Members of the Undergraduate Student Government presented a resolution on college affordability at the Senate meeting Tuesday night. The resolution, drafted by USG President Rini Sampath, Academic Cultural Assembly assistant director Luis Vidalon-Susuki and USG marketing assistant director Paul Samaha, suggested greater transparency in University finances.
The resolution asks for a tuition freeze, an interactive website that outlines a tuition spending report and the reinstatement of the University Student Fee Advisory Committee. This committee would be comprised of two faculty appointed by the Faculty Senate, five undergraduate students and five graduate students appointed by their respective student body presidents.
The resolution presentation began with the results of a college affordability survey conducted a few months ago. The results gathered 1,903 responses over a period of three weeks and showed considerable majorities.
Eighty-four percent of respondents believed that a tuition freeze would alleviate the financial burden for students. Seventy-six percent knew of someone who had transferred from or considered taking a leave of absence from USC due to high tuition costs. Ninety-eight percent did not know the reason for the 2015-2016 $2,000 tuition increase. Ninety-three percent did not know where their tuition dollars went.
The authors of the resolution argued that the University should direct their resources more toward current students than future ones. They pointed out as examples the construction of The Village and the renovation of the Coliseum, two projects budgeted at $650 million and $270 million, respectively.
“This falls into the lack of student voice and how we want to reprioritize funding at our school to go back to the students now, not the students in five years, and not a bid for the 2024 Olympics, which is what this renovation is,” Samaha said. “If they can ask for $270 million to be raised from alumni and donors, you would hope that we could have some priority also on helping alleviate some funds from students who are forced to drop out or transfer out because of tuition costs.”
The authors also mentioned the USC 2014 Financial Report. Samaha talked about the difficulty found in the report, and how Neon Tommy writer James Tyner was the one who presented the data in simple charts.
“You [were] presented with a 72-page PDF, and these graphs are not in the document — these graphs were made by the courtesy of [Tyner],” Samaha said. “In the 72-page report, it is usually just tables and numbers, usually very hard to read.”
Samaha also said that the Budgeted Expenses section was “alarming” because of a possible discrepancy.
“So USC releases their planned budget. However, they don’t actually show what was spent in the end,” Samaha said. “They will give a budget in the financial report, but they won’t follow up and say if the budget was met, what was actually spent. They just show a vague breakdown of expenses.”
Residential Senator Alec White, the resolution’s sponsor, also commented on the report’s apparent vagueness.
“There are ‘current expenses’ but we don’t know what those current expenses are,” White said. “And then ‘other salaries’ but we don’t what these salaries are for, who’s getting them. This is over half of the money, too.”
USC Graduate Student Government Campus Affairs director J. Andrew Clark then spoke about the original student fee advisory committee. Clark said the committee was eventually dissolved because the administration was unhappy with the feedback they were receiving from students.
“We would get these really thick packets, all these budget proposals back from 2013 to 2014 … We would sit down and they would give us all these facts and figures, projections and increases, there were always increases in tuition … but they never really told us why they would increase tuition or where this money was going,” Clark said.