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Talks of financial aid, credit hours and cheap text books dominate many conversations at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster campus.
It's not hard to tell that a new school year is under way.
The fall semester at USCL began Aug. 21. About a week into the term, students say they are getting used to being back in class once again.
Sophomore Jeremy Wirth wants to earn at least a 3.75 grade point average this fall. His goal is to regain the LIFE Scholarship following his 2.6 GPA last year.
Student must hold at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA to keep the scholarship.
Wirth said he will make sure he shows up for more classes and sets aside more time for studying.
"Too much time in the student center," Wirth said while watching his friends play table tennis in Starr Hall. "If I'm going to be in the student center, I'm going to study."
Thus far, Wirth, a nursing major, said he's had a lot of homework and reading assignments. He said it's been a little stressful, but that's expected of a college course load.
"It's not going to be an easy semester," he said. "If I study, I'll probably get through it."
Freshman Leah Beckham said she's trying to get used to being in college.
Beckham, who graduated from North Central High School in Kershaw County, knows the demands at USCL will be much greater than those at high school last year.
She believes strong self-discipline will be key.
"I just have to make sure I don't keep that high school mentality," Beckham said.
Beckham started the semester with 18 hours, but went down to 15 to have a more manageable schedule. She'll take that speech class another semester.
"I dropped that class quick," she said.
New this year at USCL
Dean Dr. John Catalano said there'll be close to 1,700 students enrolled at USCL this semester. That's about a 10 percent increase from last year.
Even though USCL is receiving about $780,000 less from the state this year, the campus continues to admit nearly all of the students who apply, Catalano said.
To make up for some of the loss in state funding, USCL in-state student tuition has been increased to $2,632 a semester.
That change will give the campus about $331,000 in new money, Catalano said.
Other changes this year include 15 new faculty members. The campus now has an all-time high of 61 full-time and 38 adjunct faculty.
Another parking lot will open this semester across from Hubbard Hall that will add an extra 180 parking spaces. The campus has added multiple parking lots over the last year or so to accommodate growth.
Lancaster Commons, a privately owned housing complex, opened earlier this month near the campus. It has 25 units and 50 beds.
Only students will be allowed to live there.
Catalano said having students staying nearby is helping give USCL a major-campus feel that officials aim for in the future.
"It feels different," Catalano said. "Like a real campus."
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at email@example.com or at (803) 283-1152