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Best 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. Each institution in the state has its own approach to the college experience, and we crunched the numbers to find out which ones could be called the best community colleges in South Carolina.

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 4-year South Carolina universities or trying to gain valuable skills to further your career. Read on for our list of the top South Carolina community colleges and find out what they have to offer.

THE TOP 10 COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN SOUTH CAROLINA

1

Florence-Darlington Technical College (Florence)

More than 5,600 students attended Florence-Darlington Technical College in 2016, 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.

2

Aiken Technical College (Graniteville)

Around 30 degree programs are available at Aiken Technical College, including a half dozen general education and transfer programs. One degree is available exclusively through online courses -- a general A.A. designed for university transfer.

Thanks to its location within 100 miles of three nuclear power generating sites, ATC provides major opportunity for students hoping to go into the nuclear industry. Not only does the college offer three distinct nuclear energy programs, but a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management makes scholarships available for students pursuing careers in the nuclear industry.

The numbers show a good mix of age groups among students at ATC. Nearly 40 percent of the 3,500 enrolled students are over the age of 25, and around one in four are between 18 and 20 years old.

3

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. Nearly 80 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 over 14,300 students in the 2016-17 academic year. More than 100 degree and certificate programs are available here, for academic majors as well as students seeking skills- and career-based training.

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.

4

Technical College of the LowCountry (Beaufort)

More than 2,300 credit-seeking and continuing education students attended Technical College of the LowCountry full- or part-time in 2017. 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 advisor 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.

5

Greenville Technical College (Greenville)

Founded in 1962, Greenville Technical College boasts a student body of nearly 12,000 learners and a student-faculty ratio of 16:1. An Honors Program is included among the 100 study plans available here, so give this school at the northwestern tip of the state extra consideration if you're looking for an intellectual challenge.

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). The facility features 100,000 square feet of space, a pneumatics and hydraulics lab, a prototyping lab and a business incubator, among other amenities.

6

Spartanburg Community College (Spartanburg)

More than 100 degree and certificate programs are available at Spartanburg Community College, where around 4,700 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 three distinct Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees in management.

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.

7

Tri-County Technical College (Pendelton)

The student body at this medium-large institution was over 6,000 in 2017, with around 56 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.

The town of Pendleton has a population of just over 3,100 and history that dates back to 1790. The large "village green" in the town square provides a quiet, tree-lined place to study.

8

Central Carolina Technical College (Sumter)

Originally established as the Sumter Area Technical Center in 1962, Central Carolina Technical College became a comprehensive community college in the 1980s and took its current name in 1992. Facilities and services expansion continues to this day, and more than 8,500 students pass through its halls each year.

Of the more than 50 programs offered at CCTC, around 15 lead to associate degrees and close to 30 are career-focused certificate plans. Most associate degree students need between 60 and 70 credit hours to graduate. General associate degree plans for university transfer typically take 62 credit hours to complete. Certificates can require anywhere from 18 to 39 credit hours.

CCTC may also be one of the best community colleges in South Carolina for active duty military and veterans. It was designated as an official Military Friendly school on the 2018-19 list.

9

Trident Technical College (North 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 13,000 students were counted on the rolls in 2017.

The city of North Charleston is one of the three largest in the state, with a population of more than 110,000 residents. If you're partial to the sort of urban amenities that come with living in a busy city, give TTC a second look.

10

University of South Carolina Lancaster (Lancaster)

Founded in 1959, the Lancaster campus is the oldest of the four regional schools operated by the state's largest public university. University of South Carolina Lancaster dedicates itself to providing convenient and affordable access to higher education for students across the Piedmont area of the Carolinas, primarily through associate programs designed for transfer to USC Columbia.

Students at USC Lancaster pursue degrees from three academic divisions: humanities; business, behavioral sciences, criminal justice and education; and math, science, nursing and public health. More than 30 subjects of study are available to choose from, including a pre-professional pharmacy program.

It's even possible to earn bachelor's degrees here, if you like the environment and don't want to transfer. Palmetto College provides more than a dozen Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) programs for USC Lancaster students.

Initiatives for Transfer Students

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.

For additional insight to higher education in the state, explore the best 4-year universities in South Carolina.

Methodology

We ranked community colleges in South Carolina; each school was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following six data points:

  1. The percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  2. Cost of attendance, based on the average net price for students receiving scholarship and grant aid, and the total cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  3. Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  4. The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  5. The transfer-out rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
  6. Flexibility, based on the following data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2016

a. Whether the school offers credit for life experiences
b. Whether the school offers programs of study that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
c. Whether the school offers on-campus day care for students’ children
d. Whether the school offers any kind of alternative tuition plan. These may include, but aren’t limited to, payment plans or guaranteed rates.

Article Sources
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