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Trident Tech, CofC partner for residential bridge program

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Trident Tech President Mary Thornley and College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell announce the “Charleston Bridge” program, which is designed to ease high school students’ transition to the four-year college. (Photo/Ashley Heffernan)

An estimated 300 high school graduates will take Trident Technical College classes at the College of Charleston and live on the CofC campus in the fall through a new program designed to ease the transition from high school to the four-year college.

Leaders from CofC and Trident Tech announced the “Charleston Bridge” program during a news conference today.

“This is a one-of-a-kind, one-semester residential bridge program, which will give select South Carolina high school students an opportunity to gain admission to the College of Charleston and to earn an undergraduate degree,” CofC President Glenn McConnell said.

Some students who apply to the College of Charleston and are close to being accepted will be offered the opportunity to join the bridge program. If they accept, they will become Trident Tech students who live on the CofC campus and take classes at CofC taught by Trident Tech instructors for the first semester.

The bridge students will have a CofC meal plan, have access to CofC academic support services and receive a CofC ID card for access to activities, intramurals and student clubs. They will not be allowed to participate in varsity sports or join CofC fraternities or sororities.

“These are students who might be on the bubble for us, students who we want to give the opportunity to be at the College of Charleston but we see needing some additional support and an opportunity to make a transition between high school and a four-year college degree,” CofC Provost Brian McGee said. “Our partners and friends at Trident Tech are beautifully positioned to provide that transitional experience working in partnership with us here at the college.”

After the first semester, if those bridge students meet academic targets — including a minimum 2.6 GPA with a course load of at least 12 semester hours — they will be admitted as full-time CofC students for the spring semester. If they don’t meet those targets, they will leave the bridge program and be encouraged to take classes at Trident Tech.  

“We’re an open-door institution, so we are very, very skillful about building the competence of that first-time freshman, helping them understand that they do have the wherewithal to be successful, to be competitive, so we bring that to the table in this environment,” Trident Tech President Mary Thornley said. “I think it’s the best bridge program that I’m aware of across the country.”

Trident Tech will bill bridge students, who will pay Trident Tech tuition and fees, CofC residence hall fees, CofC meal plan fees and an administrative fee for being in the program, Trident Tech Vice President for Academic Affairs Cathy Almquist said.

She said the two institutions are still working on the fall class schedule for bridge students, but she expects about 15 full-time instructors and a handful of adjunct faculty from Trident Tech to teach the bridge students.

“Scheduling is always tricky, even when you’re doing it on your home campus,” Almquist said. “We’ve already discovered that there’s lots and lots of intricacies to try and schedule your classes in someone else’s classroom.”

Trident Tech will follow the CofC academic calendar for the bridge program. The deadline to apply for fall admission to CofC is Feb. 1.

“This represents what education should be about: about collaboration, about creating opportunity, pathways,” McConnell said. “We’re about accessibility and opportunity, and for two public institutions to collaborate to help create that, I think is just so important. I hope it’s a signal to others of what great things can happen when we don’t compete; instead, we work together to help create these pathways.”

Reach Ashley Heffernan at 843-849-3144.

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