USC announces 3.5% tuition hike despite pandemic

USC plans to use the 3.5% tuition increase to help cover costs accrued during the coronavirus crisis, with the University projecting a $300-500 million operational deficit through June 2021. Schools such as the University of Chicago have announced tuition freezes during the pandemic.

USC has raised tuition by 3.5% for the 2020-21 academic year, according to a University statement. Full-time students will be expected to pay $59,260. Though the change was made prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, it will remain regardless of whether the incoming fall semester remains online or is conducted in-person.

USC foresees increased spending in health expenditures, technology and financial assistance, according to the statement. Other universities including the University of Chicago and the College of William & Mary have announced tuition freezes amid the pandemic. 

“The reality is that the costs of running a university continue to rise each year, and tuition only covers a portion of the cost of a student education,” the University statement read. “We anticipate an even greater need for financial assistance in the coming year, and we remain firm in our commitment to meet the financial needs of our students and their families.”

The tuition announcement follows President Carol Folt’s State of the University address announcing that USC projects an operational deficit of $300-500 million through June 2021 due to costs associated with the pandemic. To help balance the shortfall, the administration implemented pay cuts for higher-up University officials, pauses on discretionary spending and hiring and promotion freezes.

The decision also comes after the University announced in February it would waive tuition for all incoming students with an annual family income at or below $80,000 beginning with first-year students entering in Fall 2020.

With the increase, USC’s tuition and fees will total more than $60,000 for the first time in University history according to the USC Schedule of Classes website. Despite the current circumstances, the University said the change in tuition aligns with rising costs of attendance at other institutions, such as Cornell University, and resembles normal annual tuition raises.

“It mirrors last year’s change in tuition, which was among the smallest percentage increases in 50 years,” the statement read. “This increase, which is in line with our peer universities, will help fund the high-quality education, broad range of outstanding academic programs and important research activities that are the hallmarks of USC.”

USC also currently faces two class action lawsuits for declining to provide partial tuition refunds for the spring semester. The cases follow a communitywide announcement from Provost Charles Zukoski April 28 that the University will not provide prorated tuition or fee refunds despite in-person classes transitioning to virtual instruction early March amid the pandemic.