Most of us received this message in high school: work really, really hard, and it’ll pay off — literally. In the world of college applications, being accepted is only half the deal; students must find ways to finance their studies. Colleges attract above-average high school students with hefty scholarships, promising to lessen the financial burden if those students keep up their academic achievement. USC offers scholarships that pay half or full tuition as long as recipients maintain a 3.0 grade point average or above.
But what about students who don’t get a scholarship from the get-go?
Because of the way financial aid works at most institutions, many middle class students are stuck in an awkward position. Students without scholarships have two main options: Opt for public school or take a risk with a dream college. In light of public university budget cuts, many students who stick with option two take out massive loans, in hopes that their educations will pay off.
One only has to look at our faltering economy to see that loans are not always safe. Yet, it can be hard to tell a student to give up on that dream school.
It is for this reason that USC should offer more merit-based financial assistance to continuing college students. USC didn’t make Princeton Review’s Top-10 Dream College list by accident. The school has a unique ability to foster top academic and professional programs, abundant school spirit and a tight-knit alumni network.
Yet USC students face one of the steepest tuitions in the country. The university offers some merit-based awards to current students, but these tend to be very small and hard to get; moreover, they are often available only to students in certain ethnic or religious groups.
USC took a step in the right direction with the Academic Achievement Award. The award allows dual- program students with a GPA of 3.75 or higher to take up to 20 units for the price of 18. In other words, it can save a student up to $3,897 per semester. Along with helping students pursue multiple disciplines, the award will allow some students to graduate in three years and, thus, avoid paying another $50,000.
This award’s strength lies in its simplicity. On one hand, the requirements are straightforward: Students will not have to write lengthy, heartfelt essays for a few thousand dollars. On the other hand, it rewards the right people: continuing students who, scholarship or no scholarship, have proven themselves to be extremely hard workers.
The university should recognize that not everyone shows their full academic potential in their earlier teenage years. Anything from difficult home life, an unstimulating high school environment, to immigration status can prevent students from truly showing what they’re capable of until college. Like how scholarship students must remain focused to keep their status, other students should be encouraged to excel academically with the possibility of merit-based financial assistance. That assistance doesn’t have to pay for anyone’s entire tuition — the hefty scholarships are and should be reserved for recruitment. But small measures can motivate students with potential. Moreover, it can encourage students who do not receive scholarships to take a chance with USC.
Working hard and getting rewarded should not be reserved for high school. If there’s one thing USC stresses, it’s opportunity — the idea that possibilities are always available for those who seek them out. In the name of that ideal, let us not push potential Trojans to UCLA.
Maya Itah is a freshman majoring in communication and international relations.