COUNTERPOINT: USC should represent students currently paying for rising tuition

Link: COUNTERPOINT: USC should represent students currently paying for rising tuition

By Shauli Bar-On

Tuition increases are common practice in colleges around the country. Annually, every school increases the cost of attendance. These tuition increases are to account for inflation, to fund projects and to tackle important issues. With a tuition increase of $1,872, or 3.5 percent, USC’s 2018-19 school year tuition will be $55,320.

The rate of inflation for the United States dollar is projected to be 2.38 percent, meaning that the upcoming tuition hike, while low compared to years past, will give USC more money to work with in the next academic year. Rather than add to the paychecks of faculty and administrators, USC said it will be adding to its financial aid pool, one of the largest in the nation.

So, in other words, USC is raising tuition in order to help students with the high cost of tuition. Wouldn’t it make more sense to charge everyone less and save all the trouble? Regardless, there are many ways USC can use its increased funds to support the current student body as well as incoming classes. Since current students will be asked to pay more, they too deserve to see tangible, added benefits to their university life. While changes to financial aid policy can certainly benefit students looking forward, USC should first and foremost be focusing on the best interest of its current paying students. 

It’s a similar concept to a taxation vote in Congress: Proposed tax increases or decreases are presented alongside a budget so our representatives can vote not only on the tax, but also on where that tax money is going or what department that money is being cut from. We don’t have that at USC. We are being handed a new bill with no say in where that money goes.

The possibilities for how USC can aid its current students are endless: Some suggestions may include paying for L.A. METRO passes or sponsoring complimentary shuttles to and from the airport during break weeks.

The bottom line is that each group of students may have different priorities for how USC should spend their tuition money. As such, USC would benefit from polling the student body and issuing a survey asking students what they want to see improved at the University. There are probably dozens of improvements students want that the faculty isn’t the slightest bit aware of, merely because they have never bothered to ask. Since the students and their families are the ones paying, they ought to be able to make reasonable requests for what should be done with their money. The University’s priority needs to be its current tuition-paying students.

While a 3.5 percent tuition increase doesn’t seem like much, a closer look reveals just how much more money the University will be gaining next academic year. According to University statistics, one-third of USC students receive no aid, meaning they pay full tuition. From these 6,300 students alone, USC will receive almost an extra $12 million next year. This is a conservative estimate because of the two-thirds of students who do receive some form of aid from the school, most of which are still paying some or almost all tuition.

The University maintains that full tuition only covers 78 percent of the total cost of instruction, and the average cost of attendance  — which includes housing and fees — covers just 57 percent. According to the University then, it costs them $68,523 to educate a single student. The University also claims it costs them $29,824 per student just for living expenses. That doesn’t seem accurate. Just to put that into perspective, it costs the government on average of $10,000 per year to send a child through public school, and as high as $18,000. So does it make sense that a private university spends $68,523, room and board services aside?

Of course, there is no denying that expanding the financial aid pool to benefit future students is an effective use of the new incoming funds. But with the tens of millions of dollars USC will have to budget  the next academic year, a small portion can be used to benefit current students — those who pay into this fund. After all, in order to give more, the University needs to take more. So perhaps instead of taking from current students and giving it to future ones, USC can continue to take, but enact programs that benefit both the recipients of future financial aid as well as the current student body.

Shauli Bar-On is a freshman majoring in political science. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Wednesdays.

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