The University of South Carolina’s incoming freshman class is one of the largest and most diverse in the school’s recent history, the school announced this week.
The new crop of 6,250 freshmen — 8,700 total new students including transfers — is 7 percent larger than last year’s freshman class size, according to a press release from USC.
It’s also more local and more diverse, according to the release.
The number of in-state Gamecock students is 11 percent more than last year. The percent of underrepresented minorities in the freshman class has increased from 18.5 percent to 19.7 percent, spokesman Jeff Stensland said.
Boosting enrollment from underrepresented minorities and South Carolinians is likely to take some pressure of USC, which has faced scrutiny from top lawmakers who have criticized the school’s reliance on out-of-state students to balance its budget.
As a result of that out-of-state recruitment, USC has grown but the percentage of its students who are African American had been declining. It’s unclear if this new freshman class will reverse that trend, as full, official enrollment demographics for 2019-2020 haven’t yet been published.
The state’s flagship school increased its enrollment of in-state and minority students through outreach programs that bring young students to campus, recruiters that target in-state students and using a tool that factors in college applicants’ social and economic background when they apply, Stensland said.
“I’m thrilled and honored to greet this extraordinary class of first time students to campus and to Columbia,” USC President Robert Caslen said in a statement. “The diversity and academic talent represented in this new group of students will make us even stronger, and I look forward to seeing these students become an integral part of our community.”
The sheer size of the class raises questions of how Columbia will house all of these new people. The incoming class is so big that the school is temporarily housing 16 students at a hotel near campus, Stensland said.
Though USC is working on a massive, $240 million, 1,800-bed new dorm complex, that won’t likely be open until Fall 2022, according to a previous article from The State.
In the meantime, USC has been finding temporary solutions to provide beds to students. For example, it approved a three-year $11 million agreement with private apartment complex Park Place, located at Blossom and Huger, to place 424 students there, according to a previous article from The State.
In that same time, the private sector has stepped in to meet the increasing housing demand. Before the start of the 2018-2019 school year, Park7 Group opened Empire, a 688-bed luxury apartment complex on Assembly Street geared toward USC students. A 500-bed student apartment complex located within walking distance of Williams-Brice Stadium is currently being constructed on Shop Road, according to previous articles from The State.
“The University of South Carolina continues to attract a large number of students, and that demand creates pressure on housing capacity,” Stensland said. “That’s one reason we’re excited about the Campus Village development currently planned for south campus, which will replace older buildings with modern residential options for more students.”