Usually singing the alma mater doesn't provoke tears. And, if it does, you don't tell anyone.

Yet I received a text from a 48-year-old, successful businessman during the University of South Carolina's first football home game last season letting me know he cried through the playing of the USC alma mater. His emotion made me shed a tear, too.

This gentleman was president of a Rotary club I spoke to regarding the launch of USC's Palmetto College in 2013 - a program designed to provide a USC-quality degree online. Once the program was over and all of the Rotarians left, he stopped me and said my comments spoke directly to him.

Thirty years ago, he earned his associate's degree from Midlands Technical College and began a successful sales career. As a big-time Gamecock, he always cringed when colleagues asked him what year he graduated from USC. He told me with Palmetto College it was now possible for him to get that degree.

I spoke to his Rotary club on May 10 and on August 26 he was among the first 503 students to take classes through Palmetto College and joined the official ranks of Gamecock Nation.

His story is not unlike the stories of the other students representing 41 of our state's 46 counties that became part of our initial launch.

Among our students is a wife, mother and grandmother who works on USC's Columbia campus. She started college in the 1980s, but life got in the way. She now works full-time during the day, takes classes through Palmetto College online at night and is on her way to finishing her degree.

Another 19-year old student has a goal of saving for his own home. He attended USC's two-year campus in his hometown and is now completing his bachelor's degree through Palmetto College. It is enabling him to remain at home and save money to help realize his dream.

These are just three of the personal stories that represent what USC's Palmetto College offers to so many South Carolinians.

The value of a college degree is undeniable. According to a recent study by researchers with the Moore School of Business, South Carolina residents with bachelor's degrees earn an average of $15,000 more per year than high school graduates. Earning a USC degree through Palmetto College will make them more competitive. Our program currently offers seven degree programs in business administration, human services, elementary education, organizational leadership, liberal studies, criminal justice and an RN-BSN nursing program.

Palmetto College students choose their own pace and access the same resources as students on any of the USC campuses, including advising, financial aid, library access and other services.

We are hearing from people around the state interested in learning more about Palmetto College, and we're currently hosting information sessions so that all South Carolinians, like you here in the Lowcountry, can learn more about the opportunity to complete your degree through USC's Palmetto College. And, you can contact us any time by visiting our website at http://palmettocollege.sc.edu, or you can speak to an advisor by calling toll-free 888-801-1053.

I look forward to hearing from more people who cry when they hear the USC alma mater, and I know they will be tears of joy.

Susan Elkins is chancellor of Palmetto College, University of South Carolina.