SC technical colleges providing students much-needed flexibility in midst of pandemic

Updated: Aug. 21, 2020 at 7:42 PM EDT
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ANDERSON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Julia Raycroft is attending a two-year college in the Upstate this semester.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Raycroft opted to stay home and go to a nearby technical college instead of going to a four-year university.

“We just don’t know what the next couple of months hold,” she said. “It’s better I made this decision.”

Raycroft said when the COVID-19 pandemic hit this spring, she had to adjust her college plans. There was a lot of uncertainty and she was unsure of what type of instruction she was going to get at that four-year university. So she and her family decided it would be best for her to enroll at the local technical college.

“Would I rather pay all that money just to do all my work at home? Or would I rather save money and get a year done at this technical college?” she said.

This is a trend some technical colleges in South Carolina are noticing this semester. Jennifer Hulehan, the Dean for Academic Career Foundations at Tri-County Technical College, said affordability and flexibility is what is drawing students like Raycroft to technical colleges.

“We’ve heard from students and their parents about wanting to make this shift to a two-year instead of a four-year college this year,” Hulehan said.

The technical colleges we spoke with said overall enrollment might be down this semester compared to last year. That’s typical for most higher education institutions this semester. Interim President at Central Carolina Technical College Terry Booth said she could see why students, who during a normal year, would’ve enrolled at a four-year college are opting for two-year colleges instead.

“It makes sense because we are about a third of a cost of a four-year university,” Booth said., “We offer the same thing. Our courses are transferrable.”

“The mission of the technical colleges is about meeting students where they are,” Hulehan said. “We’re all about adaptability and flexibility and providing people with what they need. It makes us a good fit in a time like this to provide that.”

Raycroft wants to be a therapist one day. She said she is happy to have some in-person instruction this semester and hopes it stays that way.

There are 16 schools in the state’s technical college system.

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