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University of Southern California to Make Tuition Free for Low-Income Students

The University of Southern California is pictured in Los Angeles, California, May 22, 2018. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

The University of Southern California announced Thursday that the private university will offer free tuition beginning next fall for students from families earning $80,000 or less.

The elite Los Angeles school will increase undergraduate aid by more than $30 million per year in a move the school expects will increase financial aid to more than 4,000 students. About a third of new students who enroll for next fall or spring are expected to benefit. An eligible student can receive up to $45,000 more financial aid under the new policy.

“This expansion of the university’s financial aid package will result in more need-based financial aid for students across the income spectrum, particularly those families who are finding it increasingly difficult to pay the rising costs of a college education,” USC said in a statement Thursday announcing the policy.

In addition, the new policy will not take home ownership into account when calculating a student’s financial need. This rule change is intended to address the surging housing prices in southern California, which can warp the optics of a family’s financial situation when a large portion of their money is tied up in their house.

“This significant step we are taking today is by no means the end of our affordability journey,” USC President Carol Folt said in the press release. “We are committed to increasing USC’s population of innovators, leaders and creators regardless of their financial circumstances.”

The school said it intends to continue expanding its financial aid program over the next few years, taking “further steps” to make attending feasible for even more students.

USC’s increased generosity to low-income students comes after the school found itself mired in the widely-covered college admissions scandal last year involving more than two dozen wealthy parents, who were caught and charged with bribing officials at several prominent universities, including USC, in exchange for the acceptance of their children.

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