Financial Aid Office to create scholarship for students who remain at home

The Financial Aid Office will award $4,000 each semester through the Undergraduate Living-at-Home Scholarship to students who normally receive financial aid for housing but who choose to remain at home this fall and next spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, Dean of Financial Aid Thomas McWhorter announced Tuesday in a Universitywide email. The announcement follows outcry from students, consolidated demands on Instagram from organizers such as @novusthinktank, and @iamstangenius and more than 2,000 signatures on a petition to halt USC’s tuition increase.

“For most of you, it has been difficult to plan for the year ahead without knowing where you will be living in the fall,” McWhorter wrote. “With COVID cases on the rise in Los Angeles, there continues to be uncertainty in our fall plans, and we realize that is a particular challenge to students receiving financial aid.”

The scholarship, along with adjustments for students in USC housing and off-campus arrangements, will be implemented once students’ housing plans are finalized, the email read. 

A July 2 email from the Financial Aid Office explained that room and board costs were not included in the calculations for total financial aid due to uncertain housing arrangements. The previous calculations were also made in the wake of a 3.5% tuition increase for the 2020-21 academic school year, a change made prior to the coronavirus pandemic, according to University officials. Institutions such as Princeton University discounted their full-year undergraduate tuition by 10% to mitigate the costs of attendance amid the ongoing crisis. 

Students who will remain in USC housing will see increased awards based on need. Confirmation fee refunds for those who canceled their contracts have been processed and application fees will be returned for those considering to terminate their contract.

Those living in off-campus housing away from family will need to provide documentation, such as a lease agreement, to the Financial Aid Office so their awards can be maximally increased based on need. The former adjustment comes after many students took to social media to detail being locked into housing agreements following the University’s decision to deliver classes primarily online.

The office aims to update financial aid packages by Aug. 3 for students who will live in USC housing and those who submit their off-campus lease agreements by July 24. 

The email also directed students to contact Student Basic Needs to relay their concerns related to technology for the upcoming term, including internet access and a computer loaning program.