A USC alumnus recently said, “You’re making all this money off these kids and you’re giving them crumbs.” But this wasn’t just any alumnus — it was former Trojan football sensation Reggie Bush.
Perhaps if Bush, who at the time was on a full scholarship, knew what many students and families go through just to pay tuition at USC, he would have embraced a different perspective.
The caliber of USC undergraduates has certainly risen over the years. Thus, the university must collaborate to meet the financial needs of all students, whether it’s based on test-taking skills, a certain income bracket, ethnicity, family ties or just being a hardworking Trojan.
In the early 1990s, when many of this year’s entering freshman were just coming into the world, USC was largely viewed as a party school for rich Southern Californian young adults.
The university’s reputation was mediocre. According to former president Steven B. Sample in The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, “Things had become so desperate that the university was accepting applications for admission to the fall semester as late as one week into the semester itself … graduation rates were abysmally low.”
Times have changed. Although USC’s image as a party school might persist on the outside, the facts are now on our side.
Not only was USC’s admission rate for the incoming class of 2010 a university-low 24 percent, but USC has expanded its outreach across the globe. A little more than half of this year’s freshman class is from California, and 11 percent of newly admitted students represent 48 different countries.
USC is clearly on the move in higher student selectivity, national rankings and global prestige. We can bet that those statistics will only continue rise. What’s holding the university back from realizing even greater progress now is the cost.
USC’s price tag is a heavy, almost unreachable expense for most families without outside assistance, which is why USC is particularly supportive in awarding university funds — whether in the form of financial aid or scholarships — to undergraduates.
Need-based grants are awarded to students in a certain financial bracket. Prestigious scholarships, sometimes up to full tuition, are awarded based on high school test scores. And other scholarships honor students of a particular geographical background.
Make no mistake, these scholarships play a crucial role. More often than not they are the deciding factor between attending USC and enrolling in a less costly institution elsewhere.
But as helpful as these awards are, they still leave a portion of USC students — who don’t completely satisfy the requirements of either of these groups — wondering what they can do to cut down their tuition cost if they don’t want to be burdened with hefty loans in the future.
Supportive families will often fund their student’s education, but it could still leave many students looking for a way to do their part — to chip away at tuition costs while advancing their academic and professional careers.
The bottom line: It’s time for the university to establish new and innovative scholarships available to all undergraduate students.
We are already on the right track. Each professional school at USC has a series of scholarships based on certain majors.
Still, it isn’t enough to list these opportunities on a website when such a large investment in a student’s college education is at stake.
Scholarship fairs, where students have the opportunity to meet and interact with representatives of numerous scholarship programs, would be another step in the right direction.
Another obstacle is that students and their families don’t exactly know the specifics of where their tuition goes in the first place. Given the continued rise in tuition, perhaps it is fair during these times to request a series of easily accessible transparent documents outlining where USC tuition dollars are allocated throughout the university.
USC will most likely always be in a position to adjust its financial budget according to student needs. USC is not only a private university free from political obligations, but it also has the largest university-funded financial aid budget of any university in the country — more than $180 million each year of university funds goes to undergraduates, according to USC News.
Whether through scholarships or other forms of financial aid, USC must find new ways to meet all students and their families in the middle on affordability at a premiere institution.
After all, investing in a student’s education only increases his or her chances of investing back into the university — what goes around comes around.
Stephen Zelezny is a sophomore majoring in public relations. His column, “USC on the Move,” runs Thursdays.