USC freshman class poised to be largest, most diverse, most local in history

·3 min read
Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.com

The University of South Carolina’s incoming freshman class is set to be record-breaking in more ways than one.

President Michael Amiridis confirmed that it will be the largest class in university history.

USC received its most applications ever during the admissions cycle — more than 42,000. While the official number of students won’t be made public until classes begin, upwards of 6,200 will join the university’s class of 2026, said Scott Verzyl, vice president of enrollment and dean of admissions.

Including transfers, nearly 8,000 new students will be on campus this fall, Amiridis said this week, speaking to a group of local business leaders.

“It’s good to be popular. It speaks to the South Carolina brand,” Verzyl said.

The class is also more local than past cohorts. It will have the most state residents, with students from every county in South Carolina.

“(It’s) something we’re very excited about, that we’re serving more South Carolinians than ever in the history of the university,” Verzyl said.

The state’s flagship school was criticized in the past for admitting a high proportion of out-of-state students, who pay more in tuition, to make up for a lack of funding, while the number of Black students declined.

Verzyl said the new class is the most diverse the university has welcomed. He is confident USC will have more students of color on campus than ever before, including more Black students, Hispanic students and multiracial students.

Why the increase?

Verzyl speculated that having more in-person admissions opportunities was a factor in bringing more students in.

Pandemic circumstances forced the university to shift recruitment tactics over the last two years. Everything had to be done online, and recruiters couldn’t visit high schools, Verzyl said. As COVID-19 cases subsided, the university was able to host more students on campus for tours and events, along with utilizing virtual methods.

“There’s only so much you can sense from an online experience,” Verzyl said. “You learn so much more about a place by being on campus, soaking in the atmosphere and talking to students informally and just getting a feel.”

The women’s basketball team’s recent NCAA title may have helped too.

April’s championship win came at an ideal time, Verzyl said. It raised the university’s profile just as students were making their college decisions.

Many of these first-year students will pursue majors related to “helping professions,” Verzyl said. The College of Education, the College of Nursing and the College of Social Work saw significant interest.

Verzyl said the university doesn’t anticipate a change in the student-faculty ratio. Capacity for classes has increased to accommodate students by adding sections where there is a higher demand.

“We want to make sure students get the right classes they need to stay on track to graduate,” he said.

So far, every first-year student has been granted housing if they requested it, the university said. To accomplish this, some of the university’s larger single-occupancy spaces were converted into doubles. “Temporary swing space” will be used for the first weeks of the semester to “provide time for final headcount to settle,” said Stacey Bradley, vice president for student affairs and academic support and interim vice president for development.

When it comes to enrollment growth, this is not out of the ordinary, Bradley said.

However, there are some upperclassmen and exchange students in temporary housing, Verzyl said.

“Right now, we feel like we’re in pretty good shape,” Verzyl said.