OPINION: As USC deals with scandal after scandal, the struggles of first-generation students are ignored

(Shideh Ghandeharizadeh | Daily Trojan)

As news of the nationwide college admissions bribery case and the celebrity stars involved continue to flood nightly newscasts and Facebook feeds months after the college admissions scandal was first made public, both the media and the USC administration are having trouble focusing on much else. 

Articles examining the struggles of first-generation college students go unnoticed, yet gossip tabloid headlines about Lori Loughlin, often referred to by her Full House character’s name, Aunt Becky, and her daughter, Olivia Jade, persist. 

USC heavily markets itself as a university committed to supporting underprivileged students and increasing diversity. But as the din of countless administrative scandals grows increasingly cacophonous, the voices of societally marginalized students continue to be overshadowed and unheard. 

While USC has promoted its efforts to support low-income and first generation students, such as the establishment of a food pantry for food insecure students, these efforts are largely equivalent to placing a Band-Aid on a wound in need of stitches. First-generation and low-income students need extra support from the moment they get to campus, yet the University fails to meet those needs. 

USC prides itself as an institution that is committed to “supporting access for students from diverse backgrounds” — while the University’s Class of 2022 has an estimated 578 first-generation students, once they get here, many find a lack of understanding and guidance. 

Katy Figueroa, a rising sophomore and QuestBridge scholar, said USC didn’t meet her expectations as a first-generation student.

 “I already knew that college would be hard, but I thought that USC would help me sustain myself while at college and take the financial burden off my family,” Figueroa said. “On the contrary, I have not felt that USC has informed me about resources, or … even provided them. As USC tries to cover up their issues, I’ve felt even more neglected.”

The struggles and concerns of first-generation and low-income students have become something of a side plot to the self-inflicted plight of those who have bribed or donated their way into the University. USC has become so concerned with maintaining its pristine image during a time when scandals plague the University that it has forgotten to take care of its most vulnerable students. 

First-generation students walk blindly into outrageously expensive institutions like USC without the financial security they need. It’s the University’s duty to support these students, instead of focusing on the poor decisions made by the ultra-rich. 

This is an issue not only within the University administration, but in the media and public as well. Instead of continuing to cover the admission scandal on what seems to be a weekly, if not daily basis, major newspapers and media websites should focus their attention on covering the stories of first-generation students who had to work twice as hard to get into college, yet don’t receive the necessary support once they’re there. 

While the attention of both the administration and the public continues to jump from one trending scandal to the next, colleges around the country are held unaccountable for their lack of support for underprivileged students. Despite having plenty of funding, a number of colleges instead choose to ignore the wellbeing of their students to protect a flimsy facade of prestige. 

The widely accepted stereotype of ultra-rich parents getting their children into college through bribes or “donations” is finally getting its comeuppance. But there’s another stereotype that higher education institutions must address: the broke college student. 

While it’s often played off as a joke, it’s a real concern for food-insecure, housing-insecure and financially insecure students. Their concerns matter a whole lot more than whether or not the Giannulli sisters will continue to attend USC.