Progressive degree programs enable USC undergraduate students to begin work on master’s degrees while continuing to complete requirements for their bachelor’s degrees. Applicants must complete between 64 and 96 units of undergraduate coursework. A master’s degree may be awarded simultaneously with, but not before, a bachelor’s degree is awarded.

Progressive degree students may enroll in both graduate and undergraduate courses, regardless of class level.

Undergraduate Classification

In most cases, progressive degree students are classified as undergraduate students for the first eight (8) semesters of college enrollment.

While classified as undergraduate students, they are assessed the undergraduate tuition rate, and their enrollment status and financial aid eligibility are determined by undergraduate standards.

Undergraduate-level progressive degree students maintain their eligibility for Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loans and any applicable eligibility for USC Merit Scholarships or USC grants.

Graduate Classification

In the ninth semester, students exhaust their undergraduate financial aid eligibility and are reclassified as graduate students.

While classified as graduate students, they are assessed the graduate tuition rate, and their enrollment status and financial aid eligibility are determined by graduate standards. Graduate students are not eligible for federal, state or university grants.

Graduate-level progressive degree students are eligible to borrow Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans and Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans, up to the maximum yearly amounts established for graduate students.

Even if undergraduate-level students have completed fewer than eight semesters, they may be classified as graduate students under one of the following exceptions:

  1. The undergraduate degree is conferred before undergraduate financial aid eligibility has been exhausted.
    Once the undergraduate degree is posted, that student is immediately classified as a graduate student and becomes ineligible for undergraduate financial aid, even if he or she has completed fewer than eight semesters. The Registrar’s office cannot remove the undergraduate degree once it has been posted. Most financial aid applicants should therefore postpone the posting of the undergraduate degree until they have exhausted their undergraduate financial aid eligibility. A student whose undergraduate degree is posted before his or her undergraduate financial aid eligibility has been exhausted may lose eligibility for departmental or outside agency scholarships.
  2. The student is awarded a research assistantship or teaching assistantship.
    If the student receives a research or teaching assistantship, he or she will be considered a graduate student for the initial term in which the assistantship is awarded, even if he or she has completed fewer than eight semesters. These students will not be eligible to receive graduate grant funds from the Financial Aid Office.

Progressive Degree Appeals for Transfer Students

Academic departments may appeal on a transfer student’s behalf for an extension of undergraduate status if the student’s USC undergraduate program is structured such that additional time is needed. Progressive Degree Appeals (“PD Appeals”) are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Please note that all PD Appeals must be submitted to the Financial Aid Office no later than the Drop/Add date of the semester for which the student is appealing his or her class-level status. However, we strongly encourage students to submit their PD Appeals no later than six (6) weeks prior to the start of the semester so that a timely decision can be made.

To appeal, a transfer student must submit to the Financial Aid Office the following information from his or her academic advisor:

  1. A brief letter from the student’s academic advisor that includes:
    1. The student’s name and USC ID number;
    2. The student’s major;
    3. The total number of units the student’s major requires for completion;
    4. The number of units the student transferred to USC; and
    5. The number of transfer units applied to the USC degree requirements.
    Example:
    1. Mary Smith, USCID 9999-9999-99
    2. Chemical Engineering
    3. Total units required for the major: 133
    4. Units the student transferred to USC: 64
    5. Out of the 64 units that Mary transferred to USC, only 36 of these units were applied to degree requirements for this Viterbi major (including general USC and Viterbi requirements, both GE and major).
  2. A Course Approval Plan as approved by the academic advisor that outlines the remaining undergraduate and graduate courses, from the current semester to completion of both the bachelor’s and master’s degree. This Course Approval Plan must also confirm the date on which the student will finish his or her bachelor’s degree.
  3. The academic advisor’s signature block with contact information.

Progressive Degree Appeals for Students Who Entered USC As Freshmen

If special circumstances have prevented students from completing their undergraduate coursework in eight semesters, they may submit Progressive Degree Appeals (“PD Appeals”) for review. The Financial Aid Office will determine if students are eligible for extensions of their undergraduate financial aid eligibility.

Please note that all PD Appeals must be submitted to the Financial Aid Office no later than the Drop/Add date of the semester for which the student is appealing his or her class-level status. However, we strongly encourage students to submit their PD Appeals no later than six (6) weeks prior to the start of the semester so that a timely decision can be made.

To appeal, a non-transfer student must submit to the Financial Aid Office the following information from his or her academic advisor:

  1. A brief letter from the student’s academic advisor that includes:
    1. The student’s name and USCID number;
    2. The student’s major;
    3. The total number of units the student’s major requires for completion; and
    4. A brief statement from the academic advisor explaining the purpose of the appeal.
      1. The student may provide the advisor with a brief explanation of why the bachelor’s degree requirements could not be met within eight semesters.
  2. A Course Approval Plan as approved by the academic advisor that outlines the remaining undergraduate and graduate courses, from the current semester to completion of both the bachelor’s and master’s degree. This Course Approval Plan must also confirm the date on which the student will finish his or her bachelor’s degree.
  3. The academic advisor’s signature block with contact information.

Additional Notes Regarding Progressive Degree Appeals

  • For students enrolled in study abroad programs prior to being admitted to progressive degree programs, the Financial Aid Office may consider appeals for extensions of undergraduate financial aid eligibility.
  • In some circumstances, a student can be reclassified as a graduate student even though the undergraduate degree has not been posted and eight semesters of undergraduate financial aid eligibility have not been exhausted. For example, a student who is eligible for only Federal Direct Stafford Loans might prefer to borrow them at the higher graduate amounts. Such appeals may be approved if the student is enrolled in at least 4 units of graduate coursework for the semester. Once approved for graduate status, the student may not be approved for undergraduate status in a future term.

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