One of the oldest women’s liberal arts colleges in the nation, Columbia College was founded in 1854 as the Columbia Female College. Its early rise was cut short by the Civil War, which inflicted some of the worst damage on South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union. Columbia College was only saved from destruction in Sherman’s March by a single professor who refused to abandon the campus; the Union army spared his life, and the campus, but Columbia College did not reopen until 1873. A devastating fire in 1964 brought renewed attention and alumni commitment to the college, which entered a period of growth and development that has made it one of the most respected colleges in the region. In addition to being named a best value, Columbia College is ranked a top 50 regional institution for the South by U.S. News & World Report.
As a small liberal arts college, Columbia College is recognized for student support and academic rigor. With an 11:1 student:faculty ratio, Columbia College gives all students the means to develop close working relationships with their professors and instructors; in addition, all freshmen are paired with a local mentor who is considered a leader in her community and career. Columbia is proud to be the only college in the state of South Carolina to have a national Carnegie Foundation US Professor of the Year, and 80% of the faculty have the highest degree in their field, with no classes taught by assistants – only faculty members. This high level of support and mentorship has real-world results, as Columbia graduates have an 88% success rate entering their careers or graduate school within six months of graduation.
Undergraduate education is central to Columbia College’s mission, with its traditional liberal arts heritage; 35 undergraduate degree programs are available, with an emphasis on preparing students with a well-rounded, adaptable set of skills from the humanities and sciences. More than half of Columbia graduates go on to graduate or professional programs. Columbia’s Honors Program is also successful, with three National Honors Students of the Year winners in the 21st century. Graduate programs include Master of Education degrees in Higher Education and Divergent Learning, as well as an MA in Organizational Change and Leadership. The evening program allows working adults to complete their bachelor’s degree in 12 majors; graduate and evening programs are open to both women and men.
Columbia College counts its history as a women’s college as one of its strongest points, providing women from South Carolina and beyond with an environment where their strengths, interests, and leadership skills can be brought out and developed to their fullest. All of the clubs and organizations at Columbia are led by women, and Columbia’s mentor program gives students women to look up to and emulate. A small student body of 1200 allows students to develop an overall sense of community and relationships, but to also find their own identity and sense of belonging in Columbia’s more than 50 student groups and activities.
One major part of student life is community outreach and engagement; Columbia College has been honored as part of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, as well as winning the Higher Education Civic Engagement Award from the Washington Center and New York Life Foundation. In addition, the Koalas athletic teams compete in 10 NAIA conference sports, including lacrosse, soccer, and volleyball; nearly a third of the student body takes part in some sport. The Koala nickname may be cuddly, but the Koalas are fierce, winning a record number of conference titles as well as the NAIA Champions of Character Institutional Award.