South Piedmont Community College: a Union County Cornerstone

South Piedmont Community College, sign at side entrance (Credit: D.M. Wallace)

As one of Union County’s most important educational institutions and as the county’s only community college, South Piedmont Community College plays an important role in the direction and development of the young minds that are to be the future of the Tri-W area.  SPCC has, for 20 years, provided an indispensable service to Union County by offering an exceptional educational experience that combines a rigorous curriculum with a level of accessibility that allows for across the board opportunity that will continue to empower and improve each community that the college serves. 

The rigorous curriculum is ensured through highly credentialed administrators and professors who, in degree and transfer programs, are required to hold at least a master’s degree in the field that they teach.  Accessibility, particularly regarding finances, is one of the most incredible qualities of the college.  An average semester at a public four-year university will cost over $9000.  A semester at a private university will cost more than $30,000.  At SPCC, tuition for a semester is well below $1,500 with many students eligible for federal grants and other forms of financial aid that will, in many cases, cover the entire cost of tuition, books, fees and maybe even a spring break trip to visit your grandmother.  The college’s non-profit foundation is continuing to grow as well and is adding more foundation-funded scholarships each year.

SPCC sign celebrating graduating class (Credit: D.M. Wallace)

A quality education can be achieved at any number of institutions, but a certain depth of understanding seems to be lost in an auditorium of hundreds of students as a professor drones on lecturing into a microphone.  A student at SPCC will not find themselves with this issue, as a 14-1 student to teacher ratio provides a setting for real educational relationships and in-depth discussions that are rarely achievable outside of the community college system.

The relationships between faculty and students is so close, in fact, that school president Dr. Maria Pharr said that she knows the name of each student that crosses the stage at graduation.  “We pride ourselves on knowing the needs of our student community and being able to address those needs,” she said.  “Being in a position to interact with and understand our students on a personal level allows us to maintain our mission and helps our graduates and transfer students excel and that is something that really makes this college special.”  Julie Sikes, vice president of institutional advancement, said that “one thing that students and parents claim to be most beneficial is the size of classes and the one on one attention that students get from their faculty members.”

According to Dr. Pharr, transfer students from the community college system typically fare better overall than students native to a four year program.  She said that in addition to a higher rate of success, transfer students will receive higher rates of admission to the universities of their choice as they have demonstrated their ability to achieve in a collegiate environment.  Regarding entry into the workforce, Dr. Pharr said that relationships with local industries and hands-on experience allow for graduates of certificate or associate degree programs to have real and meaningful advantages over the competition.



SPCC is continuing to grow and is expanding their services into western Union County while establishing a partnership with Wingate University.  Through this partnership, SPCC is working to provide a pathway from setting undergraduate goals all the way through to a student’s graduate degree program with seamless credit transfer and institutional continuity.  This continuity will allow students the confidence of knowing that each step that they take toward their degree is guided by faculty from within the program to which they will transfer.  While credit transfer between institutions may seem simple enough, it is a serious problem that many transfer students will face and any attempt to solve this problem is of great benefit to students and the university system as a whole. 

A successful college student, Dr. Pharr said, is one who will set well defined goals and dedicate themselves to spending the time necessary to achieve them.  South Piedmont Community College and the unique, personal environment that they have cultivated allows for the goals of students to take priority in the work and the lives of the professors that teach them and this truly is what makes SPCC such a special and important institution.