It Takes a Community

USD students rely on legions of allies and fans

In 1996, then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton famously referenced the proverbial, “It takes a village to raise a child.” She suggested that the American spirit of independence and self-reliance notwithstanding, our children are, in fact, encouraged and molded and nurtured and educated (or not) by the people they encounter on their journey to adulthood.

So, too, are today’s students at the University of San Diego dependent upon the influences, guidance and assistance of an entire university community in their pursuit of their goals. They slowly come to the realization of the legions of allies and fans who have helped them get to USD and of those already here waiting to assist them, directly and indirectly, to succeed in college, graduate school or law school and to fulfill their dreams in a highly competitive and changing world.

New USD students and their parents and families are greeted in their first days on campus by their faculty preceptors, their resident assistants, their preceptor assistants, residence hall ministry staff, their peer counselors, their tutors and administrators and staff throughout the institution. Their faculty mentors, their coaches and teammates, club advisors and student government representatives sustain them. Eventually, their newfound USD friends, influences and choices shape them.

Whether they are enrolled in a four- or five-year baccalaureate program, a one- or two-year master’s degree program or a three-year law degree regimen, USD students journey to the next stage of their lives surrounded by others whose personal and professional investments in their success are important, meaningful and profound. But the academic, athletic, social and spiritual support that our students receive is only part of the story. Year after year, an increasing number of students seek essential financial aid and assistance to meet the rising cost of a baccalaureate or graduate degree. They place themselves squarely at the heart of one of the greatest challenges currently facing USD and hundreds of other campuses nationwide.

The nonprofit enterprise of higher education is not immune to the impact of a distressed economy and rising inflation. Faculty and staff salaries, campus infrastructure and utilities, necessary academic and administrative services for students, and the panoply of athletic, social, community service, cultural and recreational activities that are a part of the “total student experience” all add to the costs of keeping USD valued and viable in a highly competitive environment.

As the cumulative cost of post-secondary education in America continues to increase, so too does the need for student assistance from a wider variety of sources. Tuition and fee revenues alone underwrite about 80 percent of the average cost of educating today’s student at USD. The remaining 20 percent must be covered by auxiliary income, endowment earnings, limited and ever-shrinking state and federal grants and appropriations, student loans and philanthropy.

The availability of financial aid is a leading factor in most students’ decision to attend USD and a chief determiner of USD’s competitiveness for top-quality students. The vast majority of students at USD — 70 percent of our undergraduates, 75 percent of our graduate students and 88 percent of our law students — are flanked by a cadre of benefactors whose investments of time, expertise, service, and yes, financial support contribute to their success at the university and beyond. These are the faculty, staff, alumni, parents and grandparents, campus neighbors, individual donors, corporate sponsors, vendors and other friends whose contributions combine to help keep USD affordable for the nation’s best and brightest.

And, indeed, USD attracts the best and brightest. Today, less than half of our freshman applicants are accepted for admission. Their average GPA is 3.92. Their average basic SAT score is 1250. They are bright, talented and determined. But without our help, their success at USD is far from assured. It takes all of us — our entire university community — to assist the next generation of business men and women, entrepreneurs, civic leaders, health care professionals, educators, attorneys and peacemakers to achieve their goals and succeed us in shaping the world they will inherit.

— Timothy L. O’Malley, PhD, Vice President of University Relations