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USC Will Start Waiving Tuition For Lower-Income Students

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The University of Southern California said today that, starting next year, students from families making less than $80,000 a year will attend tuition-free.

USC joins other top U.S. universities that have moved to eliminate tuition for students from low- and middle-income families.

"We’re opening the door wider to make a USC education possible for talented students from all walks of life. This significant step we are taking today is by no means the end of our affordability journey," USC President Carol Folt said in the announcement made Thursday.

USC will also no longer consider home equity in financial aid calculations. That's expected in particular to help Californians whose home values have gone up but whose incomes haven't increased at the same pace.

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“For these students who are looking at these high price colleges, it can be a really big deal that affects their ability to pay, [because] you may have an income that is middle income but your house value, depending on where it's at, particularly on the coast and particularly in California, may look very high,” said Jessica Thompson, associate vice president of the Institute for College Access & Success.

Thompson told KPCC's Take Two this initiative might also help USC move up in national rankings and therefore help them attract more competitive applicants. She said this policy helps the school “put a brand and a message on something they’ve already been doing, which is spending a lot of money every year on institutional aid, particularly to recruit very high quality students."

The new policies will go into effect starting with first-year students enrolling in the fall of 2020 and spring 2021. They will not apply to students who are already enrolled.

Thomas McWhorter, USC's director of financial aid at USC, said that is one of many blindspots they’re hoping to address in the near future. “This is just one step on a long journey ahead to improving financial aid,” he said.