As enrollment continues to grow at the university, students who are graduating take up even more of the seats at Colonial Life Arena. This makes it difficult to accommodate their families, the university says. (Photo by Caroline Barry)

The excitement is palpable among many graduating students and their parents as the University of South Carolina’s graduation approaches.

But the excitement for some is tinged with sadness because of the limited number of tickets available.

“How do you tell grandparents they can’t come because there are only five seats per family,” parent Kristin Dunlop said to the Carolina News & Reporter.

Graduation is a “lifetime milestone,” Dunlop said, and the idea that students should have to pick and choose among their family members because of ticketing limits is unfair.

“It’s frustrating,” she said.

A limited number of seats at the Colonial Life Arena and wanting to be as fair as possible are at the core of the school’s ticket distribution philosophy. Enrollment continues to grow each year as well.

“There are over 2,000 graduates for each ceremony and only around 10,000+ seats for graduate guests,” the Gamecock Ticket Office said in an email. “The 5 ticket limit is the most equitable way to allow each graduate’s families to attend. This policy has been used for many years now.”

Parents of graduating seniors are concerned the plan doesn’t account for different types of families.

Stepparents are the main victims of the ticketing limit.

Other students simply come from large families and are forced to have awkward conversations with family members about why they can’t come to the ceremony.

“We have grandparents who wanted to come from out of state, but didn’t want to spend airfare and hotel money (not) knowing if they’d get a ticket,” parent Kelly Kampwerth told the Carolina News & Reporter.

Kampwerth’s daughter is graduating. Her daughter’s grandparents want to be there, as she is their first grandchild to graduate from college. 

That led to “hard decisions,” and like Dunlop, Kampwerth had to pick and choose among family members.

Many expressed their family members’ desire to be there in person. 

The alternative options are not as appealing to most parents.

The first option is to wait. 

Students can claim extra tickets at 10 a.m. April 17 – that is, if there are any more available at that point. 

“After the April 10th claim deadline, we will see how many of those 10,000+ tickets are still available and allow eligible graduates to claim an additional 2-3 tickets starting on April 17th,” the ticket office said. 

Graduation ceremonies at Colonial Life also are livestreamed on the university’s Facebook account.