Folt announces expanded financial aid offerings

The University will not consider homeownership or the value of parents’ residences as a factor in the calculation of first-year students’ financial aid. The move is intended to increase affordability, President Carol Folt said. (Vincent Leo | Daily Trojan)

President Carol Folt announced Thursday that USC will make tuition free for students with a family income of $80,000 or less. This change, along with the decision to not consider homeownership when determining a student’s financial need, is expected to benefit low- and middle-income families, according to USC.

According to a news release from Folt’s office, the new policy will increase undergraduate aid by more than $30 million annually and will take effect for students of the Class of 2024 and later. It is expected to impact more than 4,000 students once implemented.

“When it’s fully implemented, $30 million a year or more … should translate directly into students’ pockets and into their families,” Folt said. “I believe that their loan debt will go down, and I think it will really encourage and make some students who would really like to come here able to come here.”

For current students, financial aid  is determined on a case-by-case basis. Homeownership was counted as an asset and used as a factor for determining financial aid for each student. The policy change will ensure that housing is not a factor when making aid determinations. Removing house ownership as a factor means that a standardized process will be used in determining aid, Folt said. 

“If you take the house out of that equation, it means that students can get more aid,” Folt said. “It produces a burden on families because we understand that your house is something that they fight hard to get and so we wanted that to be an important aspect of our plan.”

Folt said one of her priorities is to increase affordability and accessibility at USC, which is a goal she hopes to achieve with the implementation of the financial aid plan. 

“I’m very determined and committed to making sure that we are able to educate students, independent of their background or ability to pay, and this is an important step to continue in that direction,” she said. 

According to the news release, USC’s undergraduate students currently receive more than $640 million in aid funds from all sources for tuition and expenses. The University’s need-based grant funding has been expanded by more than 60% since 2010. Currently, more than 21% of undergraduates are from low-income families and two-thirds of students receive financial aid.

Provost Charles Zukoski, Vice President for Admissions and Planning Katharine Harrington, the Office of Financial Aid and academic deans also worked toward the new policy, according to the news release. 

Folt said the University will continue its need-blind policy when admitting students to USC alongside the changes to the financial aid policy.