The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet online recently published an opinion piece by John Crisp that perfectly defines how community colleges are strategically positioned to address two concerning national trends: the exploding costs of going to college and America’s widening income gap.
We at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, your local community college, could not agree more. We see it every day in the lives and achievements of the students we work so hard to serve.
Nearly 150 years after its founding, TCL has grown to enroll more students than any other college in our service area, which includes Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties. This fall, more than 2,500 students are enrolled in 80-plus certificate, diploma and associate degree programs. Plus, transfer programs allow students to complete their first two years here and then transfer with ease to colleges and universities around the state and beyond. In addition, nearly 2,500 students will enroll this year in continuing education and workforce development programs.
Why do students choose TCL? Because they know that TCL’s smart, practical, and innovative programs will prepare them for in-demand careers that pay well. Our newest programs, specifically created to answer local industry and business demands, include avionics, solar technology, biotechnology and agriscience. And TCL’s programs are exceptional. For example, TCL graduates’ licensing exam pass rates continue to be higher than the national average.
Another way we work is through strong high school partnerships. TCL’s dual enrollment program allows qualified high school students to enroll in college level classes while still in high school. This program can potentially save families tens of thousands of dollars by giving these high school students a chance to go right from high school graduate to college junior. In addition, the Beaufort County School District launched the Building a Better Beaufort Scholarship fund that allows qualified graduates, beginning with the class of 2014, to attend TCL tuition free.
TCL does all of this while keeping tuition low. With S.C. lottery tuition assistance, which is not based on need or income, TCL tuition and fees total $890 per full-time semester. Many of our students qualify for additional financial aid, which brings the average out-of-pocket expense for full-time tuition to about $100 a semester.
Why should we as a community care? TCL is the Lowcountry’s workforce solution. In the last five years, we have honored more than 1500 graduates, 93 percent of whom are continuing their education or are working in their field of study. These graduates live here, work here, and raise their families here. They keep our hospitals, construction companies, small businesses, law offices, and everything in between running and working.
But more students should be choosing a community college education like TCL’s. It’s estimated that 65 percent of future jobs in South Carolina will require more than high school but less than a four-year degree. TCL provides what should be the first-choice solution through its smart, innovative, high-quality and affordable higher education.
With your continued help and support, TCL will ensure a bright future for students, employers, and the entire community.
Richard J. Gough, Ed.D.
President, Technical College of the Lowcountry