Best Community Colleges in South Carolina
Looking for an affordable higher education? You may find it at the top community colleges in South Carolina. A large portion of the two-year schools in the Palmetto State belong to the South Carolina Technical College System — 16 of 20, to be precise — and the remaining four stand as regional offshoots of the University of South Carolina.
According to the SC Technical College System, every South Carolinian lives within a 30 minute drive of a technical school main or satellite campus. That level of convenience may be why more than 175,000 people choose the state's technical schools for credit and continuing education classes each year. In total, these colleges offer more than 1,100 degree, diploma and certificate programs.
Each institution in the state has its own approach to the college experience, and making the right choice for your community college education can help you achieve your goals. Whether you're hoping to build up some credits to transfer into degree plans at top four-year South Carolina universities or trying to gain valuable skills to further your career, the best community colleges in South Carolina likely have a program for you.
Trident Technical College (Charleston)
The main campus of Trident Technical College is in North Charleston, but students throughout the region can get access to its degree and certificate programs through a range of satellite learning sites. Robust campus facilities exist in Moncks Corner, Charleston and Mount Pleasant, and study centers with selective missions can be found in St. George, Mount Pleasant and Hollywood.
Thanks in part to its multi-campus structure, TTC has one of the larger student bodies among the top South Carolina community colleges. More than 15,000 students choose TTC for their education each year.
Popular programs at TTC include its associate degree in business management and its certificates offered through the Culinary Institute of Charleston. Online programs are available in fields such as criminal justice, business technology and hospitality and tourism management.
Greenville Technical College (Greenville)
Founded in 1962, Greenville Technical College boasts a student body of nearly 11,000 learners and a student-faculty ratio of 15:1. It offers degrees and certificates in 10 broad areas of interest and has four online certificates as well as an online degree in criminal justice technology.
The main campus of Greenville Technical College is located in downtown Greenville, but three other locations also exist to serve students in nearby areas. Taylors, Simpsonville and West Greenville each have their own satellite campus of GTC to serve the local population.
In addition to its four campus locations, the institution operates an advanced manufacturing training facility called the Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI). Through the center, Greenville Technical College is the first two-year school in the state to offer a Bachelor in Applied Science in advanced manufacturing technology.
Midlands Technical College (Columbia)
If you're looking for a college that can give you some help with the cost of your education, Midlands Technical College might be the place for you. More than 90 percent of students at MTC receive some form of financial aid, including the LIFE Scholarship for South Carolina high school graduates that awards up to $5,000 annually.
MTC is also one of the larger institutions among the best South Carolina community colleges, serving nearly 10,000 students in the 2017-18 academic year. More than 120 degree and certificate programs are available here, for academic majors as well as students seeking skills- and career-based training. MTC has more than 450 online courses and four fully online programs, including an Associate in Arts degree and a criminal justice certificate.
Students looking to build towards a transfer have multiple options at MTC. Bridge programs link students with their destination college early on in their coursework, while transfer programs and articulation agreements provide clear direction and transfer support.
Tri-County Technical College (Pendleton)
The student body at this medium-large institution was more than 6,000 in 2018, with 55 percent of students attending full time. Tri-County Technical College offers a standard complement of academic majors and career programs, but it also takes extra steps to help particular groups of students get the education they're looking for.
Transition programs available at TCTC include high school engagement initiatives, integrated basic education and skills training (I-BEST) and an array of resources for non-traditional college students. TCTC also maintains partnerships with local adult learning centers to help students transition smoothly into college coursework after earning their GED.
TCTC is ranked in the top one percent nationally for successful transfers, and its transfer programs include two associate degrees as well as a university studies certificate. The school is also home to a number of unique learning opportunities such as the AARP Foundation Back to Work 50+ program.
Northeastern Technical College (Cheraw)
You'll find affordable tuition and a supportive environment at Northeastern Technical College. Founded in 1969, the school has four convenient campus locations as well as online and evening classes for those who can't attend school during the day.
NETC offers more than 50 degree and certificate programs in addition to 200+ continuing education courses. Its academic and career technical education options fall into four categories: arts and sciences, business and computer technology, health and public service and applied technology. Popular programs at NETC include an Associate Degree of Nursing and a computer numerical controls certificate.
Bridge and transfer opportunities are available for students who want to transfer credits to a partnering four-year college or university. The educational programs at NETC also include apprenticeships and dual enrollment and dual credit for high school students.
Spartanburg Community College (Spartanburg)
More than 100 degree and certificate programs are available at Spartanburg Community College, where more than 4,500 students attend classes each year. The institution's central campus is located near New Cut Road in Spartanburg, but four other campuses exist to serve area students: one in Union, one in Gaffney and two in Spartanburg County.
If none of those campuses are a good fit for you, SCC also counts itself among the ranks of online community colleges in South Carolina. A general A.A. degree for university transfer can be earned exclusively through online courses, as well as an accounting specialist certificate.
Students at SCC can earn degrees that are almost immediately relevant on the career market, like an A.A.S. in radiologic technology, or take their first steps on the path to careers in advanced fields like chiropractic.
Technical College of the Lowcountry (Beaufort)
Nearly 2,300 credit-seeking and continuing education students attend Technical College of the Lowcountry on a full- or part-time basis. This institution on the Atlantic Coast has a student-faculty ratio of 15:1 and offers more than 90 total programs of career training and academic study.
All full- or part-time students who are residents of South Carolina may be eligible for Lottery Tuition Assistance (LTA), which can potentially cover more than half of the yearly tuition charged at TCL. The award is not based on need or income, so check with an adviser to see if you qualify.
Three TCL locations exist to serve students in the area around the coastal islands in southeastern South Carolina — the main campus in Beaufort and two satellite campuses in Varnville and Bluffton — and online programs have recently become available as well. There are a dozen fully online programs including an administrative support diploma and a computer technology degree.
Williamsburg Technical College (Kingstree)
Located in the state's Atlantic Coast region, Williamsburg Technical College has been educating area residents since 1969. The school's educational philosophy has been to offer high-quality academics that minimize barriers students may face when seeking advanced training.
Students can choose from three dozen degrees, diplomas and certificates at WTC. These include transfer programs intended for those who plan to continue their education at a four-year school and career technical education options designed to take graduates directly from the classroom to the workplace.
Popular programs at WTC include a nursing assistant certificate, practical nursing diploma and an associate degree in early care and education. Some hybrid courses are available, and these combine online learning with some on-campus requirements.
Florence-Darlington Technical College (Florence)
More than 6,000 students attend Florence-Darlington Technical College, with the vast majority coming from the institution's two namesake counties. Administrators here place their educational emphasis on nurturing regional entrepreneurs and providing workforce development training.
Three types of programs are available at FDTC: certificates, which typically take between 8 and 40 credit hours to earn; diplomas, which usually require between 41 and 52 credit hours; and associate degrees, which top out at 84 credit hours and generally take two years to complete. Diplomas and certificates tend to be career-oriented, while associate degrees may focus on either career training or academic work.
Close to a dozen FDTC degree and certificate programs are offered via online instruction. Subjects for online associate degrees include business, criminal justice and a general Associate in Arts (A.A.) plan, while online certificates focus on business and tech.
University of South Carolina-Sumter (Sumter)
About 1,000 students per year pursue higher education at the University of South Carolina-Sumter. The school has been part of the University of South Carolina system since 1973 and offers two-year associate degrees as well as some bachelor's degrees.
Four-year degrees are offered in partnership with schools such as USC Columbia, USC Aiken and Palmetto College. They allow students to both start and finish their education at USC Sumter. Two-year degrees result in an Associate of Arts or an Associate of Science, and between the two, more than a dozen majors are available.
USC Sumter also offers dual enrollment and early college programs that allow high school students to earn college credit early. As a military friendly institution, the college offers classes on Shaw Air Force Base as well.
CTE in South Carolina
The best South Carolina community colleges serve two purposes. They offer an affordable way for students to complete the first two years of classes toward a bachelor's degree, and they also provide career technical education. Also known as career and technical education, or CTE, career technical education refers to programs designed to provide students with specific skills for certain industries or occupations.
CTE in South Carolina is broken down into 15 career clusters. Within each cluster, there are pathways that lead to various careers. The clusters and pathways make it easier for students to narrow their degree and certificate options to programs that best meet their personal and professional goals.
The following are a few of the programs and initiatives that support career technical education in South Carolina:
- The state's Department of Education has adopted a 2020 Vision for Career and Technology Education in South Carolina that is intended to help schools promote CTE options.
- Apprenticeship Carolina helps employers set up apprenticeship programs that provide hands-on training to state residents.
- ReadySC is a division of the SC Technical College System that provides workforce training to meet the needs of local employers.
For school-specific information, check out the websites of the colleges listed above. Each may have a section dedicated to their career technical education options. Or to learn more about CTE in South Carolina in general, visit these links:
- South Carolina Department of Education - You'll find information about all 15 career clusters on the South Carolina Department of Education website.
- SC Technical College System - The South Carolina Technical College System offers a tool that allows you to quickly see which of the state's 16 technical colleges offer programs in the fields that interest you.
Transferring Credits in South Carolina
Most transfer and articulation partnerships among community colleges and universities in South Carolina are developed between two individual schools, so the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education created an info portal to help make students aware of their options. Called the South Carolina Transfer and Articulation Center (SC TRAC), the system provides general transfer guidance and answers to common questions about the process.
The SC TRAC system provides a vast knowledge base through which information about the various transfer agreements in place between two- and four-year schools can be found. Searchable databases of course and exam equivalencies allow students to compare their current courses with the degree-specific equivalents at their destination institution.
Only public institutions are currently listed on SC TRAC, but that doesn't mean that transfer into or out of a private, nonprofit school isn't possible. Students either attending or hoping to attend one of South Carolina's independent colleges should speak with an advisor at the specific institution for transfer assistance.
Our guide on how to transfer schools provides additional information on how to move credits from one institution to another. For further insight on higher education in the state, explore the best four-year universities in South Carolina.
Resources for Community College Students in South Carolina
- South Carolina Technical College System - The SC Technical College System maintains a website with links to all member colleges, details about workforce training initiatives and information about financial aid programs.
- South Carolina Commission on Higher Education - You can explore careers, learn about financial aid and search for colleges at the SC Commission on Higher Education website.
- SC Works - Many of the top South Carolina community colleges offer career services, but you can also receive resume guidance, skills assessments and other services through this government-sponsored resource.
Using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following criteria:
- Level of institution is either "At least 2 but less than 4 years" or " Less than 2 years (below associate)"
- Data is reported for all 14 ranking variables listed in the Methodology section
We ranked the resulting community colleges member schools on multiple factors related to educational opportunity, student performance and student services. Each school was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following data points:
- The published in-district tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- The published in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- The in-district per credit hour charge for part-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- The in-state per credit hour charge for part-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- Percentage of students receiving financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- Percent of students that transferred to a 4-year institution and completed within 8 years, College Scorecard, 2017
- The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
- Percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Flexibility, based on the following data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- Whether the school offers credit for life experiences
- Whether the school offers programs of study that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers on-campus day care for students’ children
- Whether the school offers any kind of alternative tuition plan. These may include, but aren’t limited to, payment plans or guaranteed rates.
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- Apprenticeship Carolina, Accessed December 2019, https://www.apprenticeshipcarolina.com/
- Our Mission, ReadySC, Accessed December 2019, https://www.readysc.org/about.html
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
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