Tuition help for your family

USC’s Tuition Assistance is one of the university’s most appreciated benefits for children – and spouses – of employees. In addition, the Tuition Exchange program gives children of employees another possible option for tuition help.

(If you’re looking for Tuition Assistance for employees, visit this page.)

Tuition Assistance

If eligible (see below), children of employees who are admitted to USC may attend 100% tuition free.

Spouses attend at a 50% discount; spouses of employees hired on or after January 1, 2019 attend at a 25% discount.

In all cases, families are still responsible for all other fees, including housing and meal costs, books, etc.

The most comprehensive information on Tuition Assistance is contained in the Tuition Assistance Benefit policy, which should be read carefully.

For your children or spouse to access Tuition Assistance, the following conditions apply:

You:

  • Must be full-time and eligible for this benefit (see the Tuition Assistance policy).
  • If staff, you must have completed at least 2 years of service (if the 2-year anniversary occurs within 30 days of the start of the semester, the benefit will apply, so in some cases the wait period may be slightly less than 2 years).
  • If you worked for USC before July 1, 2011, you may be grandfathered into Tuition Assistance for your children if you completed a full 15 years of service; in some cases, these children can still access Tuition Assistance even if the employee no longer works for USC; additional taxes may apply (see “Know the tax situation” below).

Your child (or spouse):

  • Must apply for admission like any other applicant (USC doesn’t waive any undergraduate application fees for employee children/spouses, but the Office of Graduate Admission does offer graduate application fee waivers for both).
  • For children, must be your biological or legally-adopted child, or stepchild (children under your legal guardianship are not eligible).
  • For children, must be under age 35 (children of staff hired on or after January 1, 2019 must be under age 30).
  • Must not have already used Tuition Assistance (or Tuition Exchange) toward another degree; both programs only apply to one degree or a certain number of units, whichever comes first. Tuition Assistance is capped at 144 undergraduate or 72 graduate units, unless enrolled in a progressive degree program. See more on progressive degrees in the designated section below.
  • Note that for employees hired on or after January 1, 2019 who make over $280,000 annually, the benefit for children in graduate programs is 50% tuition.

Be aware that if both parents of an eligible child are USC employees, that does not change the child’s eligibility for Tuition Assistance – still only one degree or the prescribed number of units is permitted (whichever comes first), and all the same limits mentioned in the above paragraph apply.

Once your admitted child or spouse registers for classes, but no later than the week before the start of classes (for the first semester or summer session of enrollment), your now-registered dependent must email a Tuition Assistance Application - Child or Spouse form to uschr@usc.edu. This form is only required before your dependent first begins classes (not every semester).

If you fall into the grandfathered category mentioned above, you must email a Tuition Assistance Application - Child of Employee with 15+ Years form to uschr@usc.edu.

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:

Tuition Assistance granted for undergraduate work is not taxable if child, spouse, or registered domestic partner qualifies as a current employee’s dependent under applicable IRS provisions. The employee must certify this by submitting a Tuition Assistance - Dependent Child Certification or Tuition Assistance - Dependent Spouse or Domestic Partner Certification to payroll@usc.edu at the beginning of each calendar year. If this form is not completed, all Tuition Assistance will be considered taxable and reportable income, subject to the tax schedule below. All graduate coursework is considered taxable and reportable income and will be subject to the tax schedule below.

For former employees with 15 years of service whose dependents are grandfathered into the program, Tuition Assistance, even for undergraduate work, is considered taxable and reportable income unless the former employee retired at or after age 55, or terminated employment because of permanent disability. However, in all circumstances graduate coursework is taxable.

For situations where Tuition Assistance is 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 the tax schedule below.

Note that all certification forms, as well as any questions regarding taxation of the tuition assistance benefit, should be directed to payroll@usc.edu.

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

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 their children or spouse received the benefit; if it is found that any Tuition Assistance was applied to ineligible tuition or fees; or if 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.

Once your child enrolls, you’re not only a USC employee but also a USC parent! The university provides a great deal of information to parents – start at the USC Parents website.

As mentioned above, the tuition assistance benefit may be applied toward an officially-recognized progressive degree program.

Detailed instructions and application materials are available HERE.

Your university employment may provide your child an alternative to a USC degree. Every child who is eligible for Tuition Assistance is also eligible to compete for scholarships in the Tuition Exchange program, which is not a benefit, strictly speaking, but a selective and competitive scholarship program that allows children to earn their undergraduate degree from one of more than 600+ Tuition Exchange member schools worldwide – at greatly reduced cost.

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