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Colleges in South Carolina

Why go to College in South Carolina?

South Carolina is a state full of Southern charm where both nature lovers and city dwellers can feel at home. Within its borders, you can find nearly all types of geographical landscapes: beaches, mixed forests, lakes, mountains, salt marshes, and islands. It is also home to the populous metropolitan areas of Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville, which are each filled with a mix of museums, restaurants, bars, and other cultural institutions and businesses. If you want to get a college education in a place that combines both urban and natural elements, you may want to explore universities and online schools in SC.


South Carolina has a population of 4,625,364. It is the 23rd most populous state in the United States. The most populous cities include Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville.


South Carolina has a humid subtropical climate, which means residents experience intense, hot summers and temperate winters. The state has an average annual high of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and an annual low of 53 degrees Fahrenheit. South Carolina gets an abundant amount of rain each year but snowfall is rare, usually occurring only in high-altitude mountain regions.

Number of Higher Learning Institutions

There are 97 institutions of higher learning in South Carolina. The University of South Carolina is the largest university in the state, followed by Clemson University, both of which are among the country’s top public universities. Top private universities in the state include Anderson University and Furman University.

Sporting Events

Although no professional sports teams are based in South Carolina, college football is very popular in the state. The University of South Carolina and Clemson University have an in-state rivalry that always draws big crowds each year. The state has also hosted some memorable NASCAR races at the Darlington Raceway. In addition, South Carolina has a high concentration of golf courses, making it a popular golf destination.


The city with the most nightlife options per capita is Greenville, which offers a selection of bars, music venues, theaters, and restaurants. As one of the state’s top tourist attractions, Myrtle Beach boasts a variety food and entertainment spots, including gastronomy restaurants. As cities with a number of colleges and universities, Clemson, Charleston, and Columbia all offer a high concentration of bars, restaurants, and art venues.

What Options are Available for Colleges in South Carolina?


A traditional degree in South Carolina requires students to take classes on campus, which offers various perks. Universities provide on-campus housing, on-campus dining plans, restaurants, theater events, movie screenings, and guest speakers. Courses are conducted either in a lecture format, with large numbers of students in an auditorium listening to an instructor, or in a seminar style that is more discussion-based. On-campus programs also tend to provide more networking opportunities with peers and professors. For some students, participation in Greek life is another benefit of a traditional college experience.

Online Programs

An online degree program usually requires the same amount of course credits as a traditional on-campus program except that all of the courses can be completed through the internet. Online courses can be either synchronous, where you log in and participate in class at a certain time each week, or asynchronous, where you can watch lectures and complete readings at your own pace (as long as you meet deadlines for assignments and exams). Online programs generally offer more flexibility in terms of scheduling, so if you have a slew of other obligations — like a full-time job or kids — you may want to explore online colleges in South Carolina. They can also save you money on transportation and allow you to study comfortably from home rather than in a crowded classroom.

The following table illustrates the percentage of students enrolled in distance education courses in South Carolina and the United States.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs offer a combination of on-campus and online components. There are hybrid courses in which a portion of the coursework is conducted through online learning management systems, while another portion is conducted in person. For instance, there may be a course that utilizes online instruction but requires assessments to be completed on campus or in a designated testing facility. There are also degree programs that are composed of mostly online courses but have an internship, lab, or practicum component that requires in-person rather than virtual assignments. Browse the websites of online schools in South Carolina to see if there are any hybrid programs or courses that suit your educational needs. The following table illustrates the percentage of students enrolled in some distance education courses in South Carolina compared to the United States.

Popular Degree Programs in South Carolina

The is a strong correlation between the industries that are prominent in a region and the popularity of certain degrees. The life sciences, aerospace and aviation, and professional and business services are all relatively large industries in South Carolina. Therefore, it may come as no surprise that business management and administration is the most common major in the state, according to Business Insider. Oceanography is also a disproportionately popular major, meaning that there is a higher concentration of oceanography majors in South Carolina than in other U.S. states.

  • Oceanography

    Oceanography is an earth science concerning the biological, geological, chemical, and physical aspects of the ocean. Biological oceanographers, more commonly known as marine biologists, study the living creatures and organisms of the ocean. Given that South Carolina is a coastal state replete with marine environments, it’s understandable why so many students choose to major in oceanography.

  • Business Management and Administration

    Business management and administration degrees prepare students for careers in the corporate world. Programs in this field impart foundational knowledge in areas like finance, human resources, accounting, management information systems, and supply chain management. Equipped with this degree, South Carolina students can go on to managerial or administrative roles at some of the state’s top industries, like aerospace and aviation.

Education Trends in South Carolina

Educational trends in South Carolina match national averages fairly closely, but in general, students benefit from less public funding compared to other states. This is because South Carolina spends around $1,877 less than the average American state on each college student. However, a higher percentage of tax revenue is allocated to higher education in South Carolina than the national average, which is a good indicator of the value the state places on education. In terms of educational attainment — the degree levels attained by individuals living in the state — South Carolina trends are very similar to national trends.

  South Carolina United States
Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census
Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student $5,077 $6,954
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 6.3% 5.8%
Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree 8.9% 8.1%
Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree 16.5% 18.5%
Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher 9.3% 11.2%

Paying for College in South Carolina

College has gotten considerably more expensive in the past decade, and cost is definitely a factor for those deciding between schools. The cost of a college education includes not only tuition, but also textbooks, rent, food, administrative fees, transportation, and leisure spending. Whether you are enrolled in traditional colleges or online schools in SC can also affect total costs. Therefore, each of these components may factor into your school choice. Evaluate your priorities and decide in what areas you would like to keep spending to a minimum.

Tuition Prices

According to College Board, tuition in South Carolina is higher than the national average. The following table illustrates the average price of in-state tuition for both public two-year and public four-year colleges in South Carolina compared to average tuition prices in the United States. It is important to note that this is the average cost of in-state tuition, which means if you are an out-of-state student considering school in South Carolina, tuition will likely be higher. Tuition prices also do not include other expenses such as textbook costs, rent, transportation, or extracurricular fees.

Financial Aid

Financial aid can come from the federal government, states, colleges, or private institutions. Any student considering college should fill out the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA), which determines your eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study awards. Grants and scholarships are sums of money awarded based on need or merit and do not need to be paid back. Since they are free, they should be prioritized over other forms of financial aid. Work-study awards provide students with part-time employment opportunities that allow them to earn money to pay for school, which is a good option for students with time to spare. Student loans are sums of money that must be paid back over time. When deciding to attend either traditional or online schools in SC, loans should be evaluated carefully, particularly if you are considering private lenders that charge high interest rates.

Cost for Online Programs in South Carolina

Online schools in South Carolina are comparable in cost to their on-campus counterparts. While tuition costs are roughly the same, attending online colleges in SC can save you money in other areas. For instance, you don’t necessarily have to live in close proximity to your school, allowing you to choose a more affordable neighborhood or even stay with your parents to save on rent. Taking classes from the comfort of your home also allows you to save money on expenses like transportation or child care.

Cost of Living by Region

Overall, the cost of living in South Carolina is relatively affordable. On average, students living in South Carolina will pay less for rent than students living in Boston, MA or Hartford, CT, but more than students living in Gainesville, FL. But even within South Carolina, there can be considerable variation in costs of living. For instance, students of Furman University in Greenville will pay less on average for rent than students attending Charleston Southern University. The following table shows the average cost of rent for two-bedroom apartments along with the purchase price of three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes in five different cities.

Scholarships for South Carolina College Students

No matter whether they are enrolled in traditional or online colleges in SC, there are a variety of scholarships available for postsecondary students. Most of the scholarships listed below are merit-based awards. However, you may also qualify for need-based awards from state and federal government, colleges, and private institutions. In addition, if you already know what field you are interested in, many professional organizations offer scholarships for students with specific majors. There may also be scholarships specifically for students of online colleges in SC. All of these options should be considered as you narrow down your search. Below is a selection of scholarships available to students in South Carolina:

Palmetto Fellows Scholarship Program

$6,700 for freshman year and up to $7,500 for the following three years; must be enrolled in a public high school in South Carolina and have applied for or been accepted to a four-year university in South Carolina.

View Scholarship

Horatio Alger State Scholarship

Up to $10,000; must be committed to completing a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university in South Carolina, demonstrate financial need, and maintain a 2.0 GPA.

View Scholarship

LIFE Scholarship Program

Varies depending on the institution; must demonstrate merit and must be enrolled in their first postsecondary education program.

View Scholarship

HOPE Scholarship

Up to $2,800 toward first year’s tuition; must be enrolled as a first-year student at a four-year institution in South Carolina and have graduated high school with a 3.0 GPA or higher.

View Scholarship

Dayco Scholarship

Varies annually depending on available funds; must have earned a 3.25 GPA upon high school graduation and be an employee or dependent of an employee of Dayco Products, Inc. who has worked for the South Carolina branch for at least four years.

View Scholarship

Palmetto Fellows and LIFE Scholarship Enhancements

Up to $2,500 per year, beginning in sophomore year; must be enrolled in a math or science major and must have completed 14 hours of math or science courses.

View Scholarship

USC Top Scholars Awards

Up to $20,000 per year; must have applied to the University of South Caroline; previous Top Scholars had an average SAT score of 1520 and average GPA of 4.82.

View Scholarship

Harry Hampton Wildlife Fund Scholarship

$5,000 per year for four consecutive years; must be a resident of South Carolina and attend a higher education institution in South Carolina, and must major in a wildlife or natural resources related subject with a minimum GPA of 2.5.

View Scholarship

South Carolina Press Association Scholarship

$3,000 per year; must be a journalism student attending a four-year college in South Carolina.

View Scholarship

South Carolina Teaching Fellows Program

Up to $24,000; must be dedicated to the teaching profession and must maintain a GPA of 2.75.

View Scholarship

Can All Scholarships Be Used for Online Programs?

The majority of scholarships can be used for either online colleges in South Carolina or traditional on-campus programs. Scholarships are much more likely to have requirements regarding state residency than requirements about course format. However, these residency requirements may affect what scholarships can be used on distance education programs. To be safe, always verify with the scholarship provider about any possible restrictions concerning online programs.

Employment Outlook in South Carolina

Employment rates in South Carolina are roughly the same as the national average. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the occupation groups with the highest employment rates in the state include office and administrative support positions, sales positions, as well as food preparation and serving positions. The annual mean wage in South Carolina is slightly lower than the national average, but since cost of living is relatively affordable, the difference in wages may not have a significant impact on the quality of life in the state. The following tables demonstrate the unemployment rate and annual mean wage for the state of South Carolina:

  South Carolina United States
Source: BLS and BLS
Unemployment Rate, May 2017 4.0% 4.3%
Annual Mean Wage, May 2016 $41,530 $49,630

Top Employers and Industries in South Carolina

The following tables illustrate the top three industries and top three employer types in South Carolina.

Top Industries in South Carolina

  • Trade, transportation, utilities: This is an industry cluster that includes wholesale and retail trade, warehousing, transportation, and the provision of utilities. Common occupations in this industry include truck drivers, cashiers, and freight movers.
  • Government: This is an industry that includes public institutions at the county, city, and state levels. Common occupations in this industry include elementary and secondary school teachers, police officers, office clerks, correctional officers, and postsecondary educators.
  • Professional and Business Services: This is an industry that specializes in providing professional services for others and usually requires specific expertise and training. Common occupations in this industry include lawyer, computer programmer, consultant, architect, engineer, accountant, doctor, and veterinarian.

Top Employers in South Carolina

  • Kimberly Clark Corp: 1,000+ employees
  • Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC: 1,000+ employees
  • Benefitfocus: 501–1,000 employees

Accreditation for Colleges in South Carolina

Accreditation ensures that schools or programs are held to a high standard of academic quality. Colleges in South Carolina can be regionally or nationally accredited. The most widely recognized type of accreditation is regional accreditation. There are six regional college accrediting agencies in the United States that evaluate schools within their respective regions based on admission requirements, student services, quality of faculty, and overall quality of education. The regional agency responsible for South Carolina is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Online schools in South Carolina can be either regionally or nationally accredited. National accreditation agencies are not limited by geographic area and tend to be more focused on vocational programs. Popular national accrediting agencies include the Distance Education and Training Council and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. Nationally accredited schools are not as standardized as regionally accredited schools, so transferring credits may be a problem. However, nationally accredited colleges tend to be more affordable.

Resources for Students in South Carolina

If you still have questions about attending college in South Carolina, whether it’s about the general state of higher education in the state or specific financial aid options, here are a few additional resources you can check out:

  • South Carolina Department of Education: While the Department of Education regulates and oversees primary and secondary education, it is also a great resource for education policy, education data, and instructional information for various learner groups. Their website may be particularly interesting for aspiring future educators.
  • South Carolina Commission on Higher Education: This entity oversees higher education in the state and acts as an advocate for higher education in general. They host conferences and workshops, and publish data on higher education. Their website has resources for students and families about college in South Carolina, including tuition costs, financial aid, residency considerations, and military programs.
  • Future Scholar College Savings Plan: Future Scholar is a 529 plan to help parents save money for their child’s college education. It allows for savings with tax deductions, low impact on financial aid, and a high contribution limit. This is a great resource for anyone who is thinking about saving for the education of a future generation of students.
  • South Carolina Student Loan: South Carolina Student Loan is a non-profit student loan provider and is also a resource for students and parents. Their website provides an overview loan programs, such as the SC Teacher Loan Program, along with other valuable information.
  • South Carolina Tuition Grants Program: The SC Tuition Grants Program provides need-based grants to students obtaining an undergraduate degree at an institution in South Carolina. Their website contains resources about the application process and requirements, participating universities and colleges, along with other financial aid resources.
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