When I tell people how much I have spent on my college tuition, jaws tend to drop. How can one justify spending that much money on higher education? Was it worth it?
In all honesty, I would argue that is was. However before I explain why, I think it is essential to first recognize my privilege and the resources I was provided to be in the position to receive an acceptance from a university like USC.
I graduated from The University of Southern California in 2016 and no, my parents were not millionaires and I was not a ‘trust fund baby.’ USC has been known by many as ‘The University of Spoiled Children’ and while I won’t deny that they do exist, I would argue that they do not make up the majority of the student population.
I was born into a middle-class home. My father runs our family-owned restaurant and my mother is a third-grade teacher. I was the first to be college-educated on my father’s side of the family and for them, going to a prestigious university was a dream come true (and for me too of course). My family poured in all their love and support to help me have the best possible chance of receiving a degree. I studied extremely hard in high school, scored high on my exams, and wrote a pretty personal, yet effective essay that landed me a spot in USC’s fall class of 2013.
Upon acceptance, I knew that financially it was going to be hard on my parents. For that reason, I agreed to work through school to help contribute to my tuition and took extra classes each semester to ensure an early graduation. Each semester I committed to paying $5,000 myself and took out a student loan of roughly $30,000.
But was it worth it?
Truthfully, deep down in my soul, I feel like it was worth it, and here is why. You can get far in life simply based on who you know. USC is known globally to have a very strong alumni network and community that is dedicated to supporting its graduates. I feel as though graduating from USC gave me a sense of confidence and an upper edge when looking for jobs.
Post-graduation, I was able to secure my first corporate sales job at a large company within a matter of weeks. While I would later move on to quit that job to pursue travel and writing full time; which looking back now may not have been the financially smart move; I would still argue that I do not regret the cost of my education.
I felt like the luckiest girl in the world every day that I stepped foot on campus. Walking around the massive brick buildings, having access to a surplus of resources, sitting in lectures with world-renowned professors, and never taking a class I didn’t like. I mean how many people can honestly say that about their college experience? For me, USC was the place that I grew up and blossomed. I gained a sense of self-confidence that I am not sure I would have had I gone anywhere else.
Even now in the middle of a pandemic, with millions jobless, I feel reassured in the fact that I can always fall back on my degree from The University of Southern California. Deep down, I know that when shit hits the fan like it has, I have a different level of confidence in my abilities and skills that I don’t think I would have had I gone someplace else.
Now while I do argue that paying $240k for my personal experience was worth it, I do not believe that any education should cost that much in the first place.
This is a much larger issue and one that has slowly been addressed over the years. In fact, starting this year, USC will now offer free tuition to students with families who make under $80,000 a year. A new rule that I only wish was implemented a few years prior, as it would have saved myself and my family thousands.
Now, four years post-grad, I am sitting on my couch. Unemployed and banned from continuing my work as a travel writer as most countries’ borders have been closed to Americans. While I am sometimes discouraged about my future and what lies ahead, I still have a certain level of confidence looming in my mind from knowing I went to such a great university. I am also happy to announce that I have nearly paid off all my student debt and plan to be entirely debt-free by the end fo this year.
So, while I don’t think paying $240k on my college tuition was fair, I do think it was worth it in the end.