Despite progress, tuition bars ’SC hopefuls

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.

Julia Vann | Daily Trojan

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.

3 replies
  1. Exorbitant
    Exorbitant says:

    “You’re making all this money off these kids and you’re giving them crumbs.” <–this fallacious argument is called an 'appeal to authority. Wow! I'm sure Reggie was totally engaged in the academics here. It doesn't matter because he's making millions in the NFL, so a formal education < pro sports paycheck right?

    "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 adult" along with the 70% admit rate then, pretty pathetic I'd say.

    SC is a great school now…buuuuut, have some of you parents who commented; read this article; or wanted to send your children here but couldn't because of the pricey tuition thought that maybe a public school with much lower tuition would be just as good? An undergrad education is a generic experience nowadays. Sure SC's got its unique football fervor; Greek life is pretty intense; the academics are great here; and so forth. But you can experience this at public schools too. That one across town, in Westwood, is still slightly harder than SC to gain admission to because of its much lower tuition and the fact that a huge unprecedented number of applicants applied more than prior years. Think about it, for an undergrad degree, if you're pursuing a liberal arts degree, the prestige of the school doesn't matter. It only matters if you're pursuing a professional degree such as med school or law.

    Please don't erase my comment. Let the truth be told.

  2. USC MOM
    USC MOM says:

    I have one complaint about need based scholarships. I know of many circumstances where one parent “purposely” does not work to lower the family total income. Therefore, the student becomes eligible for scholarship and grants. They say why work when “jr” can get a free ride to attend school. My husband and I are like many families, not poor enough to get financial aid, but not rich enough to just write a check for our daughter’s tuition. I feel that if a parent is physically able, they should be required to repay some of the scholarship/loan in the form of labor back to the school. Have them serve at the food locations or pick up trash after football games. Have them repay for receiving a first class education free of charge to their child.

  3. Marty Doggerson
    Marty Doggerson says:

    Interesting article.
    One question I have, that you could possibly address in an a future investigative piece, is about winning scholarships and how that effects the grants and loans. From what I understand of the USC policy, If a student has a grant, then wins a scholarship, that scholarship money gets paid back to the school by being subtracted from the student’s grant.

    At other schools, I hear that the money won from a scholarship goes to paying off student loans, and the student gets to keep their grant money. This type of policy is more beneficial to students and seems to encourage students to get scholarships, where the USC policy seems to discourage it. There was a big scandal with the USC Financial Aid Department a few years ago (The head of that department was getting kickbacks from financial institutions), So it may be interesting to see if the current USC policy was ever reviewed and if it was not corrected after that incident. Such an investigation could possibly find and correct a policy that effects many USC students.

    You could interview students with loans and scholarships, staff from the Financial aid departments at USC and other universities about policy, and consult books and their authors about student financial strategies. (like author of How to go to College for Almost Free)
    You could also look into why some grants don’t cover lab fees, books, food or rent, why they don’t and why some do.

    Okay, I don’t know if you guys are into doing a story on such things, but I know I would be interested in reading it.

    Keep up the good work!

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