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Coronavirus fears push SC college classes online for all semester, postpone commencements

USC Campus STOCK Photos02.jpg (copy)

Students walk along the University of South Carolina Horseshoe. File/Andrew Whitaker/Staff

The University of South Carolina, Clemson University and College of Charleston are among the state public colleges that will keep classes online through the end of the semester as the number of coronavirus cases continue to increase. 

The state's three largest colleges along with USC's seven other two- and four-year campuses, Coastal Carolina University, Lander University, S.C. State University, Winthrop University and Francis Marion University also postponed commencement ceremonies in May in announcements Thursday.

The Citadel will take classes online but has not made a decision about commencement.

"This is a serious situation, but we’re going to get through it by using common sense and by being kind, patient and thoughtful toward one another," Clemson President Jim Clements told students and staff. "We’ll emerge from this pandemic strong and ready to tackle the future.

Schools planned to start online-only classes on Monday. In most cases, online classes were supposed to end April 3 but now will last through the entire semester.

A group of S.C. college presidents met Thursday to discuss how to handle instruction in the wake of the pandemic. College leaders felt they had no other choice to stem the outbreak that has struck 81 South Carolinians.

USC, which educates 52,000 students across eight campuses, based its decision on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to ban mass gatherings until early May, a school spokesman said.

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"We realize that these actions will be deeply disappointing to our students, particularly those of you who are about to graduate and were looking forward to a final semester on campus," USC President Bob Caslen and interim Provost Tayloe Harding wrote to students. "This is difficult for you and for your loved ones. It is also difficult for us."

Some schools, including Winthrop and Coastal Carolina, based their decision on Gov. Henry McMaster's executive order to have non-essential state employees work from home starting Friday.

Students residing in dorms will have a chance to retrieve their belongings. Work continues on getting rebates for room and food costs lost with the end of in-person classes.

At least one large S.C. technical college, Midlands, is going to online classes for the semester. 

"You are not alone in this. No matter what, we are all in this together," College of Charleston President Andrew Hsu wrote to students. "In my own life, I have found that adversity can be an effective teacher if we let ourselves learn the lessons it offers."

Jenna Schiferl contributed to this report.

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