Dawe: USC tuition a great start but more needs to be done for affordable education

The University of Southern California is making a step towards appealing to students of all socioeconomic standing.

The University of Southern California [fair use]

The University of Southern California is making a step towards appealing to students of all socioeconomic standing.

Fiona Dawe, Staff Writer

The University of Southern California (USC) recently announced an expansion to its financial aid package. Starting in fall 2020, families who make less than $80,000 annually can attend the school tuition-free. This number was chosen to align with California’s median household income of $71,000. Also, a policy that penalized homeowners will also be removed. This is an initiative that plans to encourage financial aid for students at USC who are struggling to pay for the rising costs of college tuition. USC will now raise its undergraduate aid by over $30 million annually, which will benefit almost 4,000 students each year.  

The U.S. student debt crisis has reached a critical point, with 45 million borrowers in 2019 owing over $1.5 trillion in debt. Borrowers from the class of 2017 owe, on average, a whopping $28,650. Student debt is now the second-highest consumer debt, behind mortgage debt. Because of this level of debt, more than half of graduates delay major purchases, like a car or house, due to their debt. Also, 21 percent of graduates live with their parents for at least a year after graduation. Graduates have to push back their lives, to instead focus on their debt, and it is affecting them more and more in the long run. In 2013, 30 percent of people ages 55 to 64 still had college debt, which is a drastic change from the 4 percent of people in the same age range who had college debt only 20 years ago. 

Student debt is a pressing issue that has drastic effects on graduates who can’t afford to live the life they worked so hard for. Education, previously touted as a ticket to the middle class, just adds the chains of debt to graduates who could otherwise be making large purchases and investing in the economy. A lack of expendable income to buy homes has caused more and more students to live with their parents, which is stunting the housing market. Student debt is a large problem that affects many more than just those who are taking out loans, which is something that politicians ignore. 

However, the price of tuition affects more than just the economy. The current average debt for medical school graduates is around $190,000. This discourages young physicians from specializing in lower-paid jobs, such as pediatrics and psychology, therefore creating a shortage of these positions. Instead, more people are specializing in higher-paid areas, like cardiology, which has a surplus of doctors. Specialization also causes more doctors to flock to the cities, causing around 70 rural hospitals to close since 2010. Eventually, with careful spending and planning, these doctors can afford to pay off their student loans, but jobs with less pay, like teachers and nurses, will have to carry their debt for much longer. Not to mention, any accident or unforeseen expense can throw off any careful spending and cause debt to worsen. 

The new USC financial aid package is a great start to help heal the debt crisis. Hopefully, more colleges will follow its example and create more affordable education for the next generation. However, the exact incentives behind this announcement may be less than purely for the sake of affordable education. 

Last year, USC was the center of a college admissions scandal, as Olivia Jade Giannulli, a first-year student at USC, YouTuber and daughter of Lori Laughlin, was admitted as a rower despite never actually competing with the crew. Her parents had bribed USC athletic officials into admitting both of their daughters; Olivia’s older sister, Isabella was also admitted into the school through bribes. This scandal was just another example of how rich people can cheat the system. USC got the most attention from this scandal, as Laughlin is a famous actress who is known for her roles in “Full House” and “90210.” Olivia, a popular YouTube influencer, had worked with many big-name brands such as Sephora, Estee Lauder and Amazon, several of which cut ties with her after the scandal. The new financial aid package could be a way to gain back a portion of their reputation that was lost last year.

No matter the intentions behind expanding financial aid at USC, it is still a start to help those who are suffering from unreasonable amounts of college debt. Debt is a large problem with no easy solution, and it should be solved sooner rather than later to allow more graduates to make larger purchases. These large purchases can help stimulate the economy, and less debt will allow students to pursue lower-paid jobs since they don’t have to worry about money as much.