University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides has a dream. Not quite as audacious as the great Martin Luther King Jr. but, a dream no less. And, Tuesday he rolled out a vision he has to make that dream a reality.
Pastides discussed the plan Tuesday with The State newspaper. It is a part of its $1 billion fund-raising campaign called “Carolina’s Promise,” which is part of a bigger vision called “Focus Carolina.”
Linking the two – fund raising and a plan to justify those funds — will help make investing in USC’s future a worthy one for donors, he says.
“Focus Carolina” has seven key parts including a big plan for USC’s little campuses.
Under the new plan, students at the University of South Carolina’s two-year regional campuses would be able to get a bachelor’s degree through an online curriculum.
Pastides said the idea isn’t simply to go up against the for-profit schools, such as the University of Phoenix, Webster University and Virginia University whose flexibility appeals to non-traditional students. Rather, Pastides said the main aim is much simpler than that: He just wants to give students in smaller communities in South Carolina easier access to a four-year degree from USC.
“The whole point is to meet people where they live,” Pastides said. “We’re improving access to a four-year degree at these campuses.”
Pastides said not all of the details of the plan have been worked out, but he has a plan to get everyone on board for an easy transition. He wants to brief state legislators on the idea to make sure they know there’s no plan to adjust the core mission of USC’s two-year campuses: economic and cultural points of pride in the communities where they are located.
“We anticipate this will be a positive,” Pastides said.
The university’s two-year schools, which include USC Sumter, USC Salkehatchie, USC Union and USC Lancaster, would continue to offer two-year associates’ degrees, allowing students to transfer to one of USC’s four-year campuses at Columbia, Upstate, Beaufort or Aiken upon completion.
But, that’s not all, folks.
Pastides also plans to offer students who want more than an associate’s degree, but are unable to attend classes at one of the four-year campuses, the option of going through their local two-year campus to get a USC bachelor’s degree through online courses, Pastides told The State.
While state legislators have not been officially brought in on the plan, state Sen. Phil Leventis thinks it should have happened a long time ago.
“I’m really excited about that proposal,” Leventis said. “It’s probably long overdue. If they get that done, that would be such a blessing for our students around the state.”
Ken Wingate, chairman of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, said he’s not exactly sure how the program will be understood at first.
“There will be questions about where the lines are drawn, but I think this is proper and it’s creative,” Wingate said. “We want, as a higher education community and as a state, to find ways to make higher education more accessible.”
Check out our related story on the bigger plan for USC, “Focus Carolina.”