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USC announces major financial aid expansion to benefit low- and middle-income families

Two new policies will make a USC undergraduate education more affordable for those who most need financial assistance.

affordability USC financial aid expansion
Beginning this fall, incoming USC students from families that earn annual income of $80,000 or less will attend USC tuition-free. (Photo/Peter Howard)

President Carol L. Folt on Thursday announced two new policies to make a USC undergraduate education more affordable for those who most need financial assistance. These actions will be phased in with each new entering class, beginning with first-year students entering USC this fall and spring 2021:

  • Students from U.S. families with an annual income of $80,000 or less with typical assets will attend USC tuition-free.
  • Owning a home will not be counted in the calculation used to determine a student’s financial need.

This expansion of the university’s financial aid package will result in more need-based financial aid for students across the income spectrum, particularly those families who are finding it increasingly difficult to pay the rising costs of a college education.

Investing in the talent and diversity of our student body is essential to our educational mission.

Carol L. Folt

“We’re opening the door wider to make a USC education possible for talented students from all walks of life,” said Folt, who has made access and affordability a key priority since her inauguration in the fall.

“This significant step we are taking today is by no means the end of our affordability journey. We are committed to increasing USC’s population of innovators, leaders and creators regardless of their financial circumstances. Investing in the talent and diversity of our student body is essential to our educational mission.”

As part of the new expansion, USC will increase undergraduate aid by more than $30 million annually, allowing the university to provide stronger financial assistance to more than 4,000 students every year once fully implemented. It is anticipated that about a third of the 2020-21 entering class will benefit from this increase in financial assistance.

Folt credited a team effort for seeing these significant changes to USC’s financial aid come to fruition, including student and alumni leadership, USC Provost Charles Zukoski, USC Vice President for Admissions and Planning Katharine Harrington and her team, the USC Office of Financial Aid and USC’s academic deans.

“USC is committed to educating the strongest minds, independent of background or ability to pay. For decades, USC has invested in this commitment,” Zukoski said. “With this new initiative, we will be even better positioned to recruit students from all backgrounds and strengthen the USC experience for everyone.”

A history of commitment to affordability

USC has been a longtime access leader with one of the nation’s most generous financial aid pools. Each year, USC’s undergraduate students receive over $640 million in awards from all sources for tuition and expenses. Of that, $375 million comes from USC grants and scholarships.

The university has expanded need-based grant funding by more than 60% since 2010, far exceeding the rate of tuition increases. Two-thirds of USC undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, and more than 21% of undergraduates come from low-income families.

“Our focus on financial aid distinguishes us among our peer institutions,” said Thomas McWhorter, dean of financial aid. “I’m gratified to be a part of a university that continues to push the envelope by offering these additional resources to students and their families.”

USC practices a need-blind admission process. A student’s ability to pay or need for financial aid is not considered when making admission decisions.

The impact and opportunity

“Financial barriers should not be a deal-breaker for students with the merit and motivation to attend a top-tier research university like USC,” said Undergraduate Student Government President Trenton Stone. “This plan will help make our incredible university community more accessible to a wider range of individuals from diverse financial, geographical and cultural backgrounds.”

Financial barriers should not be a deal-breaker for students with the merit and motivation to attend a top-tier research university like USC.

Trenton Stone

These changes will allow USC to provide more opportunities for low- and middle-income students both in California and nationally.

College affordability has emerged as a major campaign issue in the 2020 presidential race, with nearly all Democratic candidates expressing support for expanded financial aid for postsecondary education.

Over the next few years, USC expects to take further steps to advance financial aid to give even more students access to the best in higher education.

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USC announces major financial aid expansion to benefit low- and middle-income families

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