USC

Following a year of pandemic protocol, USC raises tuition by 2% for the 2021-22 school year

The tuition increase is the lowest year-over-year increment since 1967.

USC will be raising undergraduate tuition by 2% for the 2021-22 school year, bringing the new estimated cost to be around $60,445.

According to an email sent to the USC community by Provost Charles Zukoski on March 23, this is the lowest year-over-year increment since 1967, taking into account inflation.

In an interview with Annenberg Media, Zukoski stated that the reason for the rise in tuition is directly correlated with the rising cost of education.

“We need to cover [the rising cost] if we are going to retain the quality of education that we deliver,” said Zukoski.

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According to the email, the mandatory fees will be $499 per semester for undergraduate students and $475 per semester for graduate students. All fees will remain at the same level with the exception of the health fee, which will be increased by $60. The additional funds will be used to expand health programs, double the number of mental health providers and increase programs in sexual assault prevention and survivor care, substance abuse education and other specialized programs.

According to 2020 USC Financial Statements, net student tuition and fees — around $1.62 billion — constituted approximately 30% of the university’s operating revenues. This is the same percentage as the previous year.

In February 2020, USC announced its affordability initiative, which would allow students whose families earn less than $80,000 annually to attend USC tuition-free beginning in fall 2020 and spring 2021. Pioneered by President Carol Folt, the initiative continued despite financial difficulties for the university during the pandemic.

In a university address in April 2020, Folt stated that USC was predicting a $300 million-$500 million operating shortfall through June 2021 and immediately took steps to reduce spending.

Over the past few years, the university has been hit with large financial demands amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including a lawsuit regarding ex-USC gynecologist George Tyndall. In late 2018, USC agreed to a $215 million settlement for victim compensation in the class-action lawsuit regarding Tyndall. A federal judge approved the settlement in Jan. 2020, but the university may be facing another lawsuit as another 25 patients came forward last fall.

USC faced another lawsuit over the summer regarding unreturned fees in which a student claimed that the refusal to refund tuition was unlawful because of “the dramatically lower quality and less valuable education and services now being provided.”

After its closure, the university announced that students would receive prorated refunds for university room, board and meals. However, despite a petition with over 7,000 signatures, Provost Zukoski later announced that the university would not provide prorated refunds for tuition.

Though the university has a $5.7 billion endowment, much of it comes from donors with legal agreements that specify what the funds can be spent on.

In the spring 2020 semester, USC received $19.3 million in grants from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This allowed students to apply for up to $3,000 in assistance for COVID-19-related emergencies. Undocumented and international students were not eligible for assistance.

According to Zukoski, the CARES Act funds were directed “totally towards students.” Spending data reported through Nov. 30 found that roughly $9.6 million was awarded to students while $5.2 million was allotted as the “institutional portion.” Under the CARES Act, universities are allowed to use up to half the funds they receive, defined as the institutional portion, to cover “costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus.”

In regards to the second stimulus of CARES Act funding, Zukoski said the university is still waiting to hear about policies dictating what the new funding can be used for.

“There is a certain amount that goes explicitly to cover costs of students and then there is the section that is flexible and can be used to cover institutional costs,” said Zukoski. “The CARES Act money was not designed to offset tuition increases.”

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will also make nearly $40 million available to higher education institutions through September 2023. USC is still seeking guidance from the Department of Education regarding the amount the university will receive.

Los Angeles recently entered the red tier of California’s reopening framework, allowing USC to move forward with its Project Restart to gradually reopen on-campus activities. The university is expecting to follow a typical academic calendar, with breaks implemented for 2021-22.

Story updated March 25, 2021 at 10:41 p.m.: This story was updated to more accurately reflect that the university agreed to pay the $215 million settlement to victims of former campus gynecologist George Tyndall in late 2018.