South Carolina’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

South Carolina’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in South Carolina if you reward schools for making the best use of their limited resources? Academic Stewardship asks how effectively schools manage their financial and human resources to gain the influence that makes them academically excellent. Schools that are exemplary in Academic Stewardship are doing everything in their power to help students and faculty achieve their full potential.

Colleges and universities in South Carolina deserve to be recognized when they do more with less. It’s impressive when a large wealthy school can spend money lavishly on expensive buildings and programs. But it’s even more impressive when a small school with limited means is able to train and inspire students that the larger wealthier schools tend to ignore.

The American Association of Colleges and Universities reported in late 2021 that almost 75 percent of higher-education professionals at US colleges and universities felt financial constraints prevented their schools from effectively attracting students. Distracted by the size and amenities of larger schools, prospective students tended especially to be overawed by the big research universities.

South Carolina’s smaller colleges, especially its liberal arts colleges, need effective ways of communicating their value to a world that celebrates “bigger is better” and “you need the best.” Unfortunately, most college ranking companies, such as U.S. News & World Report, define “best” in a way that devalues schools with smaller budgets and fewer students even when these schools do remarkable work in advancing their students’ education. By and large, college rankings penalize schools that serve underserved populations.

Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell, who for years now has criticized conventional college rankings for misrepresenting what’s good and valuable in education, we decided to construct a new ranking metric that highlights those schools that do more with less. That metric—called the Academic Stewardship metric—takes away both the size and the wealth advantage of schools, and focuses instead on how well schools use the resources available to them to advance the education of their students.

How We Measure the Academic Stewardship of South Carolina’s Colleges and Universities

South Carolina's Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship
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As a metric, Academic Stewardship is defined by a precise mathematical formula, which can be found in our Academic Stewardship white paper. Measuring the Academic Stewardship of South Carolina’s colleges requires measuring two forms of stewardship: 1) Stewardship of financial resources (using the money they have responsibility without waste) and 2) Stewardship of human resources (doing their best to help students, faculty, and administration to flourish). Together, these two types of stewardship form what we call  Academic Stewardship. If you want to learn more about the factors involved in Academic Stewardship, click the more button below.

  1. Stewardship of financial resources: To determine a school’s stewardship of financial resources, we factored in its undergraduate size, budget, endowments and reserves, as well as tuition and fees. All these data are available from the National Center for Educational Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. In addition, we factored in a school’s financial responsibility as gauged by the Federal Student Aid Office at the US Department of Education through its financial responsibility composite scores.
  2. Stewardship of human resources: To determine a school’s stewardship of human resources, we used our InfluenceRanking engine to track the influence of the school’s faculty and alumni but also to control for size of the undergraduate student body. We’ve found that measuring a school’s influence based on the contributions of faculty and alumni make in their fields of study but then also controlling for size of the undergraduate population is the single best indicator of academic excellence. We call this Concentrated Influence. Schools that rank highly in Concentrated Influence are schools that, given their available human resources, invest heavily in their students and faculty, and the results are demonstrable.
    • We measure the influence of colleges and universities based on the publications and citations of the schools’ faculty and alumni who are teaching in and working in areas related to their degrees. To do this, we take publicly available databases, such as Semantic Scholar, Crossref, and Wikipedia and use these to measure the influence of academics in their disciplines. Having measured the influence of persons, we then identify the schools that they’re affiliated with, adding up the influence scores of the faculty and alumni to measure the influence of the schools and their disciplinary programs. Finally, we control these influence scores by size of undergraduate student body so that schools do not score high in influence simply because of a size advantage. We lay out these methodological considerations on our methodology page.
  3. Academic Stewardship: Having measured a school’s stewardship of financial and human resources in the two previous points, we now divide the second measure by the first to define the Academic Stewardship metric. This metric spotlights smaller schools, with fewer financial resources and people, that invest wisely and do proportionately better in building influence than large wealthy schools. Many of these smaller, less wealthy schools are incentivized to make better use of their resources but would never get recognized in conventional school rankings, which directly or indirectly put a premium on the wealth of schools.

Academic Stewardship as so defined is connected to keeping tuition and other costs down, but it should not be confused with affordability or frugality. The schools that this metric ranks as exemplary academic stewards tend to be all over the map when it comes to tuition and other costs. At issue is the influence of schools given the financial and human resources they have on hand. If a school is going to charge more for tuition, then that needs to be reflected in the school having proportionately greater influence.

Why Academic Stewardship Matters to Students and Their Families

The benefits of attending a school with strong academic stewardship include:

  • A clear reason for why students are at the school in the first place. Without the distraction of amenities and luxuries, these schools are at once unpretentious but also passionately committed to their educational mission. The schools in this ranking are financially efficient and academically rigorous. By avoiding frills, these schools take the most direct path to accomplishing their mission of educating students.
  • Valuing character over prestige and self-indulgence. A school that’s a good steward of its resources doesn’t instill shame in its students over what they are missing (such as elite cuisine) but rather pride in what they have and making the most of it. These schools exhibit a culture of good stewardship, which tends to build good character in the students that attend these schools.
  • Avoiding the spoiled-student syndrome. It’s easy to think that offering students endless options and opportunities will enrich their time at school in every way. But spoiling people—whether in business, sports, or academics—has the opposite effect, causing people to take their advantages for granted and in the end achieving less than they might otherwise, a point well-documented in Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code. Schools exhibiting academic stewardship avoid this pitfall.
  • The best schools vs. the schools that help students to be their best. Students at schools demonstrating outstanding academic stewardship aren’t so much concerned about being at the “best” school, whatever that may mean, as about being at a school that helps them to be their best. These schools pay attention to their students, hoping that any glory goes to them rather than to the school. Small schools, and especially liberal arts colleges, help themselves by communicating this advantage to prospective students.
  • Emphasizing development over talent and achievement. Schools like Harvard and Stanford have their pick of academic talent, and their students have a long record of achievement even before they apply to such elite schools. But if a school doesn’t have the resources of a Harvard or Stanford, how does it build a great team of students? In that case, it must focus on student development. Colleges exemplifying academic stewardship emphasize student growth and development, ensuring that the schools are doing everything in their power to help students reach their full potential and thereby become their best selves.
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South Carolina’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

  1. #1

    Wofford College

    Spartanburg , SC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    53%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1270/28

    What is Wofford College known for?

    Wofford College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • History
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Economics
    • Biology
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    South Carolina State University

    Orangeburg , SC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    30%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    915/16

    What is South Carolina State University known for?

    South Carolina State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Criminal Justice
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Lander University

    Greenwood , SC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/20

    What is Lander University known for?

    Lander University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Criminal Justice
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Communications
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #5

    Francis Marion University

    Florence , SC

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/18

    What is Francis Marion University known for?

    Francis Marion University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Medical
    • History
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #6

    Furman University

    Greenville , SC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    81%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1330/30

    What is Furman University known for?

    Furman University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #7

    The Citadel

    Charleston , SC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/22

    What is The Citadel known for?

    The Citadel’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • Criminal Justice
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • History
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #8

    College of Charleston

    Charleston , SC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/25

    What is College of Charleston known for?

    College of Charleston’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • History
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Anthropology
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1090/21

    What is Coastal Carolina University known for?

    Coastal Carolina University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Education
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #11

    University of South Carolina

    Columbia , SC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    78%

    Student body

    32K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1275/28

    What is University of South Carolina known for?

    University of South Carolina’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Law
    • Criminal Justice
    • History
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    34%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1015/19

    What is University of South Carolina Beaufort known for?

    University of South Carolina Beaufort’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #13

    Voorhees College

    Denmark , SC

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Graduation

    41%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Voorhees College known for?

    Voorhees College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Communications
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Criminal Justice
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #14

    Coker University

    Hartsville , SC

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    93%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/23

    What is Coker University known for?

    Coker University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/23

    What is Anderson University, South Carolina known for?

    Anderson University, South Carolina’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Religious Studies
    • Nursing
    • Criminal Justice
    • Communications
    • Law
    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

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South Carolina’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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Colleges and Universities in South Carolina

The 31 public schools range in tuition from $5,000 to $17,000. The largest institution, the University of South Carolina (U of SC), is right in the middle, totaling $11,000 for fees. Located in Columbia, U of SC has over 30,000 students in attendance and offers over 300 degree options. Aside from the technical and community colleges in the state, there are four universities under $10,000. At $17,000, the Medical University of South Carolina is the most expensive public school in the state.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

In addition, over 25 private schools, 17 with religious affiliations, offer academic settings with small student populations, none exceeding 3,500. Though it is the most expensive at $50,000, Furman University boasts an 84% graduation rate. With Methodist connections, Wofford College charges a tuition of $44,000, and it bears noting that the campus is situated on a national arboretum. The University of South Carolina School of Law is one of the nation’s oldest law schools and the state’s only nonprofit law school. Graduates of the school have the opportunity to receive financial assistance from the Public Interest Law Loan Forgiveness Fund if they are employed in the field of public interest law.

Along the 60-mile stretch of beaches in South Carolina is iconic Myrtle Beach, home to one of the world’s tallest Ferris wheels. Cypress swamps, military museums, and tea gardens add to the southern charm of this state. And with over 50 higher education institutions, students have plenty of options for where to earn their associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree.

Check out the top programs available, and earn your degree in The Palmetto State.


What are South Carolina’s Colleges & Universities?

South Carolina’s Best Overall