USC: 4-year degrees online?

Local lawmakers support USC's online initiative.

Students at the University of South Carolina’s two-year regional campuses would be able to get a bachelor’s degree through online coursework under a plan the university is developing.

USC President Harris Pastides discussed the plan Tuesday, when he met with journalists at The State to highlight an overall vision for the university that he hopes people will embrace as it moves ahead with its $1 billion fundraising campaign, called “Carolina’s Promise.”

Pastides, USC’s president since 2008, is linking that fundraising campaign to his administration’s new vision for the university, which he says will make USC a worthy investment for donors and a critical part of moving the state forward.

That new vision, called “Focus Carolina,” has seven key points, including making it easier for “place-locked” students to get four-year degrees from the state’s flagship university.

Offering students a chance to get a four-year degree through online coursework would put USC in more direct competition with for-profit institutions like the University of Phoenix, Webster University and Virginia University.

Those schools long have made flexibility a core part of their efforts to appeal to non-traditional, often older students.

In going over the broad outlines of the plan, Pastides said the idea isn’t simply to take on the for-profit schools. Rather, Pastides said the main aim is to give students in smaller communities in South Carolina easier access to a four-year degree from USC.

“The whole point is to meet people where they live,” Pastides said. “We’re improving access to a four-year degree at these campuses.”

Pastides said not all of the details of the plan have been worked out and the university’s trustees have yet to give their approval.