For Trojans returning to campus in the fall, tuition for the 2016-2017 school year will now be $51,442 — nearly $2,000 more than this year’s cost of tuition, which clocked in at $49,464.
Students did not find out about this increase via a campus-wide memo or stumbling upon it in a USC News update — if they are aware of it at all, it’s likely through complaints made on social media after a student noticed that the estimated cost of attendance for prospective students had been updated on the USC financial aid website and that this cost was significantly higher than that of the previous year. While Provost Michael Quick has since issued a statement on the topic, he did not address why tuition was being increased in the first place.
The cached version of the USC financial aid web page, entitled “How Much Will My Education Cost?” shows that the page was updated with next year’s tuition figures sometime between Sunday at 9:43 p.m. and Tuesday at approximately 10 p.m., when students began noticing the new figures.
This is not the first time USC has failed in its obligation to keep students informed about tuition hikes. In fact, the Daily Trojan editorial board published a similar unsigned editorial last fall, when the University failed to properly disclose to students its $951 tuition hike at the beginning of the fall 2015 semester. As a result, it is especially disappointing to see that the University has again failed to acknowledge the issue of rising tuition or — at the very least — to make more of an effort to be transparent with their decisions.
Beyond increasing already-steep tuition, this tuition hike is particularly problematic. Ignoring both student voices represented by Undergraduate Student Government and national conversation regarding student loans nationwide, the University is proving itself to be alarmingly out of touch with the needs of its students. Last semester, USG passed a resolution in November regarding college affordability, advocating for transparency as well as an immediate tuition freeze. Even assuming there is a genuine need for yearly tuition hikes that outpace inflation, it is unacceptable for the University to continue to offer no explanation and ignore the voices of USG and the countless students who have had trouble paying for tuition.
Seemingly random and arbitrary tuition hikes don’t just price potential students out — they make it difficult for current students and their families to plan financially. Many families already barely make the cut in paying for tuition at last year’s rate, so if USC continues to raise tuition by different amounts with no warning or notice every year, a huge percentage of the student body will face avoidable problems.
As the Daily Trojan has pointed out before, USC’s increasing tuition — already one of the highest in the nation — has a negative impact on diversity and prevents students who could make a meaningful contribution to the student body from attending. To opaquely increase tuition undermines the University’s claims that the administration is trying to cultivate an inclusive, diverse and academically-minded environment.
Tuition hikes, even more than most decisions made by the University, require transparency — they profoundly affect all undergraduates and place a heavy burden on students and their families. If students absolutely must pay more, tuition increases should come with plenty of advanced notice — the University must offer students a comprehensive breakdown of what the increases will fund, and it should offer resources and plans for students who may be put into a difficult financial situation. At the moment, USC’s behavior indicates that they are hiking tuition solely because they feel they can get away with it.
Daily Trojan Spring 2016 Editorial Board