The Daily Gamecock

‘Back to Carolina’ to debut

Program will offer online courses for former students

The university will accept applications for its new "Back to Carolina" program beginning this spring. The program — modeled after a similar initiative at the University of Alabama — will be the first time USC has offered an undergraduate degree primarily through online courses, said Senior Vice Provost Lacy Ford.

"It's essentially an outreach of the university to the time-bound, place-bound, employment-bound people of the state that can't return to campus physically or may find it difficult to enroll at one of our regional campuses," Ford said.

Here's how it will work: Students with at least 60 credit hours can register to re-enroll at the university. Ford said USC hopes to eventually lower that barrier to 45 hours.

Then, students will begin online classes toward a liberal studies degree, which USC currently only offers at its regional campuses. The university will provide financial assistance for a student's first course; students will then pay normal in-state tuition rates. Provost Michael Amiridis said the university hopes to eventually expand options with several other degrees, but that will depend on Back to Carolina's success.

"There will always be a limited number of degrees," Ford said. "The university couldn't possibly offer every degree."

At the University of Alabama, the program has grown significantly since its inception in 2009, said Rebecca Pow, a senior administrator in the Department of Continuing Studies. That university's program currently offers a wide range of degrees, many more than USC will offer in its first year.

"Our thought process was that many students who have left and have been away for awhile don't have the ability to come back and finish in a traditional program," Pow said.

Amiridis said the university won't invest in new faculty members or resources, primarily using current online offerings and classes available at regional campuses. Faculty members have been encouraged to submit course proposals for the program through a grant program, according to the provost. Seats in certain online classes will be held for students in the program, according to the Office of the Provost.

The provost said his office has already fielded dozens of calls about the program from interested students.

"But there's a big difference in being interested and actually doing it," Amiridis said. "There's a time commitment, plenty of homework, obligations here and there that interfere with day-to-day life."