USC’s decision to send AirPods to new scholarship admits is insulting

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As USC’s scholarship acceptances roll out, new admits are extremely excited. From sharing their acceptances on TikTok to recording their family’s reactions to their acceptances, the class of 2025 is bouncing off the walls. USC has always given nice acceptance letters; everyone remembers the thick red box and fancy paper. However, this year it seems the new admits got an even bigger prize: AirPods. In their admission package, Marshall School of Business scholarship admits got a decorated red box, a gold-encrusted acceptance letter, an AirPods case, a pin of their state and AirPods. 

The special treatment and fast delivery are surprising, as the class of 2024 had to wait almost an entire year for a paper acceptance letter. USC told the class of 2024 that they were unable to deliver their usual red box, as the coronavirus complicated the process. Most students were understanding; after all, no one wants to endanger any workers. Although most students were accepted on March 26, 2020 through a virtual acceptance letter, they only received a physical acceptance letter in January 2021. Sadly, they did not receive the usual red box; rather a flimsy red envelope with three papers inside. 

It is not understandable why high schoolers would get their expensive acceptance boxes less than a week after acceptance while current first-year students are still waiting for theirs. 

As the AirPods are only for Marshall admits, admits from other schools are offended as well. It has been long known that USC treats some colleges better than others, but it’s surprising to see such dramatic favoritism so early on. This is not the first year USC has given better gifts to Marshall students. 

Earlier, Marshall scholarship admits would get luxurious gifts such as Amazon Fire tablets while admits from other colleges received a mug or a shirt. The backlash has been especially prominent this year, as the difference in treatment is more extreme than normal. Without even stepping foot on campus, some admits already feel less welcomed or valued for being in the Viterbi School for Engineering or Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Marshall’s gift is insulting not only to current freshmen but also to the entire university. This school year, tuition was raised 3.5% to a whopping $59,260. USC has maintained its position that tuition “will help fund the high-quality education, broad range of outstanding academic programs and important research activities that are the hallmarks of USC.” 

However, students doubt the current online classes qualify as the “outstanding academic programs” USC promised. At a time when tuition is being raised and the quality of education is worse than ever, the school’s decision to spend money on frivolous AirPods for high schoolers who are not even committed USC students yet is offensive. 

Students do not know why the school has chosen such a specific and niche thing to spend money on. However, possible reasons can be inferred from USC’s past actions and values. 

The AirPods may have been gifted to protect the school’s yield. Yield rate is the percentage of students who accept their acceptance. The school has long played the rankings game, trying to raise its yield rate and lower its acceptance rate through various methods, such as merit scholarships and nice acceptance boxes. Perhaps giving the admits AirPods was a method to encourage them to enroll at the school. 

It could also have been an attempt to bring more prestige to Marshall. After the beloved Marshall Dean James Ellis was ousted, the college quickly hired Geoffrey Garrett, the former dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. 

There was a lot of controversy surrounding this process, as Marshall hired Garrett after just four months of searching for a new dean. Garrett was the only person interviewed for the position in a list of 50 possible candidates. This process starkly contrasts the loyal Trojan Family USC often talks about; it seems like community and loyalty means nothing in the face of reputation and prestige.

In their mission statement, USC claims to prioritize students’ education and seek to “[develop] human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit.” AirPods do not contribute to the enrichment of the human mind, but perhaps this is yet another thing so complicated that administration must leave students in the dark about. After all, making current students feel welcomed or providing adequate financial aid is nothing compared to a higher yield, right?