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Students on campus walkway
Students on campus walkway

USC Offers Free Tuition to Low Income Families – is it Enough?

The Golden State’s oldest private research university has announced it will expand its financial aid program to lower income families.

Under the new proposal, students from families that make under $80,000 a year will have free tuition. These changes are to be phased in starting in the Fall of 2020.

USC’s undergraduate tuition for 2019-2020 cost $57,256, which makes it the second highest in the state. It does not include other costs such as housing, transportation, and meals. That price is out of reach for many families, and it is the same for in-state and out-of-state students due to USC being a private institution.

California has the highest poverty rate in the country when taking into account how many people rely on government assistance programs, or the supplemental poverty measure (SPM). To make things worse, Los Angeles County (where USC calls home) has the highest poverty rate in the state at 23%. Latinos disproportionally make up the greatest share of those living below the poverty line in Southern California at 23.6% according to a 2017 study by the Public Policy Institute of California. 

So what else is being done to help California students get a college education? The state’s budget allows students to attend free community college for 2 years so long as they are full time. There’s also a number of Cal Grants that help pay for non-tuition costs, but are competed for amongst hundreds of thousands of incoming students.

USC’s new financial aid is suggested to help around one third of incoming freshman, but the University and the state as a whole have a long way to go towards making higher education more accessible.

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