South Carolina is known for many things — premier destination beaches such as Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island, home to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, Charleston’s historic district, Fort Sumter from the Civil War era, top-rated birdwatching at Huntington Beach State Park, and much more. Throughout this great state, another noteworthy claim to fame includes universities with a rich background of academic excellence, especially when it comes to the history of the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

The foundation of USC can be traced back to December 19, 1801, when South Carolina College was established during the American Revolution as a measure of unity to help promote “the good order and harmony” of the Palmetto State. As part of the southern public college movement initiated by Thomas Jefferson, the institution gained a significant reputation for notable faculty and scholars, a successful curriculum program, and a fast-growing campus via infrastructure and enrollment.

Although the college survived an earthquake in 1811 and a fire in 1855, the ramifications of the state’s withdrawal from the Union in 1860 and the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 took a significant toll on the college’s enrollment and infrastructure. After a number of ups and downs and openings and closings, it wasn’t until 1906 that the college was reorganized as the University of South Carolina, later becoming the first state-supported university to earn regional accreditation in 1917.

By 1960, enrollment stood at 5,660, and by 1979, nearly 26,000 students called the campus home. Fast forward to the present day, and impressive numbers reflect how USC has grown to become an outstanding educational beacon for students around the world:

  • More than 40,000 students are enrolled at the university
  • USC encompasses eight campuses across 19 locations
  • Students have the option to choose from 450 degree programs, and USC is a top producer for Fulbright students
  • USC has earned a top-tier designation for research and community engagement from the Carnegie Foundation

And here’s a fun fact about the university’s alma mater: It was written in 1911 by a USC English professor after a contest was announced that if someone could write a “soul-stirring” alma mater, the winner would receive a $50 prize. If you ever catch a Gamecocks football game, you can hear “We Hail Thee Carolina” proudly resounding loudly throughout the stadium.

USC also has a stand-out list of prominent names who called the university home, including athletes, celebrities, politicians, and more — Darius Rucker, Leeza Gibbons, Jadeveon Clowney, Lindsey Graham, Ainsley Earhardt, and Jasper Johns, just to name a few.

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