SC State Deserves National Recognition

Sunday, August 27, 2006

By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

AUG. 27, 2006 - - It's not everyday you learn your school is ranked one of the top in the nation. But that's just what happened recently for Dr. Andrew Hugine, president of SC State University in Orangeburg.

"To be among the top institutions in the country is just phenomenal," he said in a phone interview. "We're just jumping all over the place."

What he's happy about is a new guide to the nation's universities by Washington Monthly magazine that rates SC State as its ninth best university, an accolade that puts it in the same league as M.I.T., Stanford and Cornell.

And its 9th position makes it compare better than Yale (12th), Duke (23rd), Harvard (28th), Princeton (43rd), the University of South Carolina (128th) and Clemson (131st).

In its September issue, Washington Monthly includes its second annual college guide, a ranking system based on more than academics, as is done in a popular annual college ranking by US News and World Report.

"The main thrust of the Monthly ratings has to do with a full range of services - - the way the university helps prepare students for careers in public service," said Rebecca Siderbrand, a Monthly editor.

Editors developed the new rating system because they thought a better picture needed to be developed to show how well colleges prepared students to benefit society. In the end, it came up with three major indicators:

Social mobility - how the college serves as an engine to help poorer people prosper and move up in the world;

Research - how the college fosters scientific and humanistic research; and

Public service - how the school promotes an ethic of public service among students. After it picked these indicators, it compiled a bunch of raw data, aggregated it, developed a rating formula and plugged it into a computer.

"The algorithm takes into account not what your university does for you, but what it does for the country," Siderbrand said.

When the final numbers were crunched, only eight other national universities rated higher than SC State and its 4,500 students. Hugine says his historically black college has a long tradition of working hard to change people's lives. More than 70 percent of the college's students receive Pell grants, which go to the neediest students. Despite their backgrounds, the school has a 53 percent graduation - - twice what is predicted by statistical models.

"On social mobility, we do extremely well," the president said. "At SC State University, we are transforming minds and transforming lives."

Additionally, it creates an environment that fosters public service. The school, for example, has trained more minority military officers than any other college in the country since it started a ROTC program more than 50 years ago. The program has generated more than 1,900 commissioned officers and counts a dozen generals among its graduates.

In the past year, students and faculty members raised more than $40,000 to fund a Habitat for Humanity home. Then they built it.

Other evidence of a dynamic institution that is preparing students to give back to the country:

SC State is among the top in the country in granting minority degrees - - 4th in mathematics (out of 2,443 higher education institutions); 5th in biology; 18th in education; and 29th in computer and information services. It is 31st in the country in granting master's degrees to minorities.

It offers the only doctorate in education in the state.

It serves as a regional hub for science and math education.

Bottom line: Washington Monthly got SC State's story right. It is a South Carolina gem. Recognition for what it has been doing to prepare students to make significant societal contributions is long overdue.

Brack's column is part of S.C. Statehouse Report, a weekly legislative forecast that keeps you a step ahead. It is reprinted with permission. For more, go to: