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The College of Graduate & Online Studies: Providing an Authentic Experience from Enrollment to Commencement

The demand for online educational opportunities is on the rise.

Research indicates that over 30,000 residents in South Carolina are enrolled in online programs at out-of-state colleges. Lander’s newly formed College of Graduate and Online Studies aims to provide those residents who are looking to further their education with convenient, high-caliber online graduate and undergraduate programs at an affordable, in-state price.

“We want those people to know they have an in-state option that gives them the quality, flexibility and majors they want,” said Dr. Lloyd Willis, dean of the College of Graduate and Online Studies.

While Lander already has an established track record of providing that level of education face-to-face, housing and classroom capacities have put a limit on the growth of traditional enrollment—which has seen all-time highs in recent years. Now, with many graduate and undergraduate programs being offered online, “there’s no limit to who can be a Bearcat,” Willis said.

The recruitment efforts of Lander’s newest academic college have passed key milestones since its establishment, with new programs being added to meet the career interests of prospective students and the demands of the workforce.

In the fall of 2022, Lander enrolled over 250 online undergraduate students and more than 600 graduate students—both numbers a sharp increase from the year prior. Graduate enrollment, in particular, has skyrocketed over 600% since just 2019. While some of those students are in-person, depending on their program, the majority are online.

And with the College’s focus on nurturing growth in these programs, Willis expects this number to continue climbing as more people learn of the opportunities to advance their education with a degree from Lander University ... in South Carolina and far beyond.

“We have students enrolling from 23 states, and from as far away as California, Washington, Texas, Illinois and Delaware,” Willis said.

Part of what attracts these students to Lander are the relationships being built with community partners that allow some students to earn their degrees at a discounted rate. For example, the College of Graduate and Online Studies has established a series of agreements with local school districts that pave the way for teachers to enroll in one of Lander’s M.Ed. programs at little or no cost to them. The districts use professional development funding to purchase a certain number of seats in Lander’s programs, and then fill those seats with teachers interested in sharpening their classroom teaching skills with a master’s degree. School districts say this is a useful tool in improving teacher retention.

The College is also forging corporate partnerships so companies can offer their employees a discounted rate on tuition. Meanwhile, a discounted tuition rate has been established for all employees of public and nonprofit agencies across the state.

And, the College now offers graduate assistantships, which provide a 50% tuition discount and a stipend of $3,000 per semester in exchange for working 20 hours a week on campus. These master’s students serve in a number of different offices and departments, enhancing the Lander experience for every student. “Our graduate assistantships are a great deal,” Willis said, “and are a benefit, not only to our grad students, but to our entire University.”

Those who are finishing their bachelor’s degree view graduate education as an obvious pathway to adding specific master’s-level credentials that will accelerate their career growth. Lander now offers a wide-range of graduate degrees aimed at giving students the specific education their future employers will be on the lookout for.

But Lander’s programs aren’t just for recent college graduates, Willis stressed. They’re for anyone who is looking to fine tune their craft and demonstrate readiness for leadership roles.

“Over half of our graduate students are mid-career professionals,” Willis said. “They are coming back to school because they want to advance their careers and increase their earning capacity.”

Online and graduate studies aren’t unique to Lander University, but Willis says Lander’s student-centered, service-oriented approach is unique. The authenticity that applicants and students feel at every step of the process—from enrollment to commencement—is what sets Lander’s College of Online and Graduate Studies apart from other institutions.

“If a student requests information from another institution, they may get a recorded phone call that asks them to press a button to talk to someone,” Willis said. “If someone requests information about a Lander University graduate program, they get a personal phone call, an email message or a text message from our graduate admissions counselor. It is obvious that they are talking to a real person, and the experience is like this from the time they inquire until the time they graduate.”


This story is featured in the Spring 2023 edition of Lander Magazine. Read more at