As the amount of student loan debt continues to rise right alongside the cost of education, one major university is taking a step toward ensuring education is a possibility regardless of a family’s income.
The University of Southern California has put in place a new policy that will eliminate tuition for families that make $80,000 or less per year. Additionally, as the Los Angeles Times reports, home ownership will no longer be a determining factor in the financial aid qualification process.
USC President Carol Folt announced the initiative Thursday, and told the Times, “We really want this to be an institution where great students can attend regardless of their financial background. Education should be the great bridge across income that really is the equalizer and makes our talented, hardworking students able to make real contributions.”
The cost of an education at USC currently sits at $77,459, which includes the annual tuition of $57,256 as well as housing, food, books, and materials for the 2019-2020 school year.
As the Times reports:
USC’s action comes amid a general slowdown of efforts by some other universities across the nation to widen access for low-income students. The American Talent Initiative, launched in December 2016 to enroll 50,000 additional low- and moderate-income students at high-performing institutions, made brisk progress in the first two years but stagnated in 2018-19, a recent report found.
Both Harvard and Stanford offer tuition-free education to families that make under $150,000 per year, but their endowments—which sit at $40.9 billion and $27.7 billion respectively—are quite larger than USC’s, which is $5.7 billion.
Still, the changes will be a big boost for families struggling to juggle the cost of higher education. The financial aid process can also be a daunting one because families go into the application process only to find that owning a home counts against them and can lead to disqualification for certain types of aid.
Folt told the Times that it “just felt wrong” to disqualify families because of home ownership.
By eliminating home equity in the financial aid calculation process, more families will be eligible for increased aid, making the dream of a college education entirely possible.
Folt told the Times the school “is committed to doubling down on efforts begun in the last decade to increase financial aid and widen access for students of modest means,” and a goal of hers is to implement loan-free financial packages.
The new policy will be phased in for first-time students entering fall 2020 and spring 2021. Transfer students, unfortunately, will not qualify for the new initiatives, but they may still be able to obtain financial aid under the older policies.
“A great education should not be limited by the ability to pay,” Folt told the Times.
We agree wholeheartedly.