South Carolina State University renewed its scholarship partnership with the U.S. Guard on Tuesday with a campus visit from Rear Adm. Keith Smith.
“We’ve had a long-standing relationship with South Carolina State,” Smith said as he toured the campus with SC State President James E. Clark. “We are excited about the future -- to get back to where we were with students joining the Coast Guard. There’s a great opportunity for both South Carolina State and the Coast Guard to get the program going.”
Over the years, SC State has produced more than 25 Coast Guard officers, 10 of whom are currently in the ranks, but the relationship tapered off.
In November 2019, Clark and then Rear Adm. Todd Sokalzuk signed a Memorandum of Agreement solidifying SC State’s participation in the Coast Guard’s College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) scholarship program.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic delayed implementation, but both SC State and the Coast Guard remain committed.
According to the Coast Guard’s website, “students who are accepted into the scholarship program will be enlisted into the U.S. Coast Guard, complete basic training during the summer and receive full funding for up to two years of college. Funding includes not only payment of tuition, books and fees, but a full-time Coast Guard salary, housing allowance and medical benefits.”
“This opportunity particularly is focused in the engineering area, although there will be others who can apply,” Clark said. “The value to our students can be as much as $100,000 from the Coast Guard for the selective student.
“So, a student who is looking for a future career in engineering and does that with the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard is going to take great care of that student,” the president said.
As Sokalzuk’s successor, Smith was able to see what the university offers in the curriculum, including programs in cybersecurity and nuclear engineering, during Tuesday’s tour. SC State is the only school in South Carolina with a four-year degree in engineering and is designated as an Academic Center of Excellence in Cyber Defense Education for U.S. Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency.
SC State is a member of the Battelle Savanah River Alliance, which brings world-class expertise in laboratory management, nuclear operations, national security, and scientific research to Savannah River National Laboratory. The university’s partnerships also the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center, the nation’s first quantum education and research initiative focused on driving diversity and skills development in quantum computing.
“This is exciting – getting a sense of what the academic rigors are here (and) the programs are here,” Smith said. “They align very well with the Coast Guard and what have in the Coast Guard of the future – the things we are doing, the missions we do and the challenges we have lying ahead.
The partnership between the Coast Guard and SC State provides a gateway for students to more easily access resources needed to join the branch through CSPI. The agreement is designed to optimize outreach and engagement efforts, while providing tuition-saving choices for SC State students and academic options and solutions for faculty. Through the partnership students and faculty gain an increased knowledge of the U.S. Coast Guard and how it serves the country.
“The Coast Guard is particularly aware of the leadership that we produce here in programs like our (Army) ROTC program,” Clark said, “so this is going to be an opportunity for us, for them to partner as part of our transformation and collaboration. So, it’s good for everyone. It’s a win-win for SC State and the Coast Guard.