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William Paige
Sgt. First Class William Paige is a full-time USC student

USC named military friendly school

By Megan Sexton, msexton@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-1421

Sgt. First Class William Paige walks among the other students on the University of South Carolina campus, knowing he is right where he belongs.

After nine years as a full-time soldier, the 26-year-old Paige is now a full-time student. After one deployment to Iraq and two missions to Afghanistan, Paige is now navigating the brick walkways of the Carolina campus and finding his way to classroom buildings and the library. After three years as a drill instructor at Fort Jackson, he is now hunkering down with behavioral statistics and Spanish textbooks.

And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I joined the Army right after high school because I thought it would help me mature. It did. I had the opportunity to grow up and learn some things. Now I have the opportunity to bring that experience here to USC,” said Paige, a native of Detroit. “I don’t think I’d have that perspective if I didn’t do that.”

Unlike the past few years when he balanced his work as a Fort Jackson drill sergeant with his college courses, Paige no longer has the responsibilities of his Army job as he works toward his bachelor’s degree in psychology. He is taking advantage of the military’s “Green to Gold” program, which allows him to continue earning his regular pay as a soldier while he takes a full load of classes on his way to earning his college degree.

“It’s great how USC works to help the soldiers. I’ve taken classes on the Fort Jackson campus at night and at lunch time. If you’re a soldier and you can only come to class at night, that’s when they will have the class,” he said. “USC does everything it can to meet every need.”

That support has earned USC a place on the 2013 Military Friendly Schools list,which was released Monday (Sept. 17). The award honors the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools – 1,739 institutions -- that excel in the recruitment and retention of students with military experience. The list, compiled by Victory Media Inc., will be highlighted in the annual “G.I. Jobs Guide to Military Friendly Schools,” distributed in October. USC Sumter and USC Beaufort also are included on the list.

Scott Verzyl, USC’s associate vice president for enrollment management and executive director of admissions, said the university is proud and honored to be recognized as a military friendly school.

“The university is committed to serving our veterans on their way toward a college degree, and has a long history of support through programs as varied as ROTC, our Fort Jackson campus and the new Back to Carolina initiative offered through Palmetto Programs and Extended University,” Verzyl said. “An important part of our mission is to educate all the citizens of the Palmetto State, many of whom have military ties and experience. This military friendly designation symbolizes our commitment to bettering the lives of our veterans and a better South Carolina for all.”

Active duty military, their family members and veterans often connect with USC at Carolina’s Fort Jackson campus. There, at the Army’s largest basic combat training center, classes and academic counseling are offered for students who want to pursue a college degree.

“We’re a ‘mini-campus’ that fills a need for our military students who are looking to expand, increase or start their educational career,” said Connie Vise, director of USC’s Fort Jackson Program. “We act as a liaison between the fort and the Columbia campus. This office shows that we want to provide our services to the military.”

The university is a member of Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC), meaning it pre-approves classes for transfer. That’s important for military members, who often are required to move to different cities in the middle of their college education. This program allows them to easily transfer credits to other colleges that are members of the consortium. USC also offers civilian college credit for approved military training courses, and offers in-state tuition and other discounts for active-duty military, reservists and National Guard members.

Carolina also has recently started a new student veterans organization on campus.

For students like Paige, the opportunity to combine military training and life as a college student is something he is thankful for each time he steps on campus.

“Appreciate what you’ve got. Some people don’t have running water or a nice place to sit without worrying about bombs going off,” he said. “Students need to appreciate the small things.”

He expects to graduate from Carolina in May 2014, and will pursue his commission as a second lieutenant. He then plans to return to the Army full time, planning to spend at least 10 years as an officer.

“Every time I walk around this campus I find some history. I’m glad I can get my education here and be part of USC’s history,” he said. “And maybe I’ll even make some history myself while I’m here.”

News and Internal Communications

Posted: 09/17/12 @ 10:00 AM | Updated: 09/21/12 @ 8:34 AM | Permalink

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