University President C. L. Max Nikias believes that the limited data recently released by the Department of Education on their college “scorecard” website does not paint a full picture of USC.The new government-sponsored site features statistics on over 7,000 U.S. higher education institutions. It allows future college students the opportunity to sort and compare schools based on statistics such as graduation rate, school size and average financial aid benefits.Nikias expressed his concern for the website’s focus on quantifiable factors.“The College Scorecard metrics such as cost, access and outcomes are surely an important part of the consideration,” Nikias said, “But they do not fully take into account the academic quality of an institution as reflected in the quality of the faculty, students and curriculum. And it is these factors that have and will continue to guide USC’s academic mission.”President Barack Obama abandoned his initial effort to create a rating system for colleges in the United States. Under the original idea, all institutions of higher education would be assigned a ranking based on average student debt and post-graduation earning potential. Additionally, it would have been possible for colleges with low rankings to lose access to the billions of federal student aid dollars.Despite the lack of ratings on the new website, it still allows students and parents to compare schools based on relevant measurements. For example, students can filter schools based on average annual costs, graduation rates above 75 percent and average salaries after graduation of more than $50,000 per year.Undergraduate Student Government President Rini Sampath said there is a need for greater transparency at institutions of higher education.“I believe the new college scorecard is an innovative way to hold universities accountable for their actions,” she said. “When I was on a call with the White House earlier this summer, I brought up the need for governmental oversight of private institutions. We need some type of governmental support in our advocacy for greater accountability for spending at private universities like USC.”Sampath also mentioned that the newly consolidated data might not only help families explore affordable options, but also push colleges to focus on quality of education before profit. She said the realization that the government is keeping an eye on institutions like USC could potentially lead to future efforts to make education affordable and more worthwhile.“Students have emailed me saying they feel hopeless about their financial situation and continuing their education,” Sampath said. “There are students who work two to three jobs, skip meals, start GoFundMe’s and go sleepless in order to put themselves through school. That’s an embarrassment. I believe this college scorecard is one step forward in the larger picture of the government putting the pressure on universities to stop acting like for-profit businesses.”Since the website’s release, colleges and universities have called the quality of the 171 megabytes of data into question. The American Council on Education expressed its concern about the Department of Education compiling data without comprehensive external review.
The Undergraduate Student Government Senate will vote next week on a resolution to distribute free menstrual products in women’s restrooms and gender-neutral restrooms across campus. A USG meeting. Photo by Catherine Liang | Daily TrojanUSG’s Director of Wellness Affairs Marina Hrovat, who introduced the resolution to USG on Tuesday, co-wrote the resolution with Senator Debbie Lee.While the Engemann Student Health Center currently provides free menstrual products, Lee and Hrovat emphasized the inaccessibility of these products in their resolution. “The current university effort to supply these products to students is provided through Engemann Student Health Center, which is distant on campus, ultimately failing to meet the immediate need of students,” They wrote in the resolution.Hrovat and Lee also noted that menstrual products are taxed as luxury items when purchased in stories, increasing the financial burden on students who need menstrual supplies.“We realized that there are a lot of universities that are stepping up and taking care of this financial burden,” Marina Hrovat said. Lee cited Brown, Princeton and Stanford as universities that provide useful frameworks for a USC program.In November, Hrovat organized a week-long trial run of free menstrual products with the help of Paula Swinford, director of the Office of Wellness and Health Promotion. According to Hrovat, the products were installed in restrooms in buildings like the Gwynn Wilson Student Union and Mark Taper Hall of Humanities. Following their trial run, Hrovat and Swinford received positive student feedback. “We used a texting survey to measure student feedback,” Marina Hrovat said. “We had 99 percent full support from students who were participating in that texting-in survey. And we used a substantial amount of products that were put out for the week.”With several students supporting the need for free menstrual products in the women’s and gender-neutral restrooms, Hrovat said that the next step for this initiative is deciding on a supplier for the feminine hygiene products. While the University will be paying for the menstrual products, Hrovat is looking to contract a specific supplier so that there will be no “roadblock of having to change or switch the supplier company.” Currently, Hrovat has been in communication with two suppliers. She and Lee are meeting with Tampon Tribe, a tampon supplier, next Tuesday with hopes of a potential partnership with USC.Hrovat said her goal is to have the products in restrooms by the beginning of Fall 2018. Since there has been a lot of urgency on the University’s end, a supplier will be chosen soon.“[The initiative]’s moving quickly — there’s a lot of support, there’s a lot of urgency, so I don’t believe this will take long to accomplish because there is so much support,” Hrovat said. “Companies work at their own speed. We can do our best, but it’s a two-way deal.”Juliana Hrovat, parliamentarian for the legislative branch of USG and Marina’s sister, said that while it is normally challenging to have the University allocate the funds to pursue it, installing these products into campus restrooms is a matter of lending equal access to all students. “I think this initiative is extremely important for all women on this campus because it provides them with the resource that maybe some students on this campus aren’t able to get,” Juliana Hrovat said. “Giving all students access to this … will really help the female population at USC.”