USC has a reputation for being dead in the summer.
Most students are gone, and the ones that remain on campus often do not hang around with a full course load; instead, they stay to take that one lingering class needed to graduate on time.
Unfortunately, USC’s summertime financial aid policies don’t reflect that.
It’s long been a goal of the USC administration to cement the university’s status as a residential school rather than a commuter one. Although summer financial aid is not strictly a matter of who lives where, it remains a policy that drives students away from campus and into the arms of other institutions, which at the end of the day is the opposite of what the administration is trying to achieve.
The university currently requires a minimum of six units before undergraduate students are eligible to receive the financial support they would otherwise, meaning students taking just one — or sometimes even two — classes must pay the $1,360-per-unit price tag out of pocket, or else temporarily say goodbye to their alma mater in favor of a local community college that charges them 1/50th of the price.
This causes students enough grief in and of itself, as they are forced to either scramble to pay the exorbitant USC fee or wrestle with an extra commute — and subsequent gas prices for the lucky ones with cars — for the privilege of going to a less challenging and less prestigious school.
With budget cuts causing many California community colleges to place much of their curricula in moth balls this year, students are finding even the latter option a struggle.
Andria Kowalchik, a junior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism, decided to take a Spanish class at USC this summer to finish her language requirement, only to find the classes she could barely afford to begin with were already full.
“Finding a Spanish 3 class at one of the community colleges was much harder than I thought it would be,” Kowalchik said. “West L.A. [College] canceled classes because of budget cuts and Santa Monica [Community College] didn’t offer it. The only place I could find was Pasadena City College … which means I’m going to have to commute every day and spend a lot of money on gas. I can’t even register until June 3.”
Joshua DeMilta, a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and political science, decided to take a summer class under the original impression he would be able to receive aid.
“Six units as a requirement [for financial aid] is ridiculous,” DeMilta said. “I only needed to take one class. … There was no way I could pay [the $1,360].”
DeMilta decided to enroll in Pasadena City College after learning about its vastly more economical $26-per-unit classes through Kowalchik. But he’s still not happy with it. He now faces a commute, a class that will likely teach him less useful material and the prospect of only receiving pass/no pass credit.
It’s time USC’s summer financial aid mirrored the demographic of students requesting it. Although undergraduates have likely struggled with the issue in the past, they at least had the option of turning to the community college of their choice. Now, thanks to budget cuts, students are being forced to travel far and wide in search of the one or two remaining colleges still offering the classes they desperately need to graduate.
The students are disgruntled and the times are changing. Hopefully next year lonely summer students will have the benefit of greater options for taking classes at the university they chose to begin with.
Kastalia Medrano is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism.