USG addresses college affordability

The Undergraduate Student Goverment Senate convened for its first session of this semester Tuesday night. The session’s focal point was a presentation by USG President Rini Sampath, in which she discussed, among other topics, the issue of the cost of college.

“College affordability is an issue for all students, but especially for low-income students and students who come from middle-class families,” Sampath said.

Sampath said students have reached out to her regarding difficulty with tuition increases and the financial aid office.

“Many students are coming to USC expecting their college tuition [to be]covered by these different aid programs,” she said. “But from the emails that I’ve been getting from students, they are having issues with the financial aid office, and they are having issues with the costs going up. Tuition went up $2,000 this year, and we don’t know where that money is going.”

After the session adjourned, Sampath said that it “breaks  [her] heart” to know of students transferring out of USC, taking leaves of absence or stopping their education altogether because of rising tuition costs or insufficient aid packages.

Alec White, USG residential senator, stated that he personally knows of two friends who had to leave USC because of tuition difficulties. He added that other universities are tackling these issues.

“Other schools have policies that work well,” White said. “For example, Stanford had one policy that said that if your parents make $125,000 a year or less, you get free tuition. Some schools, like Penn State, have had tuition freezes.”

Sampath also commented on other universities’ tuition policies. She mentioned George Washington University, a private college that charges students the same tuition all four years.

“For example, let’s say that [coming] into USC with a tuition of $42,000 a year, it will cost [this amount] the rest of the four years; it will not increase,” Sampath said. “Whereas, as Alec was saying, since we came into college, tuition has increased by a couple thousand dollars. That’s just not OK. If you adjust on inflation, it doesn’t even reflect those numbers, so I don’t think the excuse of inflation really works as a college affordability stance.”

Sampath and White delineated their advocacy strategy, which will begin with a student survey.

“We are going to be doing advocacy work on all fronts, in terms of talking to the communities most affected by these types of problems,” Sampath said. “We are going to be reaching out to different cultural assemblies to see how their constituents are affected by college affordability. We will urge students to share their college affordability stories with me personally, to email me and to meet with me.”

Another important issue discussed during the meeting was the mental health of the student body. USG will work with the Academic Culture Assembly and Wellness Affairs to “tackle mental health on campus.” USG is also looking to implement a fall break — contingent on a vote from the faculty senate — and expand cultural resource centers.