"Full Tuition to Make a Home Movie": USC Film School Grapples With Reopening Amid a Pandemic
Production students at the top cinema arts institution in the U.S. face a dilemma: take a leave of absence for the fall or dive into the limited virtual offerings while paying full freight, $59,260.
On July 1, as COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles began to surge to their highest numbers since the city issued stay-at-home orders in March, the University of Southern California (USC) alerted its students that all fall undergraduate classes would move online. Days later, on July 6, the administration at the university’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) echoed the order, informing its physical production students that fall production classes, save for one graduate level course, would move online.
While the moves weren’t unexpected given the pandemic, production students at SCA now face a dilemma: take a leave of absence for the semester and hope for a future semester's return to the school’s “hands-on” approach, or dive into the what students describe as an unclear and limited virtual curriculum that could put less wealthy students at a disadvantage. All the while paying full freight in tuition — $59,260 for an undergraduate academic year. Classes begin Aug. 17.
“We are essentially being asked to pay full tuition to make a home movie,” says a junior at SCA, when describing a class overview for the fall that asks students to use their own equipment to make a project remotely. (If students don’t own a camera, faculty suggestions include using smartphone cameras.)
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