USC ranked 7th for debt by CNBC

According to a study released last month by CNBC, USC ranks 7th out of all colleges and universities nationally in average student debt.

CNBC estimates that the average USC graduate carries the burden of having to repay $36,787. The total student debt of USC is $631.5 million, ranked behind University of Phoenix, which is ranked 1st in the nation for the highest total student debt at $4.96 billion. CNBC received the statistics from the U.S. Department of Education.

Going to USC might break your piggy bank

“My family and I find it really hard to pay for school,” said Tona Elizarraraz, a freshman majoring in theatre. “If it weren’t for some outside scholarships, going here wouldn’t even be a possibility.”

A U.S. News and World Report article published in 2009 concluded that high tuition stems mainly from universities entering a “bidding war for top faculty and better services for students.”

“The reason USC ranks so high in numbers of student loans is because of the size of our student body and the number of professional graduate programs, where it is customary to borrow the entire cost of attendance,” wrote Katharine Harrington, vice president of admissions and planning, in an e-mail.

Some students regret paying a high price tag for higher education.

“I didn’t think the education was worth it,” said James Xie, a senior majoring in communications. “I could be graduating a semester earlier, that’s 20-grand right there.”

Despite the high cost of attending USC, more than 60 percent of students receive some type of financial assistance, whether in the form of scholarships or loans.

For some students, the benefits of graduation from USC outweigh the downsides.

“I expected [to graduate with debt],” Elizarraraz said. “It makes me really sad, but I believe that our education is an investment for our futures. If we don’t invest in ourselves, what can we invest in?”

9 replies
  1. DJ
    DJ says:

    I’m one of those USC graduates carrying a significant debt load. I’m a bit worried, as I haven’t found a full time job yet since graduating last May. Luckily I have some pretty good family support. I have made some good professional connections while enrolled, and continue to talk to professors and receive mentorship (by no means is this typical–I was a creative writing major, and some of my work is being evaluated around L.A.). But as the months wear on, I wonder whether it was worth it. I know I’ll survive, and I knew going in there would be risks. But geezus, what a terrible time to be $XX,000 in debt.

  2. Gary
    Gary says:

    I lived in the area for a couple of years, SC that is, and it was intimidating but was not really harmed or came close to being harmed.

  3. Reed
    Reed says:

    I think there is a simple explanation for this. The statistic is high because USC is a private school – essentially a private, not-for-profit corporation, where costs are paid entirely by direct tuition charges and endowment funds. Public schools, like UCLA, receive a large amount of state funding to operate, and can therefore charge less to (in-state) students. Now, there are plenty of small private colleges in the country, but not many as large as USC. I think NYU and Brigham Young are the only two private schools that are larger (and BYU has a different funding structure since it receives funding from the LDS church). Those small private colleges cost less to operate, but still saddle their students with high tuition (=debt). However, its not as high as at USC. Basically, USC operates with the same institutional expenses and structure as other large universities, but most other universities of this size are publicly-funded. So USC must pass the institutional costs of a large university directly on to students, rather then taxpayers. For example, I don’t think its that USC spends too much on public safety, its that at most other public universities, their DPS are essentially municipal police officers, city or state employees.

  4. edward hay
    edward hay says:

    The reason that USC is so expensive is that it is located in a gang-infested area where the school has to protect itself with a police presence both on & off campus. Ever wonder what percentage of USC’s operations budget goes to Security & neighborhood give-aways (so they don’t riot or attack us)? 27%

    • Kevin
      Kevin says:


      You are absolutely wrong! As it happens to be, while the neighborhood may not be the “nicest,” it is by no means dangerous. There was an article published a couple of days ago by the Daily Trojan (from a UCLA researcher) who noted that the gang elements around the campus do not touch SC. It is a beacon of hope for the community. That is why there is no graffitti on the campus or gang related activity within close proximity of students.

      As a matter of fact, you can check the statistics with the department of education which tracks criminal “incidents” on campus and compare it with most institutions. You’ll find that SC is safer that Berkeley and near UCLA. While UCLA happens to be located in one of the nicest areas in America, interesting that the crime rates on campus and immediatly near campus are close to the same. Now once you get out of that immediate zone around campus things are much different.

      Please Trojan hater, go back to your hole

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