by Cathy Sams, chief public affairs officer
In 2001, the University adopted a vision to become one of the nation’s top-20 public universities. That vision, along with a comprehensive set of goals and a focused academic plan, is driving Clemson to improve quality on every front — academics, research, public service and student life.
Although generally embraced by the Clemson family, the vision also has raised important questions. Is this just another bragging right? If Clemson’s quest succeeds, who benefits?
You do. If you are a student, alumnus or taxpayer; if you live and work in South Carolina, Clemson’s progress will have a direct impact on you.
Research shows that people who live in states with top-tier universities earn more money, are better educated and have a higher quality of life than people who don’t. Top-20 universities have outstanding teachers and students, prolific researchers and more resources. Students at top-tier universities are more likely to graduate on time, be admitted to the most highly regarded graduate schools and earn higher starting salaries.
Not enough? Then consider this: States with top-tier universities outperform South Carolina on virtually every economic performance indicator — employment growth, wage average, wage growth, gross state product, venture capital investment, new business establishment, business growth, patents and initial public offerings — according to a report by the Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness.
Coincidence? Not according to Harvard professor and institute director Michael Porter. His groundbreaking work on “economic clusters” identifies strong research universities as a critical component in the development of geographic concentrations of similar industries, service providers and associated agencies — geographic concentrations that can transform a state’s economy. Think “Silicon Valley.”
Does anyone except Clemson care about having a top-20 university? Apparently so. In an opinion poll conducted by Clemson sociologist James Witte, nationally known for survey expertise, nine out of 10 South Carolinians said it was important for South Carolina to have a top-tier university. They think it will improve the economy, keep the brightest students in state and enhance the state’s reputation. Further, the majority thought Clemson was the institution most likely to achieve that status.
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