SC technical schools can now offer four-year degrees

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Gov. Henry McMaster shakes hands with Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College, after the ceremonial signing of a bill to allow technical colleges to offer an applied bachelor's degree.

For the first time, technical colleges in South Carolina can offer students four-year degrees.

South Carolina’s General Assembly passed a bill in June that was introduced by the state House of Representatives to allow technical colleges the ability to offer students an applied baccalaureate degree in advanced manufacturing technology, so long as no additional state funding is requested for the program. Previously, technical colleges were not able to offer anything past the associate degree level.

Gov. Henry McMaster did a ceremonial signing of the bill at Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation at noon Wednesday, although the governor officially signed bill H.4931 on July 2.

“The country is experiencing a change in the way it works, and things require more flexibility, things require a lot more skill than it used to — the old mills are gone,” McMaster told the crowd at the signing ceremony.

McMaster said about 20 other states allow technical colleges to offer applied bachelor’s degrees.

“That is the one missing thing that we needed to be sure that we maintain our pre-eminence in the higher education of our young people,” McMaster said.

Keith Miller, president of Greenville Tech, said the college has led efforts to get the bill passed for more than two years.

“Greenville Tech made this happen,” Miller said.

An applied bachelor’s degree is different from a typical bachelor’s degree in that the program is focused more on specific, hands-on skills rather than theoretical knowledge.

“It’s hands-on, very highly technical, computerized project-based learning as opposed to the theoretical side of it. If you sit in a traditional classroom, you get the theoretical side of it, and both approaches are important,” Miller said.

The college already offers an associate degree in manufacturing technology, but the applied bachelor’s degree will allow students to receive more advanced skills over the course of four years.

“The careers have changed that we’re training for. The skills that are required for technicians at the high end — the highly skilled technicians — you can’t address those in just a two-year program,” Miller said.

But the bill is only the first step in getting the program at Greenville Tech — the college still must get the program certified and approved by the state Technical College System board, the state Commission on Higher Education, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

“But the first critical step has occurred, and it makes it possible,” Miller said.

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