Founded in 1870, Benedict College is a historically black institution with a long history. It was originally began as a teachers’ college. The American Baptist Home Mission Society founded the school with $13,000 donated from a Rhode Island woman. It was created so recently-emancipated African Americans could attend college. Rhode Island native Mrs. Bathsheba Benedict and the Baptist Home Mission’s goal was to educate African Americans and produce citizen “powers for good in society”
The school’s first “campus” was a former slave master’s mansion, and students learned grammar, Bible and theology. Later, the school’s mission evolved into training teachers and preachers, and courses were added to accomplish that task. In 1930 the Reverend John J. Starks, an alum, became the school’s first African American president. Every president since Starks has been African American.
The school describes itself as a private, co-educational liberal arts institution, and enrolls about 3,100 students yearly. Academics are divided into six schools: The School of Business and Economics, The School of Education, The School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, The School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, The School of Continuing Education and The School of Honors.
Students may pick from roughly 25 majors with courses in about 50 different programs, along with the continuing education program which offers students three undergraduate degree options. It is accredited by a number of organizations, including the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor’s degrees. Individual department accreditation includes: The School of Business and Economics for its business programs by The Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs, the Office of Teacher Education by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the social work program by the Council on Social Work Education, and The Recreation and Leisure Services Program by the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA). It is only the second historically black college in the nation to receive national accreditation for its Environmental Health Program (EHAC). It’s Child Development Center is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
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Admissions are non-competitive. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or a GED certificate, have at least a 2.0 GPA and have scored 750 on the SAT or 15 on the ACT. Or, an applicant may be ranked in the top 75 percent of its graduating class.
There are also a number of non-degree application requirements. People looking to take classes to improve their skills, transfer credits to another institution or for personal reasons can apply for school. They must prove they have the preparation and ability to do college-level coursework. High school students wishing to take classes must receive permission from the admissions office.
There is also a transfer program with a local community college. The Benedict College – Midlands Technical College Bridge Program is designed to ease the transfer process of students from Midlands Technical College. It provides program support and services during the transfer process.
There are more than seven different types of school-based scholarships, along with more than 10 other scholarship and fellowship programs besides the traditional financial aid awards. The Trustee Club level scholarship awards $17,000 annually, or $68,000 over eight semesters to students with GPAs between 3.8-4.0. The Trustee scholarship grants students $13,000 annually, or $52,000 over eight semesters, if they have a GPA between 3.5 and 3.79. There are also three different scholarship levels for South Carolina residents — the Palmetto Fellowship, the S.C. Life and the S.C. Hope scholarships.
The school also awards a number of other scholarships. Those include scholarships in athletics, concert choir, gospel choir, Army ROTC, wind ensemble, dance and marching band. The opportunities to obtain scholarships also extend through programs like the Mercedes Benz scholarship program and the Kellogg African American Public Health Fellowship.
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Benedict is a Division II school. It competes in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The school competes in the following sports: football, men and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, track and field, cross country, golf, handball, soccer, tennis,volleyball, cheerleading, and marching band. On-campus football games are held in the Charlie W. Johnson Stadium. The school’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, and men’s cross-country team, have won championships.
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Diversity magazine named Benedict one of the top 100 black colleges in the country. Its enrollment growth since the mid-1990s has made it the second largest private undergraduate school in South Carolina.
The honors debate team has won a championship, and the gospel choir is nationally-ranked. The debate team’s honors include first place at the National Association of African-Americans Honors Program Conference in 2005, 2007 and 2009. For Physics students, it is one of the top ten colleges in the country, according to the Education and Employment Statistic Division of the American Institute of Physics. The school’s Service Learning Program is a national model program and serves over 114 non-profit organizations around in South Carolina. It recently won the 6th Annual Commission on Higher Education’s Service Learning Competition.
For minority entrepreneurs, The Business Development Center provies educational opportunities and a revolving loan program geared to starting new businesses. The school offers an international study program for students, many of whom have studied in Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Italy, Ghana, China, South Africa, Spain, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Monaco and Italy, among other countries.
Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.