USC students should be first in line to receive a significant portion of the David and Dana Dornsifes’ unprecedented $200 million donation.
USC is one of the most prestigious schools in the nation to attend. Yet, with sky-high tuition, pricey room and board and a plethora of other fees, by the time USC students toss their graduation caps in the air, they can face massive financial problems.
To pay for their education, many students either get full or part-time jobs during the school year, or apply for scholarships and financial aid.
According to College Board, in the fall of 2010, about 1,900 freshmen at USC applied for need-based financial aid, but only 1,100 received it; leaving 800 searching for other options which include either scoring some big-time scholarships or raiding Grandma’s piggy-bank.
Every year, thousands of students apply for a limited number of scholarships.
Imagine what the Dornsifes’ $200 million donation could accomplish by creating several more scholarship opportunities for students who desperately need more monetary assistance than what the financial aid office can offer.
Unfortunately, USC has a habit of spending monstrous lump sums of money on big buildings and esoteric research projects, rather than scholarships for students.
Admittedly, this is largely because donors often demand their money be used for these purposes.
George Lucas gave the School of Cinematic Arts $175 million in 2006, specifically for a new building. In the fall, the Annenberg Foundation gave Annenberg $50 million, again explicitly for the purpose of constructing a new building.
But the Dornsifes’ donation to the College of Letters, Arts, & Sciences is unrestricted — the College can do whatever it wants with the money.
Top faculty, productive research and state-of-the-art facilities certainly help make USC the 23rd best college in the nation according to the U.S. World and News Report of 2011.
But the main reason USC is one of the best universities in the country is the caliber of its students.
Getting into USC is a tough task in itself. Sticking around is another challenge.
USC students have to earn high grades and high salaries in order to avoid succumbing to student loans and tremendous debt come graduation.
USC asks undergraduates to perform well in class but at the same time acquire jobs that take significant time away from studying.
Students deserve a piece of the Dornsife pie just as much as their professors, if not more so.
Of course, the university should use some of the Dornsife donation to fund faculty and boost research.
The most effective way to better the university, however, is to give students the gift of economic peace of mind by increasing the number and size of scholarships.
In essence, most donations to the university are made to advance the quality of student life and improve students’ educational experiences.
Students should spend time studying, leading active social lives and enjoying their college years instead of worrying about how to pay for it all.
The Dornsife donation, if used strategically, can help make that happen.
Conrad Wilton is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism.