Focus on the Future

USC Upstate launches a new strategic plan to guide its development in the coming years.


A culmination and a catalyst— those are two of the ways to describe the University of South Carolina Upstate’s Greater 2030 Strategic Plan, a new and in-depth report that looks at priorities, goals, and plans for the institution.

The report — which debuted at the University of South Carolina board of trustees meeting in March —took shape during a leadership retreat, where Upstate officials explored new ways to serve students and create opportunities to improve recruitment and partnerships. Central to these goals was highlighting what makes USC Upstate special.

The team strategized about the role of higher education and looked at ways it should evolve to meet the needs of students and the demands of the workplace.

“The plan was born from many conversations, debates, and examinations with the leadership, faculty, staff, students, and community of the University of South Carolina Upstate,” said Chancellor Bennie L. Harris. “It’s also a blueprint for how the University can become a more powerful and impactful institution in the future.”

All of this takes place against the backdrop of rapid changes in business investment, employment growth, and demographic shifts in South Carolina. Business investment is up, while employment growth is down. Indeed, the number of people aged 20 to 64 in the state went from 60 percent in 2000 to a projected 56 percent by 2030. The percentage of the state’s population under the age of 20, meanwhile, was just 28 percent in 2000 and is expected to decrease to less than 23 percent by 2030.

“We don’t just study these numbers at our institution,” Harris said. “We look at how we can create a valuable learning experience while meeting the needs of our workforce. So we mix high-impact experiential learning with cutting-edge research, deeply connected community engagement, and course-to-career pathways. We take a close look at our degree offerings, examine and expand our partnerships with employers, and use innovation and technology to adapt and meet demand.”

The Greater 2030 Strategic Plan serves as a guide to put into practice USC Upstate’s commitment to provide education for all that inspires a thriving and just society. It blends innovative academic learning with practical yet exciting course-to-career pathways.

This kind of tactical thinking is increasingly important as USC Upstate, like most other universities, faces two simultaneous challenges: a decline in the number of traditional college-age students (known as the enrollment cliff) and retaining students as education costs rise. Surveys show students nationwide also are pondering the value of — and considering alternatives to — a traditional college education.

In Greater 2030, USC Upstate unveils five new Spartan Cornerstone programs that are designed to further the University’s strategic priorities and address the needs of students and the workforce.

Spartan Distinct will provide flexible and accessible educational programs — including degrees, high-end credentials, research opportunities, internships, and study-abroad programs — that improve students’ intellectual, creative, personal, and social development and prepare them for their careers.

This initiative will:

  • Ensure degree offerings include at least three doctoral and three engineering programs;
  • Implement local-to-global community engagement in 100 percent of academic programs over a five-year period;
  • Create innovative pathways to degree completion for students who transfer into the institution, or between majors, in 100 percent of programs over a five-year period;
  • Integrate cutting-edge technology and evolving instructional strategies, modalities, and approaches into 100 percent of academic programs over a five-year period.

Spartan Recruit aims to attract, enroll, and retain a diverse and highly qualified student body that brings academic and cultural value to the university. By expanding the student body, the institution's reputation and brand will be enhanced, revenue will increase, and a more dynamic learning community will develop.

  • This program will allow USC Upstate to increase enrollment headcount to 7,000 by 2030 and new direct transfer student enrollment by 5 percent annually.

Spartan Success will provide academic and personal support — via advising, mentoring, career readiness programs, and student wellness programs — to help students succeed.

This program includes:

  • The development of a comprehensive First-Year Experience to improve students’ sense of belonging and engagement;
  • Creating and implementing a comprehensive student educational plan that advances and improves advising and career development;
  • Engaging faculty in the improvement of instruction; and
  • Developing opportunities for students to connect with faculty and each other in meaningful ways.

Spartan Partners will actively engage with the local and regional community to establish sustainable partnerships that contribute to positive social, economic, and environmental outcomes.

The goal is to inspire a thriving and just society by:

  • Advocating for education;
  • Increasing state and federal funding; and
  • Collaborating with partners in education, industry, athletics, humanities, arts, and culture.

Spartan Future will help USC Upstate be agile, anticipatory, and responsive to the evolving needs of students, technology, and the workforce.

  • This will be achieved by fostering a culture of excellence, service, connection, flexibility, and innovation while using generative AI-powered learning to achieve the institution’s goals.

“USC Upstate is on an exciting journey, as we work to achieve the aspirations outlined in this Greater 2030 Strategic Plan,” Harris said. “Together we will pioneer excellence, inspire impact, and make an even greater difference in the lives of those we serve.”

Expert Advice

Don Bent, former chief operating officer for Oshkosh Defense, joined USC Upstate in March to support the development of a new undergraduate engineering program and to help foster strategic partnerships with regional manufacturers.

As executive in residence and distinguished professor of practice for industry partnerships and engineering programs, Bent will be advising USC Upstate faculty in the George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics and the College of Science and Technology on creating courses that are relevant to industry needs and standards.