The University of Southern California (USC), located to the southwest of downtown Los Angeles, is one of the oldest private universities in California. It’s nearly 140 years old. As of the 2018-19 school year, it had just shy of 50,000 students, about 20,000 of those in undergraduate programs. Undergraduate tuition, including housing, books, and fees, is more than $55,000 per school year.

According to Wikipedia, as many as 24 percent of USC’s undergraduate students are eligible for a Pell Grant, which means they have a total annual family income of less than $50,000. For context, California families with one child and at least one working parent need to be making at least $65,000 a year to be above the poverty level. With so many students coming from financially overburdened households, USC felt that something needed to change.

On February 20, 2020, USC President Carol L. Folt announced the institution’s two new policies. First, beginning with admissions this coming autumn, students from households which earn less than $80,000 a year will be given a full waiver on tuition. Second, the school intends to stop calculating homeownership while measuring a student’s financial needs, calling it punitive against homeowners.

Not only that, but the school plans to increase financial aid by more than $30 million annually.

“We are committed to increasing USC’s population of innovators, leaders and creators regardless of their financial circumstances,” said Folt in USC’s press release. “We’re opening the door wider to make a USC education possible for talented students from all walks of life.” This is the platform on which Folt was elected as the University’s president in September of last year.

Folt’s administration estimates that the tuition waivers and increased financial aid will help as many as one-third of the students entering in fall 2020 and spring 2021, and will allow many to attend who previously would never have had the opportunity.

In the words of USC’s undergraduate student body president, Trenton Stone, “Financial barriers should not be a deal-breaker for students with the merit and motivation to attend a top-tier research university like USC.”

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