Underlying costs of college harm students

USC must address its high prices for the fundamental requirements of students.

(Grayson Seibert / Daily Trojan)

The cost of college has increased exponentially in the past few decades. Since 1963, the cost of college has grown by nearly 140.6%, accounting for the effects of inflation. However, our scrutiny of staggering college costs often fixates solely on tuition, overlooking additional expenses that significantly contribute to the financial burden of higher education.

This narrow focus obscures the full picture of the added costs students face, accounting for thousands of dollars per year on basic requirements. Students across the country are being overwhelmed and bombarded by the additional costs of basic needs on college campuses. The use of university parking, food and health services notoriously impacts students greatly.

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These expenses, which are often underestimated or not fully considered, can pose significant financial challenges for students already grappling with tuition and living costs. As expensive and overwhelming as the price of basic living is on college campuses across the United States, it is all the more exacerbated at the University of Southern California.

USC charges students a health fee with the purpose of providing students with essential health services and resources. Despite USC’s student health fee being $669 over the average health fee in colleges across the country, according to the American College Health Association, the student health fee does not cover lab tests, immunizations or items such as crutches.

Regarding other essential services, in the 100 largest colleges in the country, the average cost of parking is $510 per year. USC, however, charges students $531 per semester for a parking permit.

In terms of meals, food options on campus at USC are significantly more expensive than the general pricing at other universities in the U.S. According to the U.S. News and World Report, the average price of a meal plan is $3,000 to $5,000 each year, while USC’s comparable meal plan charges $3,645 per semester, nearly double the cost.

In terms of campus restaurants, the widely popular C&G Juice Co. boasts nearly $10 for a smoothie, while Seeds Marketplace charges around $17 to assemble a simple salad. It is estimated that over 4 million students in higher education experience food insecurity. How, then, does USC expect students to pay these prices?

This expansive list of USC students’ exasperated cost of living does not even include the recurring and endless payments of laundry, textbooks, printing services and so much more. Students at USC are being bombarded by payments simply for the price of basic necessities they require, and at a staggeringly higher rate than other students across the country.

USC recently surveyed its students and staff to establish new principal unifying values to strive towards. One of these values is, ironically enough, well-being. USC is notorious for being one of the most expensive universities in the nation, boasting a total estimated price of $91,000 annually. 

This staggering sum is all the more detrimental to students when including the additional costs of health requirements not covered by the student health fee and eating at campus restaurants. The current financial strain imposed by both incredibly high tuition and the University’s additional costs on basic necessities directly contradicts this unifying value.

Addressing the financial strain imposed by exorbitant tuition and additional costs on basic needs is not just a matter of convenience; it is a matter of equity and justice. The current system disproportionately burdens students from low-income and middle-class backgrounds, exacerbating existing and systemic barriers to higher education.

To actually prioritize the well-being of its students, USC needs to reassess its financial practices; this means ensuring that essential services are affordable, accessible or at the very least reasonable in comparison to other campuses. Because, at present, forcing students to fork over nearly $17 for a salad is truly not accounting for their well-being.

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