Top of the class

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USCL ranked most successful two-year school in state

By Reece Murphy

A commission charged with oversight of the state’s universities and colleges has ranked the University of South Carolina Lancaster as the most successful two-year campus in the state.

According to a summary of college and university graduation rates prepared by the S.C. Commission on Higher Education (SC CHE), USCL scored a success rate of 66.9 percent.

Though often in the top three, this year’s rating places the university at the top of the state’s list of 20 two-year educational institutions, which includes the University of South Carolina’s four regional campuses and the state’s 16 technical colleges.

USCL Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Dr. Ron Cox said the news came as a good sign for the university.

“This tells me we’re doing what we’re here to do,” Cox said. “We’re servicing the students who might not be able to get to a university otherwise, and we’re doing it very well.”

USCL’s success rate in the report is based on the three-year performance of the 329 students who started their post-secondary education at the university in 2008, the latest cohort tracked.

Of them, 77 students (23.4 percent) graduated within three years with a two-year associate degree.

Of the remaining students in the cohort, 125 transferred to another college or university in South Carolina and 18 are still at USCL working toward their degrees.

The remaining 109 students either dropped out, transferred to an out-of-state college or were lost track of by the university and SC CHE.

Cox said these days, the practical value of a school’s success rating isn’t as severe as it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the Legislature used them to determine “performance-based funding.” But the rating still means more than just bragging rights.

“Really, we use it more as an internal measurement of the job we’re doing,” Cox said. “It gives us an idea of what we’re doing good and where we need to be better. It’s a form of self-assessment.”

As an example, Cox said USCL may use the information on students who didn’t complete their degrees to follow up with them as to why, or to gauge what students are looking for from the university.

He said while many of the university’s students who didn’t earn their degrees did so because of financial reasons, others did not for personal reasons.

“But many of them do return, and what we’re seeing with the growth of four-year degrees on this campus is an incentive for them to return,” Cox said. “Students recognize, I think, that a bachelor’s degree is they key to employment these days.”

USCL currently offers three four-year degree programs and Cox said should USC realize its plans for the “Palmetto College,” the university could offer five more four-year degrees.

The development would be good for both the students and the university itself, insuring even more success, Cox said.

Cox gave credit for USCL’s success to the university’s administrators, recruiting staff, faculty and the staff of programs such as TRiO, all of which pride themselves on caring for the students first and foremost.

He said while USCL and its personnel are enjoying its success rating, no one is likely to rest on the recognition.

“Our goal is to get these students through these degree programs, and we never lose sight of the fact that the student is the focus,” Cox said. “Of course it always feels good to be No. 1, but there’s always room for improvement.”

USCL was established in 1959 to offer accessible, affordable and convenient liberal arts education to students in Lancaster, Chester, Chesterfield, Fairfield, Kershaw and York counties.

The university, which started with a handful of students in a house in downtown Lancaster, is now located on a 150-acre campus on Hubbard Drive. Already the largest of the USC regional campus system, USCL expects student enrollment this year to exceed 2,000.

For details on USCL and what it offers, visit www.usclancaster.sc.edu.


Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151