University Center of Greenville: Driving education competitiveness in the Upstate

Although it's now the largest metropolitan area in the state, Greenville County does not have a full four-year public college or university within its borders, making it somewhat of a challenge for two-year college graduates to pursue a four-year or graduate degree.

The solution? The University Center of Greenville (UCG) - a unique consortium of higher education institutions dedicated to increasing access to educational opportunities for Upstate residents.

Originally chartered as the Greenville Higher Education Center, UCG provides a central, cost-effective setting for the delivery of higher education programs from many of South Carolina's largest universities - both pubic and private.

At its education facility located in McAlister Square Mall, area students can choose from more than 75 bachelor completion (junior and senior level) courses, as well as various master's and doctorate degrees from Anderson University, Clemson University, Furman University, South Carolina State University, University of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina Upstate.

The time-tested goal is simple: Making education fit the student's schedule, including evening and online classes as well as providing on-site advanced technologies.

The beginnings:

In 1987, the then Greenville Higher Education Center responded to what many perceived to be a growing problem - the limited availability of higher education options to area residents. Chartered with the task of increasing access to bachelors, master's and doctorate degree programs, the group began operations out of an office suite on the Greenville Tech campus.

Less than two years later, five universities were involved with various course offerings. A teaching facility opened in a renovated and equipped factory on property adjacent to the school, and UCG was born. 

Growth came early. In the early 90s, the Center's member universities increased from five to six, and enrollment numbers began to stretch resources. In 1996, teaching operations were moved to a larger facility, where it remained until 2001. In that year, the still-growing number of students coupled with the increased number of course offerings necessitated another move. This time, UCG leased 123,000 square feet in the newly renovated  McAlister Square Mall, where it remains today.

The entire mall - 600,000 square feet and 49 acres - was purchased by Greenville Technical College and repurposed into a multi-college satellite campus. The center of the mall is occupied by an assortment of businesses, non-profits, and county agencies. Students have access to smart-technology classrooms, free Wi-Fi and a computer technology center.

Today:

Today, UCG has a total of seven member institutions. In addition to the course and degree offerings, it is also home to a number of other educationally-related organizations and programs, including Public Education Partners Greenville County, ELS Language Centers and the SimHubTM immersive technology center.

The multi-organizational hub provides collaborative space and shared resources - all with the end goal of improving educational access for the Upstate community. Students have access to smart-technology classrooms, free Wi-Fi and a computer technology center.

Bringing together these public and private sector leaders and higher education institutions positions UCG to meet the education and talent needs of its citizens, helping to drive Greenville's education competitiveness for years to come.

James Richardson is a freelance writer and the publisher of the Travelers Rest Tribune. When he's not writing, James enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and two children at any one of many places across the Upstate.