Best Community Colleges in South Carolina
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South Carolina is a place filled with charm, natural beauty, and plenty of activities to keep its residents busy. Students who attend community college in South Carolina also have abundant opportunities to get a quality education and prepare for jobs in high-demand fields. The state houses almost 60 higher education institutions, including:
- 10 comprehensive teaching institutions
- 3 research universities
- 4 two-year regional campuses for the University of South Carolina
- 16 technical and community colleges
- 25 private institutions
The state's mild climate and strong workforce also attract many companies. For example, South Carolina is home to company headquarters for major automotive industry companies, including Michelin and the Schaeffler Group. The state also houses thriving industries in aerospace, clean energy, biotechnology, and logistics.
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Why Study in South Carolina?
South Carolina houses dozens of educational institutions, including public and private four-year institutions and a thriving network of technical and community colleges. There are more than 160,000 students enrolled in community colleges throughout the state.
Technical and community colleges participate in the readySC program, which trains students for specific jobs based on the needs of local employers. These partnerships mean that students who attend community college in South Carolina get job-related training, which can help them find work after graduation.
U.S. News & World Report ranks South Carolina's economy 18th in the nation overall. The state ranks 19th for employment, 11th for growth, and 28th overall for the business environment.
More than 1,200 international companies operate in the state, according to the South Carolina Department of Commerce. The state also partners with companies to train students in its technical college system to prepare them for in-demand jobs.
Cost of Living
South Carolina may be an attractive place for college students because its cost of living is lower than the national average. Both housing and transportation rank lower than average when compared to the rest of the U.S. Total housing costs depend on the place a person lives, but the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in South Carolina — as of 2021 — was $852, which was about $200 less than the national average. However, healthcare and utility costs may be relatively high.
Cultural and Community Offerings
South Carolina houses nine cultural districts spread throughout the state. Each is home to galleries, music venues, museums, and public art, along with many restaurants and public spaces.
The Lowcountry (the eastern part of the state) boasts delicious Southern food, including barbecue, grits, oysters, and crab. The area also includes many museums and small towns to explore.
South Carolina is centrally located along the southeastern coast. The weather in South Carolina depends on the region. The Lowcountry is flat, making way to the coastline where temperatures are mild most of the year. The Blue Ridge Mountains are upstate to the west, where temperatures can get colder in the winter and hot and humid in the summer. Summer temperatures can top 90 degrees, and in the winter it can get below freezing at night.
Top Degree Programs in South Carolina
Featured Online Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
South Carolina Employment Outlook
U.S. News & World Report ranks South Carolina in the top half of states for business environment and potential economic growth. As of October 2021, the state had a population of about 5.1 million people, with 2.4 million in the labor force. Additionally, according to U.S. Census estimates from July 2021, the median household income in South Carolina was $53,199. The state has worked hard to attract companies in several high-growth industries, including:
- Automotive manufacturing and innovation
- Aerospace and aviation
- Advanced manufacturing in biopharmaceuticals, medicine, and aerospace parts
- Clean energy, including wind and solar
- Logistics for major companies like Target, Walgreens, and Walmart
3 Jobs in Demand South Carolina
Industrial Engineering Technicians
Similar to electrical engineering technologists, these professionals work with industrial engineers to solve common manufacturing layout and production issues. Manufacturing is among the largest industries in South Carolina, and the readySC program at local technical colleges can provide the necessary training to succeed in these positions.
Computer Network Support Specialists
Computer network support specialists help companies manage their information technology (IT) infrastructures. Virtually every industry needs IT support specialists. Most computer specialist positions require at least an associate degree to get started, which students can earn at a community college in South Carolina.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technicians assist healthcare providers in conducting diagnostic exams. They provide patient instructions and prepare patients for tests in MRI machines. South Carolina requires radiology technicians to hold an associate degree and pass a certification exam.
Popular Career Paths in South Carolina
Best Accredited Community Colleges in South Carolina
Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team
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Best Community Colleges in South Carolina
Spartanburg Community CollegeLocation
SCC's seven schools award university transfer degrees as well as degrees and certificates in advanced manufacturing, business, health sciences, and other subjects. Transfer programs feature AA and AS options; SCC boasts transfer agreements with colleges and universities throughout South Carolina. Online degree-seekers use SC TechConnect to access course content. Distance learners can select from four degrees and one certificate.
Academic advising plays an essential role in student success at this South Carolina community college. Advising services include career exploration, course selection, and orientation. SCC requires that students meet with an advisor at least once each semester. Degree-seekers can also receive tutoring services at the school's learning center.
Like all South Carolina community colleges on this ranking, SCC accepts individuals who hold a GED certificate. Additionally, high school students can take courses through the school's dual-enrollment program. In-state learners save approximately 60% on tuition compared to out-of-state learners. Incoming students interested in financial aid can apply for an SCC Foundation Scholarship between January 2 and April 15.
Central Carolina Technical CollegeLocation
CCTC offers more than 50 degrees and certificates, making this South Carolina community college an excellent choice for prospective students undecided on a major. In addition to three transfer degrees, popular programs include nursing, paralegal, and early care and education. Additionally, the college's advanced certificate programs train aspiring HVAC professionals, medical coders, and pipe welders.
Outside of class, learners can participate in career-orientated clubs such as the Criminal Justice Organization, Biology Club, and the school's chapter of the National Student Nurses' Association. Like many colleges on this ranking, CCTC also hosts a chapter of Phi Theta Kappa -- the nation's top honors society for students attending a two-year college.
High school students ages 16-18 may apply as long as they submit a permission letter from their high school principal. Unlike other South Carolina community colleges that use an open-door admission policy, CCTC requires applicants to possess a minimum ACT or SAT score of 19 or 930, respectively. The CCTC Foundation Scholarship awards funding to both full- and part-time students who maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Horry-Georgetown Technical CollegeLocation
Many academic programs at HGTC boast a special Fast Forward option that allows academically ambitious students to complete a traditional 16-week course in only 5-7 weeks. Learners at this South Carolina community college can choose to enter the school's arts, sciences, or university transfer departments. Students pick from many degree and certificate, such as tracks in general technology, advanced manufacturing, and business administration.
HGTC's Distance Learning Institute boasts both hybrid and entirely online options. Online courses use Desire2Learn software, and some online programs may require students to participate in field trips or other on-site activities. Online degree-seekers also benefit from the same student services that on-campus student enjoy, including academic advising and career counseling.
HGTC uses a seven-step enrollment process that includes applying for financial aid, meeting with an enrollment advisor, and attending an orientation session. Full-time students pay a flat tuition each semester. In-state degree-seekers may qualify for state-funded financial aid. HGTC awards over 30 institutional scholarships.
Aiken Technical CollegeLocation
ATC offers general education and university transfer programs, as well as degrees and certificates in business and computer technology, health sciences, and technical education. Career-aligned degrees at this South Carolina community college include nuclear fundamentals, electronic technology, and dental assisting. ATC also offers an online AA that is designed to be transferred to a four-year school.
The Academic Success Center at ATC offers free resources to all learners. Students can attend tutoring sessions in biology and chemistry, among other subjects. Degree-seekers can also select from many student organizations, including the Christian Life Club and Student Government Association.
ATC accepts first-time, dual-enrollment, and transfer students. The college recommends that incoming learners submit ACT or SAT results. Learners without test scores should take the ACCUPLACER exam to determine their initial English and math course placement. Degree-seekers submit only one financial aid application to apply to all ATC scholarship opportunities.
Orangeburg Calhoun Technical CollegeLocation
OCtech's degree and certificate programs boast flexible learning schedules with courses available during the day, in the evenings, and online. The college features transferable AA and AS degrees, as well as programs in agriculture, education, and engineering technology. Online options at this community college in South Carolina include four degrees, one diploma, and nine certificates.
Academic advisors at OCtech work with students to select courses, explore careers, and find other student services like tutoring. The college participates in the federal TRIO program to provide degree-seekers from disadvantaged backgrounds with additional services. Additionally, prospective and current learners can access eight video tutorials that explain a variety of topics, including how to register for courses and view grades.
Prospective degree-seekers create a student account before applying online. OCtech requires COMPASS exam results for students who do not possess ACT or SAT scores. Health programs have additional application requirements. The college oversees dozens of institutional scholarship opportunities, which award up to $2,000.
Trident Technical CollegeLocation
TTC features affordable tuition rates and offers degrees and certificates in 10 areas of interest. Learners who do not complete a transferable degree can select from programs such as business, culinary and hospitality, and engineering. Online courses use asynchronous learning to accommodate degree-seekers with busy personal or professional lives. Online students can select from one transferable associate degree and three certificate programs.
On-campus learners have numerous options to participate in student life. This South Carolina community college boasts two honor societies and multiple career-orientated clubs for prospective pharmacy technicians, physical therapists, and others. TCC also boasts a study abroad program where students can complete an internship overseas.
TTC recommends that prospective degree-seekers request more information or take a campus tour before applying. South Carolina residents who graduated from high school with a minimum 3.0 GPA do not need to take placement tests. Incoming learners interested in financial aid only submit one form to apply to all institutional scholarship opportunities.
Northeastern Technical CollegeLocation
NETC boasts branches in Cheraw, Pageland, Dillon, and Bennettsville, making it an attractive choice for prospective students throughout South Carolina. The college features transfer agreements with many of South Carolina's largest public colleges and universities. The school's Arts and Sciences Department confers transferable degrees. Degree-seekers preparing to pursue a career immediately after graduation select from programs in three departments: business, health, and applied technology.
This South Carolina community college offers more than 90 online courses each semester. Online courses use set meeting times, mimicking the on-campus experience. Some online courses also require degree-seekers to take proctored tests on campus.
Incoming learners who possess a minimum ACT or SAT score of 20 or 960, respectively, do not need to take placement tests. New students receive an invitation to an on-campus open registration event. More than 70% of degree-seekers receive some form of college-funded financial aid. For example, the LIFE Scholarship awards free tuition and a textbook stipend; full-time students who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA can apply for this award.
University of South Carolina-SumterLocation
At USC Sumter, degree-seekers planning to transfer to a four-year school can select from seven associate degrees, including organizational leadership, business administration, and early childhood education. Transfer students can also enroll in a bachelor's completion program hosted by the University of South Carolina without leaving the USC Sumter campus. For high school students, this South Carolina community college offers dual-enrollment and early-college programs, both of which confer significant college credit.
USC Sumter serves the local community by offering courses on the nearby Shaw Air Force Base. Enlisted personnel can register for courses, take placement tests, and register for courses on base. Although the college offers some courses at Shaw, most enlisted degree-seekers attend courses on campus.
First-time and dual-enrollment students should take the ACT for placement and scholarship eligibility purposes. Other application requirements include high school transcripts -- even if an applicant did not graduate. Learners can apply to over 100 scholarship opportunities by submitting only one application.
Piedmont Technical CollegeLocation
PTC offers some of the most affordable degrees and certificates in the state. Not only does this community college in South Carolina charge a low per-credit tuition rate, but nearly 70% of students receive enough financial aid to cover all of their tuition and fees. In addition to university transfer tracks, other popular programs include diversified agriculture, criminal justice, and automotive technology. Some learners who complete a technical certificate can apply this credential toward a transfer degree.
Online students at PTC can select from two transfer degrees, four professional degrees, and two certificates in areas such as administrative office technology and funeral service education. Also, many on-campus programs allow students to take some courses online. All online courses feature asynchronous learning.
Admission requirements include submitting an online application and visiting a PTC campus to speak to an advisor. The college accepts credit from foreign colleges and universities. Degree-seekers with a minimum 2.5 GPA can apply for financial aid at three points throughout the year.
Technical College of the LowcountryLocation
More than 90% of TCL graduates go on to work in a field that aligns with the program they completed, making the college an attractive option for prospective students interested in career-orientated degrees and certificates. Like all South Carolina community colleges on this ranking, TCL also awards some transfer degrees. Transfer options include criminal justice, the humanities, and early childhood education.
TCL boasts nine entirely online certificate and degree tracks. Many on-campus programs feature courses that learners can complete online, as well. Students use SC TechConnect to access course content and interact with professors. Degree-seekers do not pay additional fees when they take an online course.
Prospective learners take a short survey to determine their application pathway. Academic advisors work closely with undecided students to help them select a major or certificate. Degree-seekers interested in financial aid must submit their FAFSA results.
University of South Carolina-LancasterLocation
Many of the academic programs at USC Lancaster allow students to transfer seamlessly to bachelor's completion programs at the University of South Carolina. Participants can also pursue career-orientated AA degrees in business and criminal justice. Learners who already possess an associate degree can earn a bachelor's in one of 13 majors at this South Carolina community college. Online courses at USC Lancaster are delivered through Blackboard.
Both associate and bachelor's degree-seekers can become Magellan Scholars. This unique educational opportunity involves undergraduate research, which learners perform under a professor's guidance. Students receive up to $3,000 in funding to cover their research expenses. Prospective Magellan Scholars must possess a minimum 3.3 undergraduate GPA.
High school students applying as dual-enrolment learners need to submit a letter of recommendation from their principal, and other prospective degree-seekers submit ACT or SAT scores. The college recommends that all new students complete an on-campus orientation. USC Lancaster offers more than 130 scholarship opportunities that require only one application.
Florence-Darlington Technical CollegeLocation
Florence, Darlington, and Marion County residents can attend FDTC to pursue associate degrees and certificates. Programs at this South Carolina community college include electronics engineering technology, human services, and respiratory care. Online learning at FDTC uses both interactive television sessions and asynchronous learning.
Academic advising at FDTC plays a significant role in students' success. Advisors specialize in 1-2 subjects, meaning that they can offer expert guidance to help students select courses, explore careers, and access additional student services. Another resource open to all learners is an assessment center where degree-seekers can take placement tests and challenge exams.
Prospective students can review syllabi before applying. Scholarship application requirements include a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. Some programs also require applicants to carry out an interview with a professor or department chair.
University of South Carolina-SalkehatchieLocation
Over the past four years, 100% of each nursing cohort at USC Salkehatchie has passed the NCLEX exam, making this institution an excellent choice for aspiring nurses. This South Carolina community college also offers AA and AS tracks, as well as over a dozen bachelor's degrees in partnership with the University of South Carolina. Learners can enhance their degree by selecting a minor from over 50 options.
Students nearing graduation can visit the Career Planning Center to attend a career fair, receive a resume critique, and practice interviewing skills. Other student support services at USC Salkehatchie include one-on-one tutoring sessions, academic advising, and workshops that help incoming learners hone their academic success skills. On-campus students also enjoy access to apartment-style dormitories.
Every June, July, and August, the college hosts a new student orientation on campus. During orientation, new degree-seekers can register for courses, meet with an advisor, and apply for financial aid.
Greenville Technical CollegeLocation
GTC offers degrees and certificates across seven schools. The School of Health Sciences boasts the largest number of options, including tracks that prepare graduates to work as medical assistants and pharmacy technicians. Learners not pursuing a degree or certificate can engage in professional development related to healthcare, industrial manufacturing, and safety, among other subjects.
High school students ages 16 and older can apply to GTC's Early College Program. GTC holds agreements with local high schools, and homeschooled learners may also apply. Application requirements include ACT or SAT scores. The program allows students to earn up to 18 undergraduate credits while pursuing their high school diploma. The Early College Program hosts courses on GTC's four campuses.
All prospective students must submit FAFSA results. Incoming degree-seekers without ACT, SAT, or AP scores need to take the ACCUPLACER exam. GTC boasts eight scholarship opportunities, and each scholarship requires a separate application. Learners at this South Carolina community college can also participate in an on-campus work-study program.
Tri-County Technical CollegeLocation
In addition to transfer programs, TCTC features career-oriented degrees and transition programs. Students earning a transfer degree can select from more than 20 majors, including biology, criminal justice, and forensic science. Additionally, certificate programs prepare future childcare providers, veterinary assistants, and nurses, among other professionals.
TCTC features many academic programs that attract learners from all backgrounds. For example, students ages 50 and older can complete the AARP Back to Work Program, which confers essential job exploration strategies and provides interview coaching. The college's Honors Experience allows degree-seekers with a minimum 3.5 high school GPA to take advanced coursework and perform original research.
High school graduates whose transcripts reflect at least a "C" in English and math do not need to take placement tests. Of all South Carolina community colleges on this ranking, TCTC boasts one of the lowest tuition rates for in-district degree-seekers. Additionally, incoming students with a minimum 3.0 high school GPA may qualify for a LIFE Scholarship, which awards up to $5,000 each year.
Best Online Colleges in South Carolina
Frequently Asked Questions About Community Colleges in South Carolina
Are community colleges worth it?
Community colleges and technical colleges in South Carolina are a great way to get an education that can prepare students for lucrative and in-demand jobs. Community colleges prepare students for these positions by helping learners develop relevant skills and knowledge.
Associate degree-holders can also go on to pursue a bachelor's degree. Attending a community college is an affordable way to complete the general education classes required by a bachelor's program.
Online community college programs provide the same level of education as on-campus programs, but with added flexibility, allowing students to continue working or taking care of other responsibilities while getting a degree.
Does South Carolina have good community colleges?
South Carolina houses several technical and community colleges spread throughout the state. The network of public, two-year programs partners closely with the state's four-year colleges to help students get the education they need to pursue a bachelor's degree or get a job in a high-demand field.
South Carolina's Department of Commerce also operates a statewide program called readySC. State officials connect businesses with community and technical colleges to develop curricula that prepare students for jobs at local companies. Since it started in 1961, the program has trained more than 300,000 people in South Carolina.
How much does it cost to go to community college in South Carolina?
Some of the best community colleges in South Carolina announced they would offer free tuition to qualifying students in an effort to help students enroll even after the financial challenges imposed by the pandemic. Spartanburg Community College was the first to announce the free tuition option and hopes to continue offering it to some students beyond the 2021-2022 school year.
Other schools, including Clinton College and Central Carolina Community College, also announced free tuition programs for qualifying students in 2021-2022. These programs may continue in future years. In November 2021, South Carolina governor Henry McMaster said he would like to use $17 million in leftover relief money from COVID-19 grants to offer free technical college degrees to students.
In-state students who don't qualify for free tuition typically pay around $6,000 in tuition per year to attend community college in South Carolina. Out-of-state students can expect to pay about twice as much. Those costs don't include additional fees like room and board.
What is the cheapest community college in South Carolina?
Some residents of South Carolina can qualify for tuition-free college. However, students who do not qualify for a free tuition program can enroll at schools -- including Spartanburg Community College and Aiken Technical College -- where tuition is less than $200 per credit.
Additionally, the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education provides resources to help students understand student loan options and find grants and scholarships to fund their education.
Is South Carolina a good place to live and study?
South Carolina is a great place to pursue a degree and a beautiful place to live. The state offers lots to do and contains ample natural beauty, including coastlines, beaches, and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
South Carolina also ranks high in terms of its business environment and growth. Students who graduate with a degree from a South Carolina community college can pursue job opportunities in a variety of high-growth industries with some of the world's leading companies.
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