UCs and USC must collaborate

The phrases “Beat UCLA” and the more fiery “FUCLA” are commonplace Trojan-pride slogans that pit USC against the school across town. But beneath the rivalrous repartee between the two universities are serious issues in California’s higher education system brought to light by the current crisis in the UC system that even USC students not directly impacted by the crisis can’t afford to ignore.

Rita Yeung | Daily Trojan

UCLA and the rest of the University of California campuses are in the midst of a long-term financial downturn, brought on by extreme budget cuts followed by increasingly higher tuition. The last two years have seen an outpouring of student protest that has frustratingly produced only more cuts and higher tuition, placing more financial burden on those who deserve it the least: the students.

For the first time ever, the UC system is getting more money from its students via tuition than from state funding. This puts California higher education in a crisis of such immense proportion that it might not be a crisis but instead the new normal.

These changes put in motion a historic educational shift that affects all members of the California education system, public and private, short and long term.

Yet there’s a divide, a disconnect, even a rivalry in USC’s case, between California’s public and private universities. Though bridging the gap will not magically solve the UCs’ problems, it could provide a source of support as well as potential for a re-invented, re-invigorated state education system.

There are many possibilities for an alternative future; increasing access to four-year schools (the UCs, California community colleges and private schools alike) and attracting more international students or lowering costs for native Californians while bringing more bright minds to the Golden State.

California’s private institutions should step in to bridge the gap between private and public by rejecting unproductive comparisons and capitalizing on and increasing academic interaction.

USC’s rivalry with UCLA is fun when it comes to football, but it is so trumpeted and over-emphasized that it drowns out the possibility for valuable academic overlap between the two schools. The most informative and engaging class I’m enrolled in this semester is actually taught by a UCLA adjunct professor.

Increasing access is also key. USC should find ways to offer students what they can’t get in the public university setting at the moment. Offering more financial aid and creating a summer-school program that allows state students to take classes at USC at a reduced cost so they don’t fall behind in their studies would be a start.

Some might say it’s not USC’s burden to take on. But in such a key transitional moment for the entire California higher education system, it’s undeniably beneficial for all parties involved for USC to step in and be the school innovative enough to imagine an alternative future, and for USC students to be aware of the role they play in the future of higher education in California.

As a private university, we maintain the private autonomy necessary to promote public partnership and nurture inter-university connections.


Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in Spanish. Her column “Beyond the Classroom” runs Mondays. 

10 replies
  1. kinged
    kinged says:

    “creating a summer-school program that allows state students to take classes at USC at a reduced cost” — That is a crazy idea. Does that means UCLA students can attend USC classes at a cheaper price? How fair is that ?

    • Anon
      Anon says:

      ^This. We already subsidize the education of UC students through State taxes. Now she wants us to subsidize their education even more by allowing them to take classes at OUR school at a lower rate than WE pay, and have OUR regular tuition increase to cover the cost? How in the hell is that even remotely equitable?

  2. Scott
    Scott says:

    The only obvious antidote for the U of C is to dig deep into its endowment and start spending money to close the fiscal gap. (They have several billions.) Endowments exist ultimately as a reserve to protect the fiscal integrity of the institution. Now is the time to use endowment funds to support the U of C. The U of C does not need USC or its advice; rather, it needs the courage of its regents to do what they need to do. Unfortunately, the regents are not brave but instead timid souls who don’t have the collective strength or leadership to dip into the endowment. Instead, they believe students should bear the burden of gaining a “prestigious” U of C degree. But I ask, where is the prestige of the U of C? Surely it’s not in the oversubscribed classes, the inability to graduate in four years, the alienated hoards who flock to lecture halls, the 40,000 unclaimed degrees from the Berkeley branch alone, the mediocre student services, the unsubstantiated demands for respect when most professors cannot even name, let alone count, their students…. No, I say, USC has no moral or ethical obligation to assist the U of C other than by public example. Let it wither on the vine…

  3. Oats
    Oats says:

    Well Anon it doesn’t help to have a premium Athletics department that pulls in top dollar year after year. Not to mention the endowment a school like USC must have, somewhere in the billions$$$. You sure are running full steam ahead just like Reggie when he got his Heisman swiped.

    Elena UCs will improve once the state of California improves, that’s where the funding is coming from. The projected tuition amount in 2015 is something like $20000 which is absurd but the budget cuts lay with the Gov which continue to flush money. I don’t think with the help of your private institution there will come
    any impact to the problem. It will only create another stream to which the problem will roll onward.
    On another note, I can hardly believe USC students feel the impact of our UCs woes. Especially not when your student base comes from some amazingly wealthy Families. I’ve seen the cars your student body drives, that would be a charming house for someone paying for a UC tuition

    • Anon
      Anon says:

      1) Our endowment is not really that big (about $3 billion, which is the 23rd-highest among U.S. colleges)

      2) USC athletics (like most college athletics) are not big moneymakers. Every single sports team at USC loses money except for football, which uses its modest net profit of $8 million to offset the losses of the rest of the athletics department. USC athletics as a whole are barely in the black, and this small profit is a tiny fraction of the school’s total expenses and is too insignificant to have any bearing on the school’s academic success.

      3) The majority of students at USC are on need-based financial aid (the percentage is actually higher than that at most UC campuses). USC students are not nearly as rich as you might think.

  4. Anon
    Anon says:

    Cal and UCLA have been tumbling in the rankings over the last 20 years, are capping enrollment, slashing their budgets, and nearly-doubling their tuition.

    Over this same period, USC has been skyrocketing up the rankings (44th to 23rd), expanding its programs and enrollment, shattering fundraising records, and offering more financial aid to students than ever before.

    I think we’ve been doing just fine at picking up the slack of California higher education. UC dropped the ball – we picked it up and are running full steam ahead.

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