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

February 20, 2020

Contact Ron Mackovich, rmackovi@usc.edu or Eric Abelev, abelev@usc.edu

Today President Carol L. Folt 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 in the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021:

• Families with an annual income of $80,000 or less 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.

“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 last 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 over 4,000 students every year once fully implemented. It is anticipated that approximately one-third of the fall 2020 and spring 2021 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 F. 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.”

These changes will allow USC to provide more opportunities for low- and middle-income students both in California and nationally. Eligible students will receive up to $45,000 more aid during their undergraduate studies.

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.

Click here for more information on USC’s financial aid expansion.

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