LETTER TO THE EDITOR: An open letter to President C. L. Max Nikias: A troubled Trojan is looking for answers
Dear President Nikias,
Spring break is over and yet many of my fellow Trojans come back restless, not because of the fun they had traveling but because of the looming bills and payments that await them.
While students should be able to focus and hone in on getting good grades and enjoying their college experience, many face the pressing issue of college affordability.
Two weeks ago, students rallied against an $1,978 increase that would put tuition at $51,442, higher than Stanford, Yale and Harvard. The demonstration drew national media representation, yet you refused to meet with any of the courageous students who shared their stories with the public. Your administration even turned a prospective student away from attending the University after he witnessed the rally and made a point to voice his concern to officials.
I urge you to reconsider and meet with the students who have expressed their financial hardships. We need to know where our money is going as any good ratepayer should. And most importantly, I want you to explain your side of the story as to why such obscure procedures continue at a leading academic institution.
I cannot help but continue to shed light on a serious problem that has affected thousands of students and me. The rising cost of education at USC forced me to consider transferring out of the University last year when I was a sophomore.
I spent hours writing college essays in addition to my actual college essays and found myself stressing over every grade. Without doubt, it was one of the worst points in my life. Knowing that the amount of time and effort I put getting into this school in the first place could be washed away was hard to even comprehend. It felt like it was senior year of high school all over again, except much more expensive.
The USC Financial Aid Office, instead of congratulating my parents for making smart financial decisions to better prepare them for a sustainable retirement, slapped them on the wrist. To maintain the grants I received my freshman year, my family would have to forgo the future guarantees of financial security that they had tirelessly worked for. Having parents who went through the worst in the real estate and health insurance industries during the recession, it made no sense for me to put them at any more of a risk. The investment they were already making in my education — and soon to be my sister’s — was more than I could ever ask for.
It was by the grace of the Town & Gown of USC that I was able to stay and finish my college career as a Trojan. Because of the stress this situation put on my family, my sister chose not to even apply to USC. I know other families that have made the same decision.
USC cannot continue to tout all of the positives it’s doing in relation to financial aid (Pell grants, endowment, etc.) by diverging from the truth. I commend Undergraduate Student Government and other students for working hard to get this very truth from you and the administration, and I will continue to back such efforts. I will always step up to the plate and defend USC’s advancements, but your administration’s failure to communicate with students makes it harder for me to do so.
What am supposed to say when a family comes up to me during an admitted student reception and says, “How is financial aid at USC? Is it guaranteed?” or “Do you know where the money goes?” A family can make $150,000 a year and get nothing in financial aid; yet, that’s almost what it takes to pay for one year of schooling when taxes and other expenditures are put into play. It just does not make sense.
Even partial scholarships have less of an impact on students every year. A $15,000-a-year award will barely cover tuition hikes by the time a student graduates. And yet we are meant to make a big deal about it. Somehow now that student can afford college. Somehow, now that student can truly be a proud Trojan.
Thousands of students are in worse financial predicaments than mine. I’m writing this in terms of principle and that no one should have to convince their family to lessen their future financial security, especially after a recession, to attend the college of their dreams.
Let me say that I am not one to talk poorly about USC — I work for the Alumni Association and can tell you countless positives to being and becoming a part of the Trojan Family. I have had an incredibly wholesome experience thus far attending the University, in part because of several changes that USG and the administration made since President Sample’s tenure, such as an increase in academic rigor and global awareness. And I have had opportunities to make some of these changes in our community and beyond through leadership and philanthropy.
As a journalist, I am trained to see every side of an argument and eager to hear your response to all of us students concerned with the rising cost of tuition. You owe a meeting to everyone who rallied, allowing each student an opportunity to share their story in person.
I know in my heart that you care about us students, President Nikias. If you value transparency and leading the charge on reforming education economics, you must act now. Put your constituents first and meet with us and explain your side of the story. That’s all I ask.
Junior, broadcast and digital journalism