The University of Southern California announced Thursday that it would wipe out tuition for students from lower and middle-income families, becoming the latest institution to confront skyrocketing costs amid a national debate over rising student debt loads.
American students from families with annual incomes of $80,000 or less will be eligible for the full undergraduate tuition waiver at U.S.C. starting in the fall. The move comes as the school is attempting to draw students with more socio-economic diversity, competing with both the University of California system and prestigious private universities that offer generous financial aid programs.
U.S.C. is one of the largest private universities in the country, and its palm tree-lined campus of 48,500 students, where the children of immigrants study alongside those of celebrities, plays an outsize role in Los Angeles, a city wrestling with income inequality. The class divide was further emphasized by last year’s college admissions scandal, in which numerous wealthy parents were accused of bribing their children’s way into the school.
In the last decade, U.S.C. has recruited pre-eminent faculty and poured money into research to become a top-tier academic institution and athletic powerhouse. But it has also been rocked by scandal, including accusations of sexual misconduct by the longtime head gynecologist of the university’s health center, and the resignation of the dean of the medical school over allegations of drug use on campus.