USC Gould announces new need-based grant

The new grant aims to increase access to law school for students from under-resourced backgrounds.

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USC Gould School of Law has introduced a new need-based grant assisting students from under-resourced backgrounds starting in Fall 2022.

The grant’s announcement arrives on the heels of Gould welcoming its 2025 class, the most diverse and academically accomplished class in Gould history.

The need-based grant will supplement Gould’s merit-based scholarships, which have outpaced its need-based awards for the last 10 to 15 years, said David Kirschner, Gould’s associate dean of admissions and financial aid.

Graduate students can apply for the grant, which comes from funds contributed by USC Gould donors.

For students who receive the need-based awards, the scholarship will apply to all years of their education. Those awarded need-based grants will still qualify for merit-based awards.

According to Gould, 99% of J.D. students receive some form of scholarship, with $39,775 being the average value for a merit scholarship for the class of 2021. J.D. tuition for the 2022-23 academic year is $72,798.

“Very few private law schools offer need-based assistance,” Kirschner said. “It’s our desire to enroll as many low-income and economically challenged students as we can and providing need-based funds is a significant part of that.”

Gould has taken significant steps forward with diversity efforts in recent classes. The USC Gould class of 2025 has topped previous records for diversity. Composed of 66% women and almost 50% of students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, Gould wants to promote representation and accessibility in their admissions.

“We put forth a lot of effort to recruiting diverse students,” Kirschner said. “[By] traveling to HBCU universities, attending minority conferences, minority student conferences, partnering with other law schools to host panels in historically Black colleges and universities, or in support of Latinx colleges and universities.”

Emily Hansen, a J.D. student and president of USC’s Society of Women in Law, said that she thinks Gould’s class of 2025 is “a huge step in the right direction [and] somewhat of a surprise given that law is a predominantly a white male driven field.”

Hansen had a positive perspective on Gould’s new need-based grant but emphasized that law schools still have a long way to go towards improving perceptions of the real cost of law school. “I think that there is still kind of this thought that you can’t go to law school if you don’t have the resources for it,” Hansen said. “Especially being that it’s practically a rule that you cannot work your [first] year just because of how demanding it is. So I think that that’s great, but it’s barely leveling the playing field.”

Additionally, Hansen noted that law firms themselves need to entrench diversity in their hiring and promotions. “It’s important to look at the field of law in general and just think about, when are we actually going to see the effects of this in the legal industry? How long until we’re going to see more people of color as partners at law firms? How long until we see more women partners at big law firms?”

Gould awarded need-based grants to about 12% of the class of 2025. “I certainly hope we can build on that success and see that number increase in coming years,” Kirschner said.