From Associate to Bachelor’s ― and Beyond
Julie Miller was in her mid-30s when she started classes at Piedmont Technical College (PTC). Even so, she was treading water on her career choices.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I changed my major a lot when I was there,” Miller said.
First, she focused on dental hygiene but discovered that it just wasn’t for her. Then she entered the associate in science program, only to find it wasn’t the right fit for her. Then she changed tack again.
“The associate in arts program gave me the broader range of study,” she explained. “I got to study history and philosophy and art, things I was interested in.”
That choice kept the door open for a lot of options later. And as she continued her course of study, she learned a lot about herself. It led her to consider the field of social work.
“I have always been really good working with people and helping people,” Miller said. She looked at the possibilities and learned that the University of South Carolina-Beaufort (USC-B) had recently launched a human services program online. So she chose a university transfer path that would allow her to seamlessly transition to USC-B. It appealed to her because “I could connect with people and work on case studies.”
A Greenwood resident, Miller graduated from PTC with her associate in arts degree in 2015. She received her bachelor’s in human services in 2017. She currently works as a recruiter for a staffing company. Now she’s working on a master’s degree through American Public University, where she’s studying ancient and classical history. Is a PhD on the horizon?
“That is the plan,” she said.
Making University Transfer Seamless
Many students pursue an associate degree from PTC with the intention later of enrolling in a four-year institution. Fortunately, PTC has bridge and transfer agreements with nearly 20 baccalaureate-granting colleges and universities in the state, including the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and College of Charleston. Having these agreements in place means that transferring to these institutions should be virtually seamless.
Overwhelmingly, students say the No. 1 appeal of these programs is the cost savings, because starting their post-secondary education at a community or technical college and finishing at a university can save thousands of dollars on tuition toward a bachelor’s degree.
A close second is convenience, because students can stay home and take introductory university courses locally for the first two years, saving on housing and/or commuting expense. In cases where PTC has a formal articulation agreement with a partner institution, some upper-level university courses can be taken at PTC, negating the need to commute to the baccalaureate-granting institution and find housing there. Other benefits available in a select number of transfer agreements include personalized case management and advising as well as access to university amenities, campus life and clubs.
Dr. Brad Griggs, PTC dean of arts and sciences, says that it’s difficult to nail down a hard number but, as a very conservative estimate, about 12 percent of the college’s student body are on a transfer pathway. That figure does not include dual-enrolled students or applied majors.
“Baccalaureate-seeking transfer students at PTC enjoy the ability to start college in a setting that typically features smaller classes. Oftentimes, our faculty are more approachable than in a university setting that may have lecture halls packed with hundreds of people. Our largest classes have maybe 60, and most have 30 or less,” Dr. Griggs said. “It gives students the ability to save a tremendous amount of money before they transfer. They can take 60 hours with us and pay a fraction of what it would cost at their destination university.”
More than 80 courses taught at PTC are approved for transfer to any public university or college in South Carolina. That covers a lot of the initial pre-requisite coursework for a baccalaureate degree.
“The process may go more smoothly if a student is in a bridge program, but not all bridge programs are created the same,” Griggs said. “Ultimately, it’s the faculty advisor and the student and the senior institution’s advisors working together to select courses. There is a tremendous advising component to the process. In general the students who are working with their advisors do have a seamless transfer.”
Students who are considering a transfer after PTC should alert their academic advisors and inquire about course substitutions that are approved for transfer in their desired programs. An admissions counselor can help students go over program options and explain the transfer process. Learn more at www.ptc.edu/transfer.