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How higher education is heading north in Lancaster County - again

USC Lancaster plans to start classes out of a new site at Indian Land High School this fall.
USC Lancaster plans to start classes out of a new site at Indian Land High School this fall.

Usually it's people going to college. In Indian Land, college is coming to the people.

USC Lancaster recently announced a plan to open a satellite location in the county's panhandle. Classes will be taught out of Indian Land High School, starting in August.

A full course listing won't be set until June, but the school's dean said initial classes are likely to be general education courses, perhaps business.

The dean, Dr. Walter Collins, said the move to Indian Land follows what the population has done, shifting north in Lancaster County.

"Indian Land and Fort Mill are a couple of the fastest growing areas in our two counties," Collins said. "We were interested in expanding our presence that way."

Indian Land already is a "fairly large" recruiting base for USC Lancaster.

Collins, in addition to leading the new campus, sits on the school improvement council at Indian Land High School. From young families to retirees to new business, more people means more opportunity for USC Lancaster.

"Population increases in all demographics there," Collins said.

Six or eight classes will be taught at the high school from about 4 to 8:30 p.m., after the high school day is done.

USC Lancaster wants to work with Indian Land, Fort Mill and Nation Ford high schools on dual credit courses, he said. Offerings will be available to senior citizens, too.

"We want to provide opportunities for students the best we can, and this is an example," said Butch Dutton, director of secondary instruction for the Lancaster County school district. "We put our heads together, and it just worked."

Dutton said USC Lancaster came up with the idea, and Indian Land High principal David Shamble worked out spacing logistics.

The school district has worked with USC Lancaster in the past, as it does with York Technical College, which has a site in the panhandle. For Indian Land students, the new site may mean fewer hours on the road.

Over the course of a class or two, trips to the Lancaster campus can add up for students.

"It affords them the opportunity to take classes without having to make that travel adjustment for time," Dutton said. "It's right there in their own back yard."

Collins sees an opportunity to start small, and grow.

"As the new Indian Land High School building is built, we'll gain more space at the current high school location and we'll be able to offer more courses at this point," he said.

It's unknown whether the Indian Land campus will offer duplicate classes to USC Lancaster in the long-term, or will offer something complimentary, allowing students to choose courses at either site.

But Dutton is optimistic about "another pathway" to education opening. He, too, sees room for growth.

"My hope is it's going to have a good start, and maybe escalate and grow," Dutton said.

USC Lancaster offers classes toward associate or bachelor degrees at the school or through Palmetto College, credits that transfer to other universities, dual credit courses for high school students and continuing education courses. Last fall USC Lancaster had 1,910 students.

"That's all kinds of students," Collins said. "It's senior citizens. It's high school students enrolled in dual credit courses. It's traditional students."

With current high school students and recent graduates, the school provides an affordable route to a degree, he said.

"It's a good deal for families, with the cost of higher education, and we believe it reduces the time for a degree," Collins said.

USC Lancaster joins York Tech in steering resources toward the Indian Land area growth hotbed. York Tech opened a site in the Rosemont development in 2014. That site offers an advanced IT and other programs.

Surging population is bringing county services, too.

A new Indian Land service center operated by the county is tentatively set to open June 18 at 8451 Charlotte Hwy. Veterans affairs services are available Thursdays by appointment. Stormwater management will operate there Mondays through Fridays and the county treasurer/auditor department on Tuesdays.

Rapid growth in Indian Land is attracting attention from education, county services and recreation.

The Lancaster County Council could decide in June on whether to put a bond package on the ballot this fall for about $10 million in recreation improvements, much of it in Indian Land. Upper Palmetto YMCA applied for federal money to help toward a 74,000-square-foot Indian Land facility.

While education is in this case following community growth, there is reason to believe it can go both ways. An educated population and workforce is a key concern for businesses looking to locate to an area.

"It's critical," said Jamie Gilbert, economic development director for Lancaster County. "Ask any company what the number one issue is, it's workforce."

Indian Land has been successful in recent years attracting new companies. The type of companies coming, Gilbert said, can benefit from continiung education options.

"They're either manufacturing or corporate office facilities," he said of Indian Land growth. "With USC Lancaster, the expansion of their presence in the area can make a difference."

With the USC Lancaster plan, the combination of population swell and existing cooperation between Indian Land and the Lancaster site made the move worth pursuing.

"It just kind of all fell in place," Dutton said. "Everybody was all on the same page."

John Marks: jmarks@fortmilltimes.com; @JohnFMTimes
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