A comprehensive, public regional institution, the University of South Carolina Aiken was founded in 1961 as a junior college. Intended to bring educational opportunity to South Carolina’s Central Savannah River Area – an industrial and business region stretching through central South Carolina and Georgia along the Savannah River – USC-Aiken was originally housed in the historic Banksia, a 32-room mansion in Aiken, SC, before moving to its own campus in 1972. Through the 1980s and 1990s USC-Aiken grew quickly from a 2-year junior college to a comprehensive undergraduate and graduate university, building a strong reputation for its excellent professional and career-oriented programs. Today USC-Aiken is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the best public regional college in the South.
USC-Aiken has been one of South Carolina’s fastest-growing institutions in the 21st century, but at around 3500, the student body has been kept closer to that of a liberal arts college than the major public university Aiken is shaping up to become. That means students get a lower student:faculty ratio and smaller class sizes than most public universities, and the strong student support and mentorship that comes with them. Undergraduate students can choose from nearly 50 bachelor’s degree programs, most with a focus on practical, market-ready skills. Some of Aiken’s most popular and successful programs include education, nursing, and business, putting South Carolina’s most promising undergraduates onto the job market with confidence and the adaptable skills they need for success.
As a regional institution, USC-Aiken also has a strong commitment to meeting educational needs in the community, including the working adults and professionals of the CSRA region. Three graduate degrees are currently available: the MBA for STEM and Liberal Arts degree-holders; the MS in Applied Clinical Psychology; and the Master of Education in Educational Technology. Aiken has also begun offering online degree programs through the Palmetto College, the online institution that is part of the University of South Carolina System, allowing the university to reach beyond the boundaries of its campus to provide opportunity.
With quick growth over the last decade, USC-Aiken’s demographics have been in flux, reflecting a changing society and higher education landscape. Nearly two-thirds of the student body is made up of women, while a third of students come from a minority background; nearly 20% are nontraditional-aged students over 25 years old, showing the influence online and adult education have had on Aiken and higher education in general. However, USC-Aiken’s primary focus is still undergraduate education, and a wealth of activities and student life opportunities abound for USC-Aiken’s students.
Dozens of student-led clubs and organizations are present on campus, including 14 fraternities and sororities making up an active Greek Life. Honor societies, music and performance organizations, professional and political groups, cultural heritage clubs, and recreational groups ensure all Aiken students can find a place to fit in, hang out, and develop the network that will take them through college and into their post-grad lives. Intramural and club sports include everything from equestrian competition to ultimate frisbee and pickle ball, inner tube water polo and Quidditch. The USC-Aiken Pacers compete in NCAA Division II athletics, with the Pacer Fanatics and the award-winning dance and cheerleading teams keeping the athletes motivated and feeling the love.