Showing posts with label s.c. higher ed tour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label s.c. higher ed tour. Show all posts

South Carolina's Higher Ed "con game" shortchanges students & workforce

Writing in The State newspaper, former Abbeville County State Representative Harry Stille, himself a former college professor, sounded a call for reforming higher ed in South Carolina, warning that:

For years the Legislature and universities have conned us about the value of a baccalaureate degree, when these students would have been better off in the two-year system. Our technical colleges are where the major job growth potential is.
We need to limit university admissions to students who are in the top 50 percent of each high school class, who don’t need remedial classes and who score at least 910 on the SAT or 19 on the ACT. And we should send the rest of the students to the two-year system, where they, and we, will get their money’s worth.

I couldn't agree more. I've dealt with the issues of education and workforce, both as a career human resources professional and as a six-year member of the Charleston-area Workforce Investment Board, and have found that some of the most critical workforce shortages that we're faced with in South Carolina - as well as much of the rest of the South - is among those trades which require one to two years of technical education to enter.

Higher ed construction may not be such a bad idea right now

Over the last four years, construction costs at our state's colleges have totalled about $1 billion, according to a recent report in The Greenville News. Since the recession began, building projects valued at $60 million have been approved.

College officials cite the necessity of keeping up with the demands for program improvements and growth. And they make the point that building expenses don't come from the same pot of money that colleges depend on for operating expenses.

Nevertheless, it is still reasonable to question whether a building boom is warranted during these tough economic times.

While the op-ed raises legitimate concerns, such as the cost of maintaining an overlapping set of two-year USC campuses, citing how USC-Sumter shares a parking lot with the regional technical college, as well as continual increases in tuition rates, the issue isn't as simple as their op-ed would make it seem. In fact, at least some of this construction activity may turn out to have been shrewd investment.

Save Greenville's University Center

Here in the Blogland, we've railed against the idiocy that has been represented by the duplication in our state's higher education system, especially by two-year "feeder" USC campuses which should have been merged into the state's technical college system, which specializes in issuing two year degrees.

But our argument is about "right-sizing" our higher education system as much as it is about "down-sizing" because higher education can play a vital role in developing our state's workforce, which is key to an economic development approach which brings quality jobs to our state, which pay higher salaries and tend to stick around longer.

The lack of a public college or university in Greenville County has never made sense to us, and this need is partially met by the University Center initiative, which is similar to the Lowcountry Graduate Center. Both facilities use collaborative approaches which cut the education bureacracy while allowing for flexibility and innovation. Needless to say, hearing that major budget cuts are planned for the University Center didn't sit well with us:

Gov. Mark Sanford's proposed $5.8 billion state budget includes cuts of $301,000 in the University Center's recurring-funds allocation for the fiscal year beginning in July. Fred Baus, president and chief executive officer of the University Center, said that would put it "in the position of going from $2.25 million to $650,000" in operating funds.

"That is not viable," he said.

Without the University Center, which serves about 2,200 students a year, Greenville would be the only major metropolitan area in the state without a public institution of higher education, he said.

Ben Haskew, chief executive of the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce, said, "I think closing it would be catastrophic for Greenville. We are on a mission to improve per capita income and transition to a new economy. It's all about education."

Bruce Yandle, dean emeritus of the Clemson University College of Business and Behavioral Science, said the University Center has been important and will continue to be important to the Greenville area because of the students it educates and the businesses it helps attract to the Upstate.

Without the consortium of seven universities that make up the University Center, calls would increase for a public university in Greenville County, costing a minimum of $20 million, said former Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore, member and former chairman of the center's board of visitors.

We hope the final budget will allow for the resources needed to keep this center open and operational. It's certainly a lot cheaper than building a college for the area, as well as an economic development investment that adds value to the Upstate.

Time to scrutinize higher ed?

Our neighbors at FITS, who seem to think we've sold out to the education establishment, have ironically decided to join our call for real reforms in higher education in South Carolina:

In case you missed it, we were pretty hard on South Carolina’s higher ed leaders in our first installment of this year’s “Palmetto Power 100″ list. Frankly, we think it’s inexcusable the way they’ve been jacking tuition and fees on our state’s citizens in recent years, particularly while they’re hiding multi-million dollar slush funds (in Clemson’s case) or gobbling up real estate like the Wehrmacht (in Carolina’s case).

Of course, like their K-12 counterparts, these ivory tower blowhards always blame tuition increases on “budget cuts,” despite the fact that South Carolina grew government at obscene levels over the last four years and continues to spend more than 16% of its state budget on higher ed (compared to the national average of around 10%).

As part of our attempt to hide the senseless waste and duplication that helps put a college education beyond the financial reach of a growing number of South Carolina families, the Blogland has been working hard to find good examples of duplication via the infamous network of two-year USC campuses, including by showing you the USC "feeder" campuses in Sumter and Walterboro.

We invite our readers to visit USC-Sumter, where the highest degree you can receive is an Associate's in Arts or Sciences. Across the parking lot from that campus is the Central Carolina Technical College campus, a two-year public college where the highest degree you can receive is ... you guessed it: an Associate's in Arts or Sciences.

We've also challenged the state's lottery system of tuition assistance, the implementation of which was followed by massive tuition hikes which have in many cases, exceeded the amount of additional money the lottery put in the hands of students.

A simple rule of economics proposes that more money = more demand for goods and services. In turn, more demand = higher prices. Guess what? It applies to higher education prices as well.

In spite of all this spending and turf-building, statistics show that we're not getting a decent return on our education investment as the quality of our state's workforce continues to fall farther behind. Is anyone surprised?

As we - and FITS - have pointed out, the politics of higher education are getting in the way of the real objective: producing the best college graduates with the least amount of money. There's more we're going to talk about soon with regard to our state's irrational system of higher education, so stay tuned.

College costs up in South Carolina - yep, more crybabies

Some good thoughts can be found over on FITS about the cost of higher education, as The State shares with us more News of the Obvious about the costs of a college education in South Carolina:

Students and their parents can attest to a painful truth about college costs: They’ve been on a rocket ship rise for years. And there is no end in sight.

Paying for college is especially tough in South Carolina, where public universities are the most expensive in the Southeast.

Jumping Jimmy Hodges! I thought the lottery was supposed to fix this problem ... I guess it didn't. Is anyone surprised?

Yes, one of the legacies of the "Education Governor", aside from a former Chief of Staff in prison is "tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities in South Carolina averaged $7,916 a year. That figure is 36 percent higher than the national average and 58 percent higher than the Southeastern average."

Thanks Jimmy. We really appreciate what you've done for our schools.

Paying for higher education is like buying a car. The price you pay tends to roughly equal the amount of money you can afford to spend. This is why in-state tuition spiralled once most college students had a few thousand more dollars to spend, via the lottery.

But to be fair, there are a lot of problems with higher education in South Carolina that had nothing to do with Hodges. Just stand in the parking lot between two state public colleges which offer two-year associate's degrees for transfer to our four year colleges, or economically depressed communities which have USC campuses but no technical education facilities to help attract industry.

FITS says duplication, waste, and turf are the problems with our system of higher education ... and they're right on the mark. It's past time to streamline our colleges as a means to making higher education more affordable for our state's families.

But one does have to marvel at these s*** for brains who attend state-run public colleges, complain about the high tuition at those state-run public colleges, but somehow decide working for federal candidates is going to solve the problem:

Lauren Johnson, a 20-year-old junior at Winthrop University, said she has two scholarships, a Pell Grant and a student loan, and she still has a hard time covering all of her costs.

“Each year, tuition goes up,” said Johnson, the daughter of a military family that settled in Columbia. “We’re scrambling even more to try to figure out how to pay for this.”

Molly Emerson, a 19-year-old volunteer for the Obama campaign, said college costs were “a huge consideration” in determining which candidate would get her support.

“The costs are astronomical,” said Emerson, who is taking a year off from college to help the Obama campaign. “I’m one of four children. My parents have many more years of costs.”

Like Emerson, Johnson is also supporting Obama, and college costs are one of the main reasons.

I'm sure glad such geniuses are working for a candidate that I don't support. I hope he keeps attracting people with such a great understanding of government.

If they're so concerned about getting an education, maybe they should:

1) Not take a year off from college to go campaign (must be tough to be so poor) and get a job to pay for their education - like I did, and
2) Stop worrying about how to spend money taken from other people's paychecks (taxes) and spend more time working for their own paychecks.

I know ... I'm cold, heartless, and cruel for talking like this, I know ... but hey, if you wanted lots of love, you've be over at FITS, not here.

Cutting-edge business & academic partnerships in the Carolinas

In "Michigan needs to look south", in the Detroit News, columnist Daniel Howes looks at how the Carolinas are working to partner higher education with cutting-edge manufacturing technology development, and in doing so, is leaving Detroit behind.

The business-and-political establishment of the Carolinas is doing what their counterparts in Michigan and here on Mackinac Island are only beginning to comprehend amid a gloomy fiscal outlook: Leveraging the power of higher education drives economic growth, attracts foreign and domestic investment and improves the caliber of would-be employees.

The story discusses USC, Clemson and UNC, but pays special attention to Clemson University's ICAR:

Now, it's Clemson University in South Carolina -- not the University of Michigan -- that is home to the International Center for Automotive Research, a 200-acre campus that BMW AG built for $100 million and donated to Clemson.

More about Clemson's ICAR facility:

CU-ICAR is a new model for economic development in South Carolina, matching Clemson's strengths in automotive research with the state's strong automotive economic cluster. CU-ICAR is a 250-acre "technopolis" where BMW, Michelin, Timken, Sun Microsystems and other corporate partners are joining with Clemson to focus on automotive and motorsports research and other transportation issues. The State of South Carolina is also a key partner, having created legislation to support economic development and innovation.

At Clemson's ICAR, the latest news includes Computational Center for Mobility Systems, featuring a high performance computing (HPC) system from Sun Microsystems which will allow the center to perform cutting-edge product development for the automotive, aerospace and shipping industries, as well as the soon-to-open Carroll A. Campbell Jr. Graduate Engineering Center, which will allow Clemson to grant the first Masters and Doctoral degrees in Automotive Engineering.

This is big news indeed, and a heck of an achievement for the academic, business and governmental team partners who made this vision a reality. Also one more good reason why we need to reassess the structure and missions of our state's higher and technical education systems, so Clemson and USC can focus more aggressively in these areas.

S.C. Higher Education Tour: USC duplicates Technical college services?

The purpose of the Higher Education Tour is to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of higher education facilities in South Carolina, to promote discussion of how we can streamline the overall system and offer a broader range of overall education opportunities to all South Carolinians, which can help improve the incomes and quality of lives of individuals as well as help attract better economic development prospects in our communities.

As an aside to the tour, Wednesday's edition of The State discusses how the USC system is working to streamline the transfer process from those who start college in the technical college system. This begs the question of why USC needs to hold onto its two-year feeder campuses, duplicating courses and degrees which are offered by our state's excellent technical college system?

USC aims to boost transfers from Greenville Technical College from last fall’s 31 students to hundreds with a Bridge program university officials say will ensure a Greenville Tech student a seamless admission to the Columbia campus after one year of successful academic work.

USC president Andrew Sorensen said Tuesday he envisions a parallel academic experience between students who sign up for the Bridge program and those who begin their college lives on the Columbia campus.

If the USC people have an answer to why South Carolina needs to continue to have two duplicating junior college systems, as always, the Blogland is ready, willing, and eager to hear from them.

The S.C. Higher Education tour visits Walterboro

It seems as if higher education in South Carolina is considered so important to our workforce's future that a majority of the communities with two-year USC campuses don't have a technical college campus in their community: Allendale, Lancaster, Union, and Walterboro. Only Sumter has both a two-year USC campus and a technical college campus.

Today, we visit the USC campus in Walterboro. Here, like any technical college, you can earn your Associate Degree and transfer that credit to any public college in South Carolina. In fact, there are four full-fledged Bachelor's awarding public colleges within 80 or so miles: The Citadel, College of Charleston, S.C. State, and USC Beaufort's great new campus near Hardeeville.

But in a region with high unemployment, which struggles to attract any kind of good paying jobs, this community and this region does not have convenient access to a technical college campus. Don't believe me? Just look at these statistics:

2005 Avg Weekly wages: Colleton Cty: $511; South Carolina:$637; U.S.: $777.

Colleton County workforce availability study of regional employers - see page 16:
Unskilled workers, rated good and excellent - 81%
Skilled workers, rated good and excellent - 42%
Technical workers, rated good and excellent - 30%
Professional workers, rated good and excellent - 37%

In looking at these statistics, obviously wages are way down, which probably has something to do with a shortage of skilled, technical and professional labor. A community with a lot more unskilled workers than skilled ones can expect this - as I've found out anytime I've tried to fill a skilled or technical position for my company with a qualified applicant from the Walterboro area.

It is no secret that areas with large supplies of unskilled workers, and shortages of skilled workers attract low-wage jobs, if any at all. When just over 100 people in a county with approximately forty thousand received technical degrees or certificates between 2002 and 2004, it seems like the situation is getting worse, not better.

Somehow, our state's higher education decision makers think this community needs a two-year USC campus, but not a technical college campus? Go figure.

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 ...