USC Upstate launched a new effort in the spring to make a four-year degree affordable for local students. The Spartanburg Promise Scholarship Program provides up to 90 recent high school graduates from Spartanburg County a chance to earn their bachelor’s degrees debt-free.Ten students from each of the county’s nine public high schools will have the balance of their tuition covered after all other grants and scholarships have been applied. Promise Scholars must have earned a South Carolina LIFE Scholarship, which is $5,000 for freshmen, in order to qualify for the program. The current cost of tuition at USC Upstate is about $12,000 per year.
“We are so excited about this opportunity, which demonstrates USC Upstate’s commitment to postsecondary attainment in Spartanburg County and reducing student debt throughout our region and state,” says Chancellor Bennie L. Harris.
The inaugural Promise Scholars cohort is funded by up to $2.5 million from USC Upstate’s budget. As a public institution in South Carolina, the university is empowered to invest up to 4 percent of its annual budget in scholarships. USC Upstate intends to raise additional funding that will allow the program to extend beyond its pilot year.
While the program is designed to provide opportunities for at least 10 graduates from each of the county’s nine public high schools, a short turnaround time for the initial cohort meant that some schools were unable to submit 10 recommendations. This enabled other schools to provide the names of more than 10 students. In subsequent years, USC Upstate hopes to have an equal distribution across all of the local schools involved in the program. Promise Scholarships are not based on a student’s major.
During the fall semester, Promise Scholars were invited to learn more about the Spartanburg community at luncheons with chamber leaders at OneSpartanburg and executives at Milliken & Co. A holiday-themed luncheon celebrated the end of students’ first semester at USC Upstate.
Jennings Pruitt has lived in the Upstate all his life. A native of Campobello, he is an interdisciplinary studies student in the pre-chiropractic program at USC Upstate. Pruitt says he chose to attend Upstate because of its vast campus, energetic atmosphere and rigorous academics. He’s been enjoying opportunities to network, form connections, and make new friends. When he’s not studying, Pruitt relaxes by taking care of his animals and spending time with friends. “The lessons I have learned this fall semester have brought with them challenges, bold ideas and new paths,” Pruitt says. “The most important lesson I have learned, and am able to apply, would be that your effort parallels your expectations. To overcome your own expectations and set standards, you must rise above and exceed the challenges at hand.”
Braylen Covington is a computer science major from Moore, South Carolina. Both his parents are Upstate alums, but Covington says he was drawn to Upstate because of the care professors have for their students and the positive impact that has on the quality of education. He enjoys studying on the second floor of the library, both for its proximity to his classes and because he and his classmates can utilize the group study spaces there. In his free time, he likes to unwind with video games and by playing Dungeons and Dragons. Covington loves the freedom of being a college student, and the academic discoveries that come with it. “I’m surprised that I’m enjoying my Spanish class as much as I am,” he says. “Learning the ins and outs of a language has been really interesting. Fun fact: The closest thing to ‘y’all’ in Spanish is ‘vosotros’!”
Morgan Monet De Barros
Morgan Monet De Barros is a communications major from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. She is a member of the women’s soccer team, and is excited to be playing under new head coach Sharif Saber. After the team’s successful season, De Barros is looking forward to many more. She loves being a college student and exploring all the new opportunities and experiences that come with it. One of her goals is to intern with a news program to gain experience in a field she hopes to one day work in. She has enjoyed taking part in activities going on around campus, and discovering what the surrounding area has to offer. “Spartanburg is continuously growing and is a great place for college students, especially because there are so many opportunities around the corner,” she says.
Sunshine Moua is a biology major from Boiling Springs, South Carolina. One of her biology labs introduced her to Persimmon Creek, which runs through the Susan Jacobs Arboretum on campus. Moua says it’s her favorite place on campus because it incorporates the beautiful, natural qualities of the Upstate area. An exciting part of college for her is meeting new people, and interacting with students who come from different areas and all walks of life. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know everyone’s passions and the stories that led them to today,” she says. “My life has only just begun, and I’m glad that I started it at USC Upstate.”