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Benedict College, ECPI to Fast-Track Cybersecurity Degrees

Three years after launching a cybersecurity degree program, South Carolina’s Benedict College has signed a deal to guarantee successful undergrads a spot in ECPI University’s online masters program for cybersecurity.

A digital padlock over a tech background.
(TNS) — Three years ago, Columbia's Benedict College began offering cybersecurity as a major. It started with just four students that first year.

But the program started growing quickly at the historically Black college and now boasts more than 30 students. On Monday, Benedict inked a partnership agreement that will likely spur even more growth in the cybersecurity curriculum at the school. 

Through a deal signed during a Monday ceremony at Benedict's Little Theater, students who complete a cybersecurity degree at Benedict will be guaranteed admission to ECPI University's online masters of science in cybersecurity program. ECPI President James Weaver said scholarships would be available for each Benedict student who takes part in that masters program.

Benedict President Roslyn Clark Artis said the school often seeks partnerships in the education community.

"When we think about partnerships, we mean mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationships," said Artis, who became the 14th president of Benedict in 2017. "So, as we begin to develop scholars in cybersecurity, those students have the opportunity to go on to a partner institution, ECPI, and earn a masters degree. It's critically important to the economy. ... Millions of jobs in our country depend on skilled, trained, qualified cybersecurity professionals."

Weaver said it was particularly important to partner with a historically Black college on the cybersecurity agreement.

"In every way, education can be a great equalizer," Weaver said. "By finding meaningful ways to increase access to education in all communities, our society stands a chance to break down the barriers of racial and income inequality through education."

ECPI is a private, for-profit college and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Leon Geter heads the Center for Cybersecurity on Benedict's campus. He lauded the new arrangement with ECPI.

"It means a real opportunity for students to get a higher level of education in a competitive job market," Geter told The State. "We are doing what we can do to prepare them on the undergraduate level. But we know getting a gradate degree makes them more competitive, as well. This is a direct pipeline from freshman year through graduate school. Our students can come in with a mindset that, to be successful, education never stops.

"We're just excited about opening new opportunities for our students, I think this is one of those opportunities."

A number of Benedict's cybersecurity students were in attendance for Monday's ceremony. One of them was Zyion Kirkland, a sophomore from Maryland. He said he chose to leave his home state and come to the Columbia HBCU because of the cybersecurity major, which also makes way for classes in robotics, coding and more.

The sophomore said there is comfort in knowing there is a pipeline to a cybersecurity graduate degree after he completes his undergraduate work at Benedict.

"It encourages me," Kirkland, 19, told The State. "It puts more fire in my spirit. I'll work harder and be even more prepared. This is just another opportunity to be more successful coming out of college. ... With this, I'm very confident."

About 2,100 students attend Benedict, a private HBCU that was founded in 1870. The school's campus is located just off Harden Street in downtown Columbia.

(c)2021 The State (Columbia, S.C.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.