The worth of my four years at USC

Photo courtesy of USC

Photo courtesy of USC

Amid a national conversation on college affordability, and a Emily Goldberg headshotrecently proposed tuition hike here at USC, I feel it’s imperative to discuss the value of my education over the past four years.

My courses at USC have undoubtedly given me skills to not only to put on my resume, but also to use for the career I’ll start after graduation. My professors and mentors have provided me both career and life advice. My friends have made me feel safe and at home at a school that’s 2,800 miles away from my family. These life-changing benefits, however, came at a very high price, one that I know I’m incredibly lucky to have been able to afford.

The fact that USC, and many other universities across the nation come with a price tag that an increasing number of Americans don’t have the means to pay, is an injustice. I’ve racked my brain for an answer to this problem, and I don’t readily have a solution to solve the price tag predicament of higher education in the United States.

University employees must be paid, buildings must be renovated, lights must be kept on in dormitories across campus, all while students demand more resources like increased counseling services and transportation subsidized by the school. There is no easy way to solve this problem.

Some point to financial aid — citing the two-thirds of USC freshmen that are able to attend the University thanks to financial assistance from the school. But what about the students who were too intimidated by the $200,000-plus cost of an undiscounted four-year college experience, and didn’t get the chance to ask about ways to subsidize tuition before they wrote off the possibility? Regardless of financial aid opportunities, the sticker price of universities across the nation must be brought down.

This week I spoke to a prospective student who, after visiting campus the day of the Tuition Hike Rally and sit-in outside president Nikias’ office, decided he didn’t want to come to USC anymore. The high school senior told me he comes from a family of immigrants, and already working himself, was concerned he wouldn’t be able to afford college. He had just left the Financial Aid Office where he was told that there were certainly ways that he could afford the university. After stumbling upon the rally, he wasn’t sure so sure.

“I saw the school as just a godly thing and to see this injustice, it was just wild,” the student, who wished to remain anonymous said.  “I was in shock and disappointed and scared and sad all at once.”

My four years of college have not been perfect, but they are something all Americans deserve to experience. Even when lights were cast on USC’s flaws — when I sat in large lecture halls learning facts about geology that I’m sure I’ll never use again, when I reported on incidents of racism on campus, or when I felt personally underserved, such as when being told to wait weeks to see an available counselor at the health center — I continued to place a high value on a four-year college education.

Society favors those with degrees, too. College grads are more likely to have lower unemployment and poverty rates and be happier with their careers, according to Pew Research Center. Increased access to higher education is sure to lessen the wealth gap that plagues our nation, and it’s crucial that we find a way for more young people to attain a college degree.

As I come up on the two-month mark until graduation day, I know that the last four years have been the most valuable four years of my life so far.

Emily Goldberg is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. Her blog column, Diaries of a Second-Semester Senior, runs every Thursday.