Spartanburg – During a time when college enrollment was declining across the country, Spartanburg Community College acquired students through its free tuition initiative.
The college hopes to extend the initiative to the next academic year. SCC is seeing its highest enrollment ever with over 6,000 students and a 32 percent increase in enrollment numbers as of fall 2019.
In May 2021, SCC announced that all college-eligible students who enroll in at least six credits are eligible for free tuition for the 2021-2022 school year.
“I’m all about the students. Our impact is something that can be felt across the board, and the cascading impact of a pebble-throwing at SCC extends to everyone and touches everyone’s lives,” said Michael Mikota, president of SCC.
The class of freshmen in fall 2021 is 41 percent larger than in 2019. The number of students age 24 or older who returned to complete their education increased 66 percent.
The initiative aims to retain students so they can complete their educational goals, and to re-engage students whose college experience has been delayed by the pandemic or financial circumstances. All students must have exhausted all grants, aid, and other scholarships and submitted the appropriate paperwork to determine scholarship eligibility, according to the SCC website.
SCC used free scholarships from part of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund Grants II. The initiative has been pushed even further with the help of community partners such as OneSpartanburg, Bringing Back the Burg Business Recovery Task Force, and the Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM).
There are currently approximately 1,000 students in the college’s continuing education programs. This includes training in a specific field of study such as a certified nursing assistant, commercial driver’s license, and welding, among other professional areas.
“Continuing education students are of vital importance because this is something we give to the community that no other institution of higher education provides,” Mikota said.
Providing access to education at an affordable cost also promotes economic growth in a society. Located on the college’s Tyger River campus, Spark Center SC serves as a staging space for many businesses. The center offers four main services – an easy landing program, workforce recruitment services, and a small business and private enterprise incubator.
“In Spartanburg, $1.63 billion in economic development ads have been issued since just last spring,” he said. “Many of these companies are located here in the Spark Center.”
SCC has College Transition Coordinators and a Student Success Office that assists students with academics and other support services.
“We tripled our order flow when you look at where we were two years ago,” said Dr. Stacey Obi, Vice President of Strategic Innovation for SCC. “Our team really took the time to come together, work overtime, and do whatever they had to do to serve the students who were right in front of them.”