The phrases “Beat UCLA” and the more fiery “FUCLA” are commonplace Trojan-pride slogans that pit USC against the school across town. But beneath the rivalrous repartee between the two universities are serious issues in California’s higher education system brought to light by the current crisis in the UC system that even USC students not directly impacted by the crisis can’t afford to ignore.
UCLA and the rest of the University of California campuses are in the midst of a long-term financial downturn, brought on by extreme budget cuts followed by increasingly higher tuition. The last two years have seen an outpouring of student protest that has frustratingly produced only more cuts and higher tuition, placing more financial burden on those who deserve it the least: the students.
For the first time ever, the UC system is getting more money from its students via tuition than from state funding. This puts California higher education in a crisis of such immense proportion that it might not be a crisis but instead the new normal.
These changes put in motion a historic educational shift that affects all members of the California education system, public and private, short and long term.
Yet there’s a divide, a disconnect, even a rivalry in USC’s case, between California’s public and private universities. Though bridging the gap will not magically solve the UCs’ problems, it could provide a source of support as well as potential for a re-invented, re-invigorated state education system.
There are many possibilities for an alternative future; increasing access to four-year schools (the UCs, California community colleges and private schools alike) and attracting more international students or lowering costs for native Californians while bringing more bright minds to the Golden State.
California’s private institutions should step in to bridge the gap between private and public by rejecting unproductive comparisons and capitalizing on and increasing academic interaction.
USC’s rivalry with UCLA is fun when it comes to football, but it is so trumpeted and over-emphasized that it drowns out the possibility for valuable academic overlap between the two schools. The most informative and engaging class I’m enrolled in this semester is actually taught by a UCLA adjunct professor.
Increasing access is also key. USC should find ways to offer students what they can’t get in the public university setting at the moment. Offering more financial aid and creating a summer-school program that allows state students to take classes at USC at a reduced cost so they don’t fall behind in their studies would be a start.
Some might say it’s not USC’s burden to take on. But in such a key transitional moment for the entire California higher education system, it’s undeniably beneficial for all parties involved for USC to step in and be the school innovative enough to imagine an alternative future, and for USC students to be aware of the role they play in the future of higher education in California.
As a private university, we maintain the private autonomy necessary to promote public partnership and nurture inter-university connections.
Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in Spanish. Her column “Beyond the Classroom” runs Mondays.