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S.C. colleges climb higher
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tigersEATchicken Offline
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Posted Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 10:42 pm

Clemson, Furman and USC show impressive improvements in the latest survey on the best schools and programs.
Clemson University and Furman University are making measurable strides among their peer institutions in overall excellence, and now both sit, by objective measure, among some of the most prestigious schools in the nation. Most South Carolina colleges and universities could find reason to be proud in the just-released 2005 rankings by U.S. News and World Report. But Clemson and Furman stand out.

Clemson is now the nation's 32nd-best public college. Furman is now the 38th-best liberal arts college. The improvements suggest the obvious. Both schools, through bold leadership and wise investment in their institutions, are helping this state achieve the larger goal of raising the overall quality of higher education.

South Carolina has an undistinguished educational history marked by poor funding. Against that backdrop, Clemson President Jim Barker made the Top 20 a goal. Under Barker, Clemson has gone from barely cracking the Top 40 to closing in on the Top 30. The steady improvement makes the Top 20 a realistic goal.

Furman University has made a similar leap in Dr. David Shi's decade of leadership. In what is recognized as a tougher category, Furman has managed to improve four spots in two years. An aggressive building plan that will modernize its library and upgrade classroom space and a landmark curriculum overhaul suggest Furman will continue its upward path.

The University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business had its usual stellar showing, retaining the top spot in the nation for international business.

Some in higher education have criticized the importance attached to these rankings, arguing that such surveys aren't sufficiently scientific to be taken seriously. Some critics dismiss the whole exercise as a public relations contest. But to accept that is also to deny the strides — the tangible improvements — each institution has made in categories such as the quality of its applicants and the success of placing graduates into top graduate schools. No one disputes the influence these measures have on prospective students. That alone makes them vitally important, as schools compete intensely for the brightest students.

These rankings also help the state measure itself against others. From that perspective, this state still lags behind in quality, especially when compared to our neighbors. The University of North Carolina sits at No. 5 among public institutions, and Georgia has two schools in the Top 20. The quality of our public colleges and universities will determine the competitiveness and growth of businesses in South Carolina. The vibrant economies in Atlanta and the Research Triangle are made possible by excellence in higher education.

There is an inextricable link between higher education excellence and South Carolina's ability to stake a claim in an economy that is increasingly dependent upon expertise in the sciences and technology. These rankings are proof that we're improving. They are also proof that in a competitive environment, we have more to do.
08-22-2004 10:35 AM
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