COASTAL CAROLINA UNIVERSITY (visited 4/5/14)
Coastal is a beautiful campus located 20 minutes from Myrtle Beach. Someone said that he had always perceived it as “an extension of a community college.” I think this might have been more accurate in the past; I don’t think this holds up anymore. There has been extensive growth and it’s become more selective in recent years. Started as a branch campus of USC in 1954 with only 150 students, it’s now the fastest growing comprehensive public university in SC with 9,500 students. It’s been listed as a 100 Best College Buys school, placed on Forbes America’s Top Colleges 3 years in a row, ranked in top 15% of 4-year schools, and was named as a College of Distinction (based on engaged students, performance after they leave, faculty commitment, and more) in both 2012 and 2013.
- The 70+ Academic Programs. The most unique are: Marine Science, Musical Theater (BFA), Exercise and Sport Science, Intelligence and National Security (faculty are former CIA and FBI), Professional Golf Management or Resort Management (within the Business Program), and Nationally Accredited Teaching Degrees.
- The Small Classes. Freshmen level classes average 30-35, and there’s no room on campus that can seat more than 125. Of the students I spoke to, the smallest classes were: 4 (Education) and 7 (Business law); the largest were 93 (Intro to Bio) and 60 (Marine Science). “Even in my biggest class, the professor got to know us. She took roll every morning and had extra office hours so we could talk to her.”
- The Location. Great weather, great internships (especially for Resort or Golf management and Marine Science), and great access to Myrtle Beach. Students love the stuff to do around town, including the research and networking opportunities and the internships. Coast owns Waites Island (a 1000 acre barrier island with no public access) and Coastal Explorer (a research vessel).
- On-Campus opportunities. In addition to all sorts of usual things that many campuses have, they have a recording studio accessible to anyone. Big-name acts come, including yearly performances by the Carolina ballet. They host weekly a Farmer’s Market which outgrew the small area in front of the admissions center, and has moved to a larger quad.
- The Tuition. In-State is $17,810, Out-Of-State is $30,820. The in-state tour guide that I spoke to said, “I’m pretty happy with my tuition.” I think that’s a first! Students are automatically considered for scholarships (In-state ranges from $1,000-$6,000; out-of-state ranges from $6,000-$11,000.)
- One was a Marine Science major from Ohio. He picked Coastal because of the major and proximity to the ocean. He’s getting a hands-on education and is doing an internship at the aquarium. He’s looking to get a job there and wants to do marine Veterinary work. He also scubas with sharks!
Another was an Elementary Education major. She loves that this is one of the top 3 programs in her field. She’s a junior and is already completing her 2nd placement. She transferred in from another school because this was closer to home, her sister was here, and she liked the program.
- The third was a senior Business Major from DC. He learned about Coastal from a guidance counselor and like what he learned about it. He’s had a chance to get highly involved in campus life and even started a Latino fraternity.
- Another student was a Marketing major from NJ. He came here as a back-up option. “I was on the athletic track, but busted my knee senior year. I came with the idea that I would transfer, but I fell in love with it.” The only thing he didn’t rave about was the dining hall: “It’s ok; it’s pretty typical for a college.”
- The last student I spoke with was an Education major from SC. “Dorms are an 8. Dining hall is a 6; grab-and-go options are an 8.”
Food seemed to be the one thing that students didn’t love. When I asked them if there was a meal that everyone loved, two tour guides said, “Fried Chicken Friday!” in unison. Another tour guide later also referenced this. “That’s the only day that there’s a line for food!” Other than food, no one could really think of anything to do to improve. “Anything we want, they’re doing already – 3 new academic buildings, additions to the library, new dorms, etc.” One of the reps said, “The students would say parking. We don’t really have a parking problem. We have a walking problem.”