Online Schools in South Carolina
The South Carolina State Department of Education prioritizes online education through the South Carolina Virtual School Program, or SCVSP. This program is designed to supplement traditional classroom educations by providing students with an online experience based in 21st-century educational technology.
Because the SCVSP curriculum is geared towards high school-level courses, this opportunity to experience Internet learning can be a timely preparation for students who want to pursue an online college education in South Carolina. The increased accessibility to a college education that online schools can facilitate is consistent with some of the key objectives the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, or SCCHE, mapped out as part of its six-year plan that began in 2009. Those goals include supporting more students towards a college education, easing the transition from high school to college, increasing higher education graduation rates, and raising participation in adult education. Ultimately, the SCCHE aims to make South Carolina one of the "more educated" states in the U.S by 2030.
Trends in South Carolina Online Schools
Joining the ranks of the more educated states is an ambitious goal, but already South Carolina can point to some positive trends with online education playing an important role. In 2009, the Center for Digital Education ranked South Carolina second among 25 states that were then implementing online educational initiatives. At that time, some 5,000 students were enrolled in the SCVSP. By the 2010-11 school year, the number of participating students had more than doubled. Perhaps even more impressive than simple participation figures is that among students who completed their online courses of study, 89.3 percent achieved a grade of 70 or better.
In its 2009 report on state-run virtual schools in the south, the Southern Regional Education Board found that positive attributes of South Carolina's online education program included allowing students to work at their own pace, creating access to courses that otherwise would be unavailable, promoting the acquisition of 21st-century skills, and increasing access to advanced placement courses. With this history of early success and the state's goal of improving academic achievement, the general trend for online schools in South Carolina could be moving toward even wider participation.
College Degrees in South Carolina
Nationally, the importance of earning a college degree can be seen by looking at recent unemployment figures. According to August 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov, 2012), the unemployment rate among people 25 and older with only a high school diploma was 8.8 percent. Among people 25 and older with a bachelor's degree or better, that unemployment rate dropped by more than half, to 4.1 percent. Similarly, BLS figures indicate that people with college degrees can have greater earning power than those without.
Regarding South Carolina specifically, a report by the SCCHE claims that improving academic achievement can boost economic performance. According the the SCCHE, if South Carolina achieves its goal of becoming one of the more educated states in the U.S. by the year 2030, it can create 44,514 additional jobs and $6.9 billion in personal income, while adding $7.8 billion to the gross state product. In short, an education through online learning could help increase the availability, affordability, and effectiveness of college education in South Carolina and potentially benefit both individuals and the state economy.
Online College in South Carolina
A number of South Carolina's largest colleges offer online courses in addition to their campus-based programs. For example, The University of South Carolina offers online programs through its Extended University with for-credit classes available in fields such as liberal arts, social sciences, and sciences. Clemson University also provides distance education as its an active part of the Southern Regional Educational Board's Electronic Campus. For students looking for a vocational education, Greenville Technical College has been providing courses electronically since 1996 and offers a wide range of study in areas like business, health, technology and others.
The above are all traditional colleges based in South Carolina that have implemented online programs. In addition, degrees are available from some of well-known national online schools. Altierus Career College and a number of other schools offer online degrees in South Carolina through distance-education programs.
Career Outlook in South Carolina
BLS (bls.gov, 2012) data shows that as of September 2012, South Carolinians faced an unemployment rate that exceeded the national average by 1.3 percent. Despite its higher-than-average jobless rate, South Carolina's job market does employ more than 1.7 million people, according to May 2011 BLS data. Some of the more prevalent jobs in the state do require degrees: For example, in the case of software developers, who have better-than-average growth prospects nationally, new positions typically require applicants with a bachelor's degree.