USC students are no stranger to high tuition fees. It costs students about $72,273 per year to attend, according to the Financial Aid Office.

But a new study released by the Institute for College Access & Success in Oakland shows the average debt of graduates at USC is actually lower than that of a lot of other private schools in California.

At USC, 41 percent of graduates borrowed with an average debt of $27,882. At a nearby private university, Loyola Marymount, 54 percent borrowed with an average of $30,698, and at the University of San Francisco, it was 55 percent with an average of $34,114.


"Like a lot of private schools, a lot of our financial aid particularly the need-based financial aid is funded through tuition revenue. Scholarships are made possible by our generous donors, foundations and benefactors," said Thomas McWhorter, dean of USC Financial Aid.

"The big part of the capital campaign is to increase the endowment and give some more scholarships," McWhorter said.

USC spent $528 million on financial aid in the 2016-17 fiscal year. About 21 percent of the 2016 entering freshmen received a merit-based scholarship from USC, and over 60 percent received some form of financial assistance.

The report also shows that college students in California graduated with an average loan of $22,744, which was one of the lowest average debts in the nation. Only Utah with $19,975 and New Mexico with $21,373 had lower student debts on average.


"Most graduates in California attended public universities, where college costs and debt levels are typically lower than at private colleges, and so that helps California compare favorably," Debbie Cochrane, vice president of the Institute for College Access & Success and report co-author, said in an interview with the education website EdSource.

She added that California provides more grant aid, most notably through the Cal Grant program, to students than most other states, "and that also keeps students' need to borrow down."

State schools typically produce lower student debt. (Infogram)
State schools typically produce lower student debt. (Infogram)

But most of the grants and financial aid programs don't apply to international students at USC, who make up 17 percent of the student population.

Although tuition is charged at the same rate for both in-state and out-of-state residents, international students are not eligible for federal or university need-based financial aid. The Office of International Services at USC makes clear on the website that "financial aid for undergraduate international students is very limited."

"However international students do receive merit scholarships, which are rewarded without regard to need," said McWhorter.

Cilin Miao, a USC graduate student from China, said he received financial support from his parents. Talking about the financial aid from USC, he said: "I think there should be, because it is kind of expensive for international students."

Alex Chavez, a sophomore from Mexico at the Marshall School of Business, said, "I feel like USC is pretty good about scholarships, especially for domestic students." Chavez continued, "I just don't think international students have priority. I think if the universities want to give help, I think it's going to be to the American students."

But she also said the lack of options helps her appreciate her opportunities. With the financial support from her parents, she values her education more. "I feel like I should be taking advantage of everything," she added.