When the University of South Carolina launches Palmetto College in fall 2013 it will be the first school in the state to offer an online path to degree completion. However, unlike other online programs Palmetto will utilize a hybrid, or blended, approach that requires students to have previously completed 60 credit hours, The Augusta Chronicle reported.
Palmetto College will launch with six high-demand degrees which will include business, criminal justice, elementary education, nursing and organizational leadership. The Palmetto College initiative was jump started with a $5 million line item in this year’s state budget. Although school officials are currently weighing their options on how to proceed with course development—in-house or outside partnership–most of the state funds will go towards content conversion, the AP reported.
Even though USC will offer Palmetto College degrees throughout all of the university’s four-year campuses—Aiken, Spartanburg, Beaufort, and the main campus in Columbia—the program is not limited to South Carolina residents. University officials expect to launch Palmetto College with fewer than 500 students.
Tuition for Palmetto College classes will be tied to the rates charged at the university’s Aiken campus, $380 per credit hour. Despite reduced tuition levels and low starting enrollment, internal USC estimates predict that within five years the program could be generating an additional $2.2 million for the school.
While Palmetto is the University of South Carolina’s most ambitious online effort it isn’t the first. Earlier this year the school launched the Back to Carolina program, which allowed former University of South Carolina students who met certain eligibility requirements—over the age of 25, have at least 60 credit hours with at least a 2.0 GPA—to finish a general liberal studies degree with online classes. Currently more than 30 students are participating in the program, with the students’ average age being in the mid-30s.
USC’s decision to begin a digital migration has already drawn praise from at least one corner of the state, a Spartanburg Herald-Journal staff editorial described Palmetto College as “a good first step” to preparing South Carolina‘s workforce “for their economic future.”
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