Nothing succeeds like planning.
When Gov. Mark Sanford tried (repeatedly) to close USC Union, his efforts were thwarted by the Union County Legislative Delegation, especially its chairman, Rep. Mike Anthony, and its most senior member, Sen. Harvey Peeler, who did everything in their power to defend the college in the state legislature. Because of their efforts, USC Union remains a vital part of Union County, providing local opportunities for higher education that have improved the quality of life of those who avail themselves of its services and made our community a better place to live in the process. Anthony, Peeler and their colleagues deserve our thanks for their tireless efforts to enable USC Union to continue as a vital part of Union County.
Important as their championing of USC Union is, the college, like any other institution, must stand on its own two feet and justify its own existence and that’s exactly what it’s done. While USC Union has contributed to this county for more than 40 years, in 2006 it developed a strategic five-year plan of improvement with the primary goal of increasing student enrollment. The effort has succeeded with record enrollment in each of the past three semesters.
Enrollment, however, is only the first step. The next is providing students with an educational environment in which they can excel and USC Union has succeeded there as well. Data collected by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) shows more than 38 percent of all students who begin their education at USC Union go on to complete a four-degree compared to 22 percent for the entire USC system. Those students include six of this year’s graduates who were able to get their four-degrees at USC Union, saving them the expense and bother of having to travel outside the county.
Also, of the students who begin a two-year degree program at USC Union, 32.8 percent achieve their goal, a completion rate higher than that of any other two-year institution in the state. According to the CHE, USC Union’s success rate is 69 percent.
The educational process today is increasingly reliant on technology and USC Union is providing its students with the tools they need to get the education they desire. This includes the enterprise-grade wireless Internet system and smart classrooms that feature wide format projectors, projector screens, interactive software, audio equipment, a document camera and an annotation screen.
Other recent developments include The Founders House which hosts continuing education classes, and the University Reads program which seeks to engage students through reading and other events.
The success of its five-year plan brought USC Union national recognition when it was named one of America’s 120 best community colleges by The Aspen Institute. The selection puts USC Union in contention for the title of the best in the nation, a designation that comes with a hefty cash prize.
Even if it had not been selected by The Aspen Institute as one of the country’s best, USC Union’s accomplishments would still be cause to celebrate because they are proof of the college’s commitment to ongoing improvement in order to continue serving the educational needs of our community. It should also be celebrated because it proves, once and for all, that USC Union is a successful and vital part of the USC system that more than justifies not only its existence but the faith of its founders, defenders and supporters in its ability to carry out its mission of providing higher educational opportunities to the people of Union County and surrounding areas.
In its five-year plan, USC Union articulated a vision of where it wanted to be and what it wanted to achieve. It has done so, and we can hardly wait for the development and successful implementation of its next five-year plan and the benefits it will bring to our community for many years to come.