Families making under $80,000 can now qualify to go to USC for free

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University of Southern California (USC) campus in Los Angeles. (Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The University of Southern California announced Thursday that it will eliminate tuition for students whose families have an annual income of $80,000 or less and will no longer be considering homeownership when calculating students’ financial aid.

The changes will begin with first-year students entering USC in the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021 and will be “phased in with each new entering class,” according to a news release from the university.

“We’re opening the door wider to make a USC education possible for talented students from all walks of life,” USC’s president Carol Folt said in a written statement.

Each eligible undergraduate student will get up to $45,000 more in financial aid, according to the university’s website.

Undergraduate tuition at USC is estimated at $57,256, and it can cost up to $77,459 to attend when factoring in the cost of fees, books, supplies, transportation and housing.

USC will be increasing its undergraduate aid by more than $30 million annually to help over 4,000 students once the policies are fully implemented, and officials expect that one-third of students in the fall 2020 and spring 2021 classes would benefit, according to the release.

The private university already gives out about $640 million in financial aid to undergraduate students every year and estimates that two out of three students receive some form of assistance.

No longer considering home equity as a factor will mean students would qualify for more financial aid.

When calculating aid, many of the country’s prestigious schools ask applicants about when their homes were purchased and for how much. This means that if the university calculates that the home is high in value compared to annual income, they award the student less in financial aid.

Stanford University has also removed home equity from financial aid calculations.

The Los Angeles Times compared USC’s new policies to those of the University of California, which is known for its generous financial aid and high numbers of low-income students.

Transfer students at USC will not be eligible for the new policies, but they can still receive financial aid under previous policies, the Times reported.

USC draws tens of thousands of applicants each year. In 2018, a record 64,000 people applied and only about 8,200 got in— an 11% acceptance rate.

“This significant step we are taking today is by no means the end of our affordability journey,” Folt’s statement read. “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.”

Folt was named the university’s president last year as USC dealt with the fallback from the college admissions bribery scandal, which involved charges against wealthy parents who prosecutors say paid large sums so their children would get a spot at the university.

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