Tuition assistance for employees
(If you’re looking for tuition assistance information for your children or spouse, visit Tuition help for your family.)
Although USC’s Tuition Assistance is one of the university’s most appreciated benefits, working at a major private research university has many educational perks:
- An abundance of free lectures, concerts, and other campus events open to all of us as faculty and staff. The Employee Gateway lists many of these every day.
- USC employees, by virtue of the university’s status as a nonprofit tax-exempt organization, may qualify for public service student loan forgiveness.
- Some specialized employees (nurses) are eligible for some reimbursement for job-related coursework offered by accredited schools.
- Employees may take job-related coursework at USC if tuition is paid by their department, or they may take a class for audit if approved by the academic department in question. (To do so, email the Staff Job-Related Audit form to email@example.com, and submit the Limited Status program form to the Registrar’s office in the lobby of JHH. See bottom of this page for forms.) Employees who register for a course must abide by the university’s registration deadlines to avoid late registration fees. Note that staff hired on or after January 1, 2019 must complete two years of service before enrolling in a course for audit.
But the educational benefit that many full-time employees most appreciate is Tuition Assistance – the benefit that allows us to earn a USC degree 100% tuition-free. Here’s what you need to know to access this benefit.
Prepare for admission to a degree program
- USC is hard to get into! The university is very selective in admissions. Faculty or staff who wish to be accepted into a degree program should consult with the Office of Admissions, or an academic advisor in the school where they would like to enroll. Faculty should also consult with their dean of faculty or dean.
- Staff hired on or after January 1, 2019 must complete two years of service before enrolling in a degree program; they must also stay actively employed by USC for two additional years (total four years of service) to avoid having to repay tuition.
- Staff wishing to earn an undergraduate degree might consider beginning their collegiate studies at a community college and apply as a transfer student to USC. More information is available at the Transfer Applicants website.
- Employees wishing to earn a graduate degree should consult the Graduate Admission website.
Apply for admission
The university does not waive any undergraduate application fees for employees, but the Office of Graduate Admission does offer graduate application fee waivers.
Read the official Tuition Assistance Benefit Program Document
After reading this webpage, be sure you read the Tuition Assistance Benefit program document in its entirety.
Upon acceptance – do the paperwork
If you are accepted into a USC degree program, that program will be 100% tuition-free as long as you remain a benefits-eligible, full-time employee. You’re allowed a maximum of 6 units per semester or summer term, of which no more than 4 may be at the graduate level. You must email the applicable Tuition Assistance form to firstname.lastname@example.org before the start of every semester (including summer sessions). Find your form – one of the following three – at the bottom of this page.
- Faculty Tuition Assistance form
- Staff Tuition Assistance form
- ROTC/Hebrew Union Employee Tuition Assistance form
Prepare to handle other educational costs
In all cases and under every circumstance, Tuition Assistance is strictly limited to tuition payments and does not cover room, board, books, any additional fees, or any other expenses associated with a degree program. Some additional fees include health-related charges:
- All USC students are charged a mandatory Student Health Center fee, but this fee can be waived for employees using Tuition Assistance (not a student worker).
- All USC students are also charged a mandatory Student Health Insurance fee. This fee can be waived simply by proving that you already have adequate health insurance coverage. As USC employees, you likely qualify for this waiver.
If you are a staff member, you may also be eligible for a small scholarship to offset the costs of fees, books, etc. See the Staff Assembly Scholarship webpage.
Know the tax situation
Tuition Assistance is generally considered taxable and reportable income. The gross amount of the benefit will be divided into three portions, added to the employee’s monthly pay and taxed accordingly. This may significantly affect net pay in the applicable months. See Tuition Assistance tax schedule, below. If an employee is enrolled in a graduate program and his/her manager certifies that the coursework is job-related, non-taxable Tuition Assistance may be available. See the Graduate Coursework Certification at the bottom of the page.
Tuition Assistance tax schedule
- Fall semester – taxed October, November and December
- Spring semester – taxed February, March and April
- Summer sessions – taxed July, August and September
Be aware of changing employment status while using Tuition Assistance
Employees are responsible for immediate payment to the university of any prorated amount of Tuition Assistance if a post-registration audit reveals that their employee status changed during the semester or summer session in which they received the benefit, or if it is found that any Tuition Assistance was applied to ineligible tuition or fees, or the maximum allowed units was exceeded. Please note that the first and last day of classes in any session, including summer courses, is defined by the university’s academic calendar. Staff hired on or after January 1, 2019 must complete four years of active employment to avoid having to repay tuition (see “Prepare for admission to a degree program” above).
See how lives have been changed
Meet the most recent employee graduates.
See all of USC’s “Trojans for Life” – employees who are alumni, too.
Or watch a few stories:
Forms referenced on this page
Please be sure you have read the above page carefully as it explains which forms are applicable in your situation.
Job-related coursework forms
Tuition Assistance forms
- Tuition Assistance Benefit program document
- Faculty Tuition Assistance form
- Staff Tuition Assistance form
- ROTC – Hebrew Union Employee Tuition Assistance form
- Graduate Coursework Certification form
Email completed forms to email@example.com.