High student debt levels have come to the forefront of the election debates this year. Last Thursday, the University of Southern California (USC) announced it will tackle high tuition costs by offering full undergraduate tuition waivers for American students from families with annual incomes of $80,000 or less.
The policy will be instituted this coming fall and hopes to help the university recruit more socio-economically diverse students. Tuition at USC was roughly $57,000 this academic year, so it is unsurprising that many low and middle-income students choose to attend a public university or another private school which offers more competitive financial aid. The new policy will also take into account the rising cost of living in California. Owning a home will no longer be considered in the calculation used to determine a student’s financial need.
The tuition waiver strategy has been taken up by schools on both ends of the tuition spectrum. Many community colleges in cities like Chicago and states like Tennessee offer similar programs as well as elite private schools like Harvard and Stanford. The University of California public system’s “Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan” uses the same $80,000 threshold for its tuition-free education.
USC says about a third of the fall 2020 and spring 2021 entering classes will benefit either from free tuition or larger aid packages under the new policy.
We’d love to see the outrageously high cost of tuition fall in the US, but for the time being, policies such as the one adopted by USC at least make higher education more attainable for students from low-income families.