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Wade Spees

CLEMSON -- Clemson University's largest-ever freshman class is being welcomed with campus and community festivities while the university adds lecturers, class sections and housing for an unexpected overflow.

Clemson received a record 16,281 undergraduate student applications and planned to admit a class of about 2,850 to 2,900 freshmen, about the same size as in recent years. Instead, in a year when the economy has shaken up admissions formulas across the nation, Clemson expects to enroll about 3,375 freshmen for the fall semester that starts Wednesday, said Robert Barkley, admissions director.

At the University of South Carolina, where classes start Thursday, officials expect a slightly larger freshman class than last year's record 3,850, university spokeswoman Margaret Lamb said.

These are anticipated numbers because registration still is going on at both schools. Enrollment numbers typically aren't finalized for several weeks after the start of classes.

USC "had a record number of applicants this year across the system, but more students are waiting later to make their decision about college because of the economy," Lamb said.

"Rising jobless numbers, tighter credit, a visible increase in the number of students applying for financial aid, and an increase in the number of students requesting to live off campus are a few of the indicators that told us that college affordability was becoming difficult," Lamb said.

Clemson's paid confirmation deposits -- usually a good class size indicator, were "significantly lower" this spring than in past years, Barkley said. As a result, more students were accepted in order to maintain stable enrollment.

Deposits turned out to be slower, not lower, hence the record freshman class.

Clemson President Jim Barker said lecturers and class sections have been added to accommodate the larger class and offer the courses students need to stay on track for graduation.

"The bottom line is that we were able to offer admission to and enroll more South Carolina students than ever," he said.

There will be about 150 to 200 more South Carolinians in the class, Barkley said. South Carolinians will make up about two-thirds of the class -- the normal ratio at Clemson.

Barker also said that Clemson will be able to accommodate all entering freshmen in campus housing, although some will be in temporary space until a permanent room becomes available.

With about 300 freshmen in overflow housing, compared with the usual 50 or 60, some could be in temporary space all semester or even all year, said Doug Hallenbeck, executive director of housing.

Some freshmen in overflow housing will room with upper class resident assistants, who don't normally have roommates. Other freshmen will be housed in converted lounges and study rooms.