Bridge to Clemson Program Blends Traditional Academic Experience at Tri-County with Social and Cultural Experiences of Being a CU Student
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 2/23/2009
(By Lisa Garrett)
PENDLETON --- Clemson University was Cameron Brice’s top choice as a T.L. Hanna senior applying to colleges back in 2006. When he received a letter from Clemson, telling him he was among the 900-plus recent high school students who narrowly missed admission because of limited space and high demand and were being offered another chance through the new Bridge to Clemson program, he admits he was more than disappointed.
“I was frustrated because I worked hard in high school and was a top student. I was accepted at Auburn University and Anderson University, but Clemson was my first choice. I really thought I had a good chance,” he said.
So did Jacob Bouchillon, of Williamston, and Caitlin Bellinger, of Pendleton, who received the same letters that spring.
“But once I read the letter again, I realized it was a year at Tri-County Technical College and then on the road to Clemson,” said Caitlin.
“Bridge students are outstanding students whose applications weren’t accepted at Clemson because programs are full and/or the increased competition for incoming freshmen. A first of its kind in South Carolina, this invitation-only program blends the traditional academic experience at Tri-County with the social and cultural experiences of being a Clemson University student,” said Amanda Blanton, dean of Enrollment Management at Tri-County.
This collaborative initiative between Tri-County and Clemson University offers select Tri-County students a university experience and seamless transition to Clemson for the sophomore year, explained Blanton. Bridge students must earn 30 transfer credits at Tri-County during their two semesters and transfer to Clemson with a 2.5 GPA. They live in an apartment complex, The Heritage at Riverwood this year and will be at Highpointe of Clemson this fall, and may use the transit service to travel when classes are scheduled.
Students can access all student life programs and services at Clemson, such as Fike Recreation Center membership, Cooper library, Redfern Health Center, Michelin Career Center, Student Union activities, selected athletic activities and dining services.”
Jacob, Caitlin and Cameron decided to join the inaugural Bridge to Clemson class in 2006. Two of them have crossed the “bridge” to Clemson and one decided Tri-County was right for him.
“My parents (both Clemson University professors) thought it was great and certainly not a step down,” said Caitlin. “It’s harder and harder to get into Clemson. You’re not guaranteed admission, even if you work hard,” she said.
Caitlin was familiar with Tri-County – while a senior at Daniel High School, one of her entries won an award at an annual writing contest the College has sponsored for more than two decades. “I knew Tri-County was a good college,” she said. She says the common misconception of Tri-County students not having to work as hard hit home for many early on. “After the first semester, many realized this is not high school. It’s really just a smaller version of Clemson,” said Caitlin, who wants to teach middle school English.
“I loved my English instructors, who were focused on making sure that we did well. I had no problems being at Tri-County for a year. Even though I was turned down, I was offered the opportunity to cross the bridge. If not for the Bridge program, I would have done late applications and probably would have had to wait a semester to go to college. It really saved me.”
Jacob originally thought he wanted to major in engineering at Clemson, but quickly got interested in the electronics classes at Tri-County and decided not to transfer. He’s now in his second year of Industrial Electronics Technology (IET) classes at Tri-County. “The teachers are awesome, and they really work with you. Once I found IET, I was on the right road. I realized I wanted to work in industry in electronics.”
During his year in the Bridge program, a LIFE scholarship paid the tuition and he was responsible for Bridge fees and books. In his second year at Tri-County, he began working at Michelin’s Sandy Springs plant and was chosen as a prestigious Michelin Technical Scholar, a cooperative education program where students work while in college. The program offers tuition reimbursement and employee health benefits. He also qualified for lottery tuition assistance.
“It really worked out,” he said, because his father lost his job at Honeywell and later his mother was diagnosed with cancer. “I love the job, and I love my classes,” said Jacob, who is on the President’s List every semester.
“It’s been a good experience, and I wouldn’t have looked at Tri-County without the Bridge program,” he said. “I’m very satisfied where I am. And I’m not in debt.” He will graduate from Tri-County next spring.
Once Cameron went to orientation to learn more about the Bridge program, he said, “I was pretty comfortable. I realized the opportunity I had. I’m happy with my decision. I’ve stayed focused on college and have done well,” he said. He maintains a 3.25 GPA at Clemson.
“I realized Tri-County was a place I could begin to accomplish my dreams. I’m now glad I was put into Bridge. It helped financially-- I saved a lot of money.” Like Jacob, he received the LIFE scholarship and virtually went to school at no cost the first year. He entered Clemson as a sophomore. “I got a good deal. I will graduate on time, I have a good GPA and I saved money for a year.”
Tri-County also introduced him to the Call Me MISTER program, a scholarship teaching program developed by Clemson University to meet the shortage of African American male teachers in South Carolina's elementary schools. “The program has been very beneficial in my life and to the matriculation to Clemson. I advise others to take advantage of what Tri-County has to offer. Take the time and put in the effort because everyone is there to help you. I’m an example that the Bridge program works,” he said. He plans to graduate in 2010 and teach elementary school.
This Bridge to Clemson partnership is mutually beneficial for Tri-County and Clemson, said Blanton. “It’s another opportunity for accessibility to the Clemson experience for those highly qualified students who aren’t accepted. It also increases awareness of the transfer function of two-year colleges all across South Carolina. The key to the program is collaboration,” she said.
Now in its third year, the Bridge to Clemson program enrolled 312 freshmen from all over the United States. The goal is to transfer 70 percent to Clemson University. In the first class in fall term 2006, 164 or 71 percent transferred to CU and the following fall, an additional 12 students were eligible to transfer later that academic year, for a total of 76 percent. Others chose to remain at Tri-County. Bridge students who entered Clemson in fall 2007 had a collective first-term GPA of 2.59 as compared to a collective first term GPA of regular transfer students (2.46).