USC’s Free Tuition Sounds like a Stunt

By Michaela Thomas

The University of Southern California just announced a new tuition plan for financially disadvantaged students. But due to the words of a student loan expert, does this tuition plan actually help those underprivileged or is it like this expert says and it is nothing more than a publicity stunt?

On Thursday, Feb. 20 USC announced a new plan that will offer free tuition beginning Fall 2020 for students from families that earn $80,000 or less. With this plan, the school will increase its undergraduate student aid by more than $30 million per year. Also, homeownership will no longer be a factor in determining a student’s financial based need. 

The school expects this plan to increase and help aid more than 4,000 students. A third of new students are expected to benefit from this new plan. And even current students who are eligible for this plan can receive up to $45,000 more in financial aid. 

Now while many were excited about USC making a life-changing plan for not financially well off students, others were not as impressed. Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab is a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University. 

She told Yahoo Money that, “It’s a brilliant PR stunt on their side.” According to this plan, only tuition is covered and room and board are not also covered under this plan.

Tuition is roughly $58,000 a year while living costs are averaging $18,000 for an academic year. Dr. Goldrick-Rab said that these students are already receiving a significant amount in financial aid and that these students are having major problems with the living costs. 

Dr. Goldrick-Rab also said that this is nothing more than a reaction to the infamous admission scandal that the university faced. 

My personal opinion is that I don’t actually think this helps students like they want people to believe. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) students who are currently at USC with an income under $80,000 are currently paying between $15,000-$21,000 which are approximately the room and board cost. It seems like this new plan doesn’t really help at all.

To me, this really does just seem like a publicity stunt that USC wants to use  to get back on people’s good graces. After the USC scandal, I was wondering what their next move was gonna be and I am disappointed.

A lot of students think that they will be able to get a lot of money and current students might think that they will get more money but that just isn’t the case and that is really sad.

Even though tuition will be covered, trying to figure out how to gather $21,000 when your family is already making $80,000 or less a year that is a lot of money to try and figure out.

Also the fact that USC is an extremely selective school and low-income students don’t get admitted to these very elite and high ranking schools is also a shame. 

It’s almost as if they are saying, ‘yeah we’ll help you a little bit, but let’s see if you can even get in first,’ especially since they are not doing anything to change their actual admission policy or numbers.  

I also think that if they were going to start offering free tuition it should also be offered to student families who make more than this as well. Schools like Harvard, Stanford, Rice University and U.C. Berkley offers similar options for families making $150,000 – $65,000 depending on the school.

Although some families might make more than $80,000 that does not mean that their families are financially secure. 

Personally I was accepted into USC and the main reason that I could not attend was the lack of financial aid because on paper my parents might make more than $80,000 a year but that does not mean I can attend an expensive school like USC without a lot more help than what they offered.

I definitely believe the school needs to go back to the drawing board. They need to be able to help these students with more than just tuition but also their living cost as well. 

This plan also needs to accommodate more students as well because a lot of students are exiting with crushing student loan debt.

Michaela Thomas can be reached at


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