Chartered in 1801 as South Carolina College, the University of South Carolina was the first state university to be supported continuously by annual state appropriations. The school actually opened on January 10, 1805, with one building, two faculty members, and nine students. All students followed an identical course of classical study designed not to train them for careers in common trades, but to elevate their minds; the only degree offered was the Bachelor of Arts.
The College rapidly achieved a reputation for academic excellence and was known as one of the best endowed and most distinguished colleges in the United States. Its faculty included Francis Lieber, editor of the Encyclopedia Americana and author of Civil Liberty and Self-Government. By the 1830s, distinguished alumni comprised a large proportion of the state’s General Assembly.
The pre-Civil War campus included Longstreet Theatre and all the buildings in the area known today as the Horseshoe (with the exception of McKissick Museum). The Civil War years, however, brought hardship to the institution. The school was forced to closed in June of 1862, when nearly all of the students left to join the Confederate armed services.
The institution reopened in 1866 as the University of South Carolina and added law and medical schools. Two years later, a new state constitution, mandated by the U.S. Congress to include suffrage for African-Americans, was ratified and called for integration of all state-supported schools. However, none enrolled for classes at the University of South Carolina until 1873. Carolina then became the only state-supported Southern university to integrate during the Radical Reconstruction era that followed the Civil War. When the Democrats came to power again in 1877, the University was closed, reorganized, and reopened in 1880 as an all-white institution.
The remainder of the 19th century proved tumultuous for the institution, as it went through several reorganizations and name changes reflecting the political turmoil in the state and the struggle by legislators, administrators, and faculty to define the school’s mission. The University also struggled in the 1890s to adjust to the arrival on campus of women and intercollegiate athletics. Finally in 1906, at the beginning of its second century, it was re-chartered for the third and last time as the University of South Carolina, with an operating graduate school.
In sharp contrast to the South Carolina College’s antebellum elitist philosophy, the new University of South Carolina was dedicated to providing both liberal and professional education to the people of South Carolina. Efforts to achieve this objective were hampered by the early arrival of the Great Depression in South Carolina. Enrollment declined, some courses were eliminated, and buildings went without repairs. The situation improved greatly in the late 1930s because of grants from federal New Deal agencies. Then America entered World War II and the campus virtually was transformed into a naval training base. Payments from the Navy helped the school continue to function during the war years.
Since the 1950s, the University has developed into a multi-campus system with highly diverse and innovative educational programs. In 1963, the University integrated for the second, and final, time. During the 1970s, the institution experienced explosive growth as the “baby boomer” generation entered college. To meet the needs of these students and South Carolina's changing economy, the University put new emphasis on research and introduced innovative degree programs as well as a number of new schools and colleges. Carolina had become a true research university. In the 1980s and 1990s, the University of South Carolina continued to develop its resources to better serve the Palmetto State. A concerted drive to achieve national recognition brought Carolina into the 21st century. In 2001, the University of South Carolina celebrated a legacy of 200 years of educating leaders for the future of South Carolina, the nation, and the world.