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Palmetto Pact Has Significant Potential for S.C.

By James F. Barker
Clemson University President

A new Clemson University scholarship and grant initiative called the Palmetto Pact aims to increase the pipeline of graduates who are qualified for a knowledge-based economy, encourage community service, and enhance access to Clemson. The program significantly increases scholarship and grant opportunities available to South Carolina residents, starting with those who enroll as freshmen in the fall of 2005.

The Palmetto Pact builds on Clemson’s traditional role as a land-grant university in that it focuses on how we can help meet the needs of the state.

First and foremost, the Palmetto Pact aims to address a major workforce issue of the 21st century. If South Carolina is to grow a knowledge-based economy, it will need educated men and women who are strong in math, science and engineering skills, and who can work comfortably in a globally competitive environment. Through targeted scholarships, expanded Engineering and Science living-learning communities, and international study programs, Clemson can help supply the graduates needed.

Second, the Palmetto Pact will help us identify and prepare tomorrow’s community leaders. Public service has always been a part of Clemson’s mission, so it is natural that our students embody this focus. To help foster a sense of civic responsibility, Clemson plans to launch a new four-year scholarship program for students who want to explore civic life through study, service and research experiences, create a new living-learning community for students of any major who are interested in community service partnerships, and more aggressively promote existing opportunities to serve local communities through programs such as America Reads.

Third, the Palmetto Pact provides increased opportunities for lower-income families and traditionally under-represented populations. We must always remember that Clemson was founded to serve the sons and daughters of the working class. By increasing funding for need-based grant programs and providing one-on-one financial aid counseling and assistance for minority students, we hope to increase access to a Clemson education.

Although much attention has been focused on a portion of the Palmetto Pact that will guarantee that every freshman from South Carolina receives some type of scholarship or grant, the Palmetto Pact is much more than that. In fact, because of the quality of the students Clemson attracts, the “guarantee” is a safety net that may be needed by relatively few students. The vast majority of Clemson’s freshmen already have a scholarship or grant funded through the state’s Education Lottery program, the federal Pell Grant program, or a privately funded scholarship program. Under the Palmetto Pact, Clemson essentially plans to ensure that no freshman from South Carolina pays full tuition, which we hope will help offset some of the costs of that first-year transition away from home.

The more significant impact of the Palmetto Pact is the potential that it has to keep more of our best students in state, encourage students to participate in public service and develop the skills needed to be tomorrow’s community leaders, increase the number of graduates who have strong engineering, math and science skills, and provide greater access for students from families of limited means. In these respects, the Palmetto Pact will serve South Carolina for generations to come.