USC launches online college



COLUMBIA — Students whose lives went on but their college studies couldn’t now can finish a four-year degree online from the University of South Carolina.

“The key to a strong economy is an educated workforce. Palmetto College is poised to expand access to higher education throughout South Carolina,” USC President Harris Pastides said Thursday as he announced that the online program was taking applications for the fall semester.

Pastides went to the State­house to thank lawmakers for approving $5 million last year to jump-start the program. He said he hoped they would continue to provide funding.

The step expands access to higher education in a state where fewer than one in four adults holds a bachelor’s degree.

Palmetto College Chancel­lor Susan Elkins said she expects about 500 students to enroll for the fall semester.

Officials said the program is fully accredited and will be available to those in and outside the state. Anyone with 60 hours of credits can apply, whether they studied at a local technical school or out-of-state college.

The online classes are administered through USC campuses across the state.

For example, degrees in business administration will be handled by USC Aiken; degrees in criminal justice and nursing will be handled through USC Upstate in Spartanburg; degrees in human services will be handled at USC Beaufort; and USC’s main campus in Columbia will deal with degrees in elementary education, liberal arts studies and organizational leadership.

USC spokeswoman Peggy Binette said Palmetto College students will be eligible for the same financial aid available to all college students.

She said tuition is $4,367 per semester for South Car­o­lina residents. In-state residents taking fewer than 12 credit hours will pay $380 per credit hour. For out-of-state residents, the tuition is $8,865 for full-time and $769 per credit hour for part-time students.

Some tuition changes could occur, Binette said, since the university’s board of trustees is scheduled to consider it in June.