The undertone of almost every groundbreaking, dedication and recognition at USC suggests that it is becoming the Ivy League of the West.
USC has long worked to become one of the most esteemed universities on the West Coast. Students from all over the world come to USC seeking a world-class education at an institution rich in history and diversity — the cornerstones of any Ivy League education.
These students are also all too familiar with the faults of Ivy League universities: pretentiousness, legacy preference and cultural voids.
Therefore, USC steering toward becoming the Ivy League of the West is the wrong move. USC should strive to create a new class of elite universities that value the importance of research, cultural diversity, community outreach and innovation.
Many Ivy League universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, located in one of the poorest sections of Philadelphia, have been criticized for taking over the surrounding community.
USC, though, maintains close relations with the surrounding area and recognizes the legacies embedded in the Trojan Family — but — does not equate them with entitlement, instead integrating the cultural diversity of its students and community into the framework of the university.
By focusing on the community, USC has also been able to propel itself forward as a leading research institution. Through initiatives such as the Rossier School of Education’s Hybrid High School and the advancement of the Keck Hospital of USC, the university has influenced research spheres and made a lasting impact on Los Angeles.
Another integral component of becoming its own kind of world-class university is the ability to effectively raise money and have a continuously growing endowment.
As far as fundraising goes, USC already has its sights set higher than the Ivy Leagues. Last year, President C. L. Max Nikias launched the most ambitious fundraising goal in the history of higher education — attempting to raise $6 billion in seven years. This would nearly double USC’s current endowment of $3.7 billion. A larger endowment will provide USC with the financial mobility to become a leader in higher education, rather than a follower. It will also allow the university to better weather financial turmoil and fundraising droughts.
Nikias announced the university’s fundraising goals after raising more than $1 billion in his first year as president, despite stagnant national fundraising numbers from peer institutions reported by the Council for Aid to Education. And universities do not launch record-setting fundraising campaigns without first ensuring that they can meet or exceed their initial goals. The Campaign for the University of Southern California not only reflects USC’s commitment to the endowment of the university, but also to the integrity and strength of the Trojan Family.
USC should use the foundations of Ivy League universities, such as highly esteemed faculty, research opportunities and financial resources, to establish its own class of universities that caters to the demands of the 21st century.
Though USC’s rise in the US News & World Report’s college rankings might be stagnant over the next few years, an emphasis on innovation and preparedness for the future should allow USC to forge a new definition of higher education.
David Lowenstein is a junior majoring in international relations global business.