are terminal. In other words, one might get a AA from USC Sumter in a subject and go on to USC Columbia for a BA. But, most at the Techinal college end their studies their with a AS or AA.

    This might sound unusual coming from me, but I don't care much for the duplication argument. I believe different people need different environments to study within. Further, the more access our people have to higher education, the better off we are in the long term, because a better educated people can land more economic opportunties in today's global economy.

    If a young man or young woman, for whatever reason, is not ready to leave home and go to USC or Francis Marion or wherever, but they can drive back and forth to USC Sumter and work a job and prepare to go somewhere else for a four year degree, I have no problem with that.

    If duplication means there is twice the access for someone to find where they fit in trying to better themselves, I have not problem with that either.

    Higher education is not the problem with educational costs in this state. The problem with the skyrocketing cost of education in South Carolina is the bloated administrations of the k-12 districts.

    It is my belief that we could take the money we waste on K-12 administrative costs and give every kid a free ride towards two years of higher education, maybe more.

    We have too many school districts, and too much overhead in K-12. When you commpare the higher education system to the K-12 system, the higher education system is efficient.

    But, we can not have a real disccussion about K-12, because the SCEA has such a hold on politics in this state.
  2. Earl Capps 21/3/07 07:23
    Brian, in Charleston and in most places, the tech colleges work closely with the four year colleges on transfer programs, and USC 2-year campuses award, just like the technical colleges, an Associate Degree as their terminal degree.

    Twenty years ago, there might have been a difference between USC and tech colleges, but nowadays, the technical colleges have evolved to offer a more robust transfer curriculum, as they have in most states.

    I got my Associate Degree from Trident Tech, and two weeks later, was at CofC. My advisor at Trident was just for Associate in the Arts students, and CofC admissions staff visited my school regularly.

    As my final GPA at Trident was a 3.47, and my first semester GPA at CofC was 3.5 (final 3.71), I'd say I was well-prepared.

    Trident Tech's transfer "gem" is their "2+2" program, where they get their Associate in Civil Engineering in tight cooperation with The Citadel, and then transfer there.

    That facility would be far better off if they could combine the resources into one school. If you can get an Associate degree and transfer to a four-year college from either side of the same parking lot, why do you need to have two sets of administration to reach the same goal?
  3. Anonymous 21/3/07 08:47
    you two are both loudmouths and troublemakers. how do those mail order degrees look on the wall of your offices? do your employers know you didn't really earn them?

    just shut the hell up and get lost.
  4. west_rhino 21/3/07 10:06
    Earl, FWIW, I agree that melding the two campuses is a logical solution. I also see that Senator Phil Leventis seems to have Chanticeler envy, based on the Conway USC campus that broke the mold by adding dorms to the two year campus. The proximity to SC State, Francis Marion and USC, not to mention how many other smaller private schools in that region, makes a four year campus a potential straw that breaks the camels back. 2 + 2 (and 3 + 1/4 + 1) programs leading to bachelors in specialized area work well for many existing institutions, though I's have to offer up merging the two campuses under Tech and planting a joint graduate education facility for MAT/MBA/MSN candidates as a bone for Phil's consitituents.
  5. Anonymous 21/3/07 14:34
    Not much discussion here. When you post a thoughtful subject that doesn't leave room for the extremists on either side of the political funny farm to talk, you're not going to get much discussion.

    I guess that it can be hard to have intelligent discussion of real issues in a state where everyone is a moron.
  6. west_rhino 21/3/07 17:11
    anon, would you answer a rhetorical question?
  7. Moye 21/3/07 23:21
    WR he does not know what that means.
  8. moye 21/3/07 23:30
    Now back to the post. I agree Earl one campus is enough. The Senator for sure has pushed the four year deal for a long time. If it was not for a certain other school in Sumter he would not even be the Senator. If Shaw ever closes there may never be a need to bring this up again. Not only do you have the schools you mentioned but there is a predominantly black college in Sumter. Also Manning 20 miles a way has a Tech school probably others. Conway was a different story and Coastal has served the beach well. Sumter is nowhere close to being a Myrtle Beach. The students on the coast are from everywhere in Sumter you would not have a draw much out of the area not unless it was super cheap and guess who is going to pay for that. I was never in favor of Florence going four years and to me it can go back for two for all I care. What we need is the University of Santee. That is a nice name. Then we could also build the Bridge to nowhere and there certainly would be no reason for Sumter to go to four since it would only be a few minuts from SC State or the future University of Lake Marion.

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