Sumter Living Article: FREE TUITION IS HERE!

Central Carolina Scholars is a partnership to fund our future.

By Cathy Wood

This fall, high school graduates from Sumter County can go to Central Carolina Technical College tuition-free for two years. This initiative, aptly named Central Carolina Scholars, is the first of its kind in South Carolina. The promise of free college is profoundly changing the local community and higher education for the better.

Central Carolina Scholars is designed to place high school graduates from Sumter County, directly out of high school, onto the path of higher education or employment. In today’s highly competitive economy, students need the best education and training possible, and CCTC is doing its part to ensure students receive just that.

College affordability has always been an issue for many students and families. A college degree or certified work skill has become more necessary than ever to compete in today’s workforce. So, while high school juniors and seniors eagerly plan their educational futures, there is often a sense of uncertainty about it coming to fruition due to increasing college tuition costs. That uncertainty is what sparked CCTC to work in partnership with local school districts, cities, county councils and corporate sponsors from its four-county service area to make Central Carolina Scholars a reality.

Essentially, Central Carolina Scholars is an economic development tool for existing and new industries in Sumter County. It works as a pipeline to boost the area’s skilled workforce. It can also be an affordable start for students on track to a four-year college or university. Regardless of the choice of the student, whether it is career or college, Central Carolina Scholars provides a strong foundation to start.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting one of CCTC’s dual enrollment students from Crestwood High School, Zachary Vipperman. Zachary is instantly likable. He is friendly, respectful and continuously flashes a vibrant smile. A Sumter native, Zachary’s academic success and hard-work has created a wide array of higher education options, but he is choosing to start right here, at home, with Central Carolina Technical College.

There are a couple of reasons behind Zachary’s choice. First is CCTC’s Dual Enrollment Program that he has taken advantage of during his senior year in high school, and secondly is the recent creation of the Central Carolina Scholars initiative.

“When I decided to pursue dual enrollment, I was just looking to knock out some general education credits while still in high school, hopefully to save money and time. But when my courses started, I was surprised at the professionalism and helpfulness of my instructors and counselors. My preconceived ideas of a community college education had been wrong, “Zachary continues, “I think kids my age believe they need to spend a lot of money to get a ‘good’ education. I still plan on transferring to a four-year university or college, but after my experience with dual enrollment at CCTC, I can’t imagine getting better instruction or more one-on-one time with instructors at a larger college. At CCTC, you get to know your instructor. You immediately get a sense that they care, and I like that.”

In fact, Zachary likes CCTC so much that he’s registering for both summer and fall courses. He plans on obtaining an Associate Degree in Science then transferring to an in-state college or university (he’s still undecided on which one). Having a mother who has been a nurse for 25 years and an older brother who is a paramedic, it is in Zachary’s blood to work in the healthcare field. He says his end goal is to be an orthopedic surgeon, but “you’ve got to start somewhere”. With his drive and conviction, this young man can make it happen.

Dual Enrollment Coordinator Britney Chandler oversees all the dual enrolled students for Sumter and Lee counties. “Dual enrollment is a great opportunity for high school students to get a head start in college. It saves money and gives them the experience they need to successfully continue with their education. And now with Central Carolina Scholars, dual enrolled students can continue at CCTC for free. It’s truly an incredible offer,” Chandler says.

Current high school juniors and seniors may enroll at Central Carolina Technical College through the dual enrollment collaborative agreement between the college and secondary institutions, provided the student has met the following requirements: be at least 16 years old, receive permission from high school principal/headmaster, guidance counselor, or superintendent or his designee, submit an Application for Admission, meet college and course entrance requirements including prerequisites, and pay all fees by the payment deadline for each semester. For more information on Dual Enrollment, visit or contact Britney Chandler at or Jennifer Black at

Students eligible for Central Carolina Scholars must: be in the graduating class of 2016, 2017, 2018 or 2019; graduate from a public or private accredited high school in Clarendon, Kershaw, Lee or Sumter county; or be a homeschool graduate and a resident of Clarendon, Kershaw, Lee or Sumter county; test into college level coursework through ACT, SAT or CCTC placement exam scores; present a final high school transcript showing graduation date and minimum GPA of 2.0; begin taking classes in the summer or fall semester immediately following high school graduation; and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each academic year. The scholarship covers tuition only. It does not cover lab fees, books, supplies or miscellaneous expenses. The scholarship will be provided for the duration of one program of study for up to two years (six consecutive semesters).

For more information, visit the Central Carolina Scholars blog or email questions to Vicki Singleton at

Zachary Vipperman
Crestwood High School senior Zachary Vipperman is excited to attend CCTC through Central Carolina Scholars.