USC must diversify its scholarship offerings

This weekend, I broke one of the cardinal rules of being a millennial — I willingly disconnected myself from social media. As a participant in the Posse Plus Retreat, I spent the weekend away from USC’s campus with a group of my peers to talk about the power of language in a diverse society.

This retreat was put on by the Posse Foundation, which connects a cohort of nine to ten undergraduate students from the same city with 55 top-tier universities across the nation. The students are given a full-ride scholarship as well as a built-in friendship with their posse to help motivate and support them throughout the college process. The university where they attend gives the scholarship money.

At USC, there are 19 students on the Posse scholarship. They are students from New York City, seemingly as far away as you can get from Los Angeles.

But a few years back USC said it would no longer provide the Posse scholarship. The last class of Posse at USC will graduate in 2017.

These types of scholarships — ones that yoke financial and emotional support together — are increasingly needed on USC’s campus, especially at a time when USC has surpassed a new milestone of being one of the most expensive universities to attend — beating the tuition prices of Harvard and Stanford. Tuition now sits at $51,442 for the 2016-17 school year, up $1,978 from last year.

The ticket price for USC means that certain types of students might be barred from attending such an elite university — possibly the type of students that Posse looks to bring on campuses across the U.S.

Jesse Metres, a senior majoring in public relations, is a Posse scholar on campus and a native New Yorker. She said, “every single good thing in my life is because of Posse” because her family would not have been able to afford a private university like USC otherwise.

As a private institution, USC has resources that can help alleviate financial burdens on students. For example, USC is well on its way to fundraising $6 billion by the end of 2018 as part of its campaign to further strengthen its endowment. Yet, in an increasingly competitive academic environment, most students need more than a check to help them get through their four years here.

USC should direct its funds toward Posse-like types of scholarships.  In addition to Posse giving a safety net to its students, the annual retreat they host brings a mix of 100 participants together to discuss issues of diversity and widens the benefits of the program to more of USC.

USC currently has a comprehensive merit scholarship program. For full disclosure, I am a recipient of it. Yet, in the way that USC admissions is intentional about getting a diverse student body on campus, they must also be intentional about the diversifying the scope of scholarships they support.

There have been efforts to expand the range of scholarships offered at USC. Last semester, Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas gave $10 million to the School of Cinematic Arts. Lucas designated the money to support black and Latino/a aspiring filmmakers through USC.

Yet, setbacks have not gone unnoticed. Not offering the Posse scholarship is one of them. One of the missions of Posse is to bring a fresh perspective to their campus community by bringing students who might have been overlooked by the regular admissions process.

Metres she said they were not advised about USC canceling its partnership with Posse.

“When USC said they weren’t accepting Posse scholarship, it made it seem like we weren’t valued on campus,” Metres said. “It felt like the monetary value of our scholarship was valued above the conversations of diversity we were bringing to the campus.”

Currently, USC is holding its Explore USC program. It’s a time when admitted students will come to campus, eat lunch at Campus Center, sit in on lectures in Taper Hall and try to decide if this is the place for them. It’s also a time when these admitted students will interview for scholarships that have the potential to set their lives on a new course.

That is the power of holistic scholarships at USC. If the University wants to continue to promote its diversity, openness and responsibility to all communities, then more consideration needs to be given to the types of scholarships USC chooses to support. One way would be to bring Posse back.

After reading “Wait An L.A. Minute” on Tuesdays, join Jordyn Holman in her millennial conversations on Twitter @JordynJournals. She’s a senior studying print and digital journalism.

4 replies
  1. Don Harmon
    Don Harmon says:

    Jordyn: Do you recommend a quota system for blacks, Latinos, orientals, Jews and Muslims? How does USC give preferential treatment to any of these minorities without shorting other, even less common minorities? Or, for that matter, shorting whites who also may be as qualified, or more so, than the minorities? I see no way but a quota system.

    • Janelle
      Janelle says:

      The Posse scholarship is a leadership based scholarship designed to bring smart, dynamic, and confident students who would not be found through traditional means and who can thrive on elite campuses. Posse’s definition of diversity is not just about cultural, ethnic or racial diversity, it includes economic, academic, religious, political and geographic diversity. (Ie WHITE students can also win this scholarship) These students go through a rigorous interview process and it is ignorant and disrespectful of you to reduce this wonderful program down to a quota system. It is also evident that you did not fully read or understand the point of this article and I hope next time you really do your research before spewing inaccurate facts. From Janelle, Posse 3.

      • Don Harmon
        Don Harmon says:

        Janelle, right and wrong. I am not well informed about the Posse program. But Jordyn wrote “USC should direct its funds toward Posse-like types of scholarships.” “Posse-like” is not the same. Why did she not call for more Posse scholarships? Her phrasing instead suggested to me special treatment for preferred minorities, a totally different matter. I do not believe that one minority rates special treatment where another does not.

        You wrote “Posse’s definition of diversity is not just about cultural, ethnic or racial diversity, it includes economic, academic, religious, political and geographic diversity.” Yes, that sounds excellent, I agree! Did I misread Jordyn? Did she actually mean Posse scholarships?

        Incidentally, I was a USC scholarship student and remain intensely grateful to my alma mater for that. USC was very generous to me and changed my whole life. I would not have wanted to be turned down, though, with the perception, real or false, that I was perhaps a minority and could contribute to diversity; but was a non-preferred, unfashionable minority.

        • Janelle
          Janelle says:

          She was talking about Posse scholarships and posse-like scholarships would be ones that follow similar diversity standards that are not limited to race.

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