University of Southern California

USC Benefits

Tuition Assistance/Tuition Exchange

Meet some USC employees who have taken advantage of the university's generous tuition benefits.

Tuition Assistance

Program overview

    You are eligible for 100% free tuition to obtain or finish a degree if you are:

  1. Benefits-eligible full-time faculty
  2. Benefits-eligible full-time staff
  3. Child (under age 35) of #1 or #2 (staff must have at least 2 years of service*)
  4. Child (under age 35) of grandfathered employee, or former employee with 15 years of credited service*

You are eligible for 50% reduced-rate tuition to obtain or finish a degree if you are the spouse or registered domestic partner of #1 or #2, above (staff must have at least 2 years of service*)

    In all of the above cases, the following conditions must be met:

  • You must be formally admitted to the university—tuition assistance eligibility does NOT guarantee admission
  • You have not already used Tuition Assistance toward any other degree—the benefit only applies to one degree (and is capped at 144 undergraduate or 72 graduate units, unless enrolled in a progressive degree program)

Full-time employees using Tuition Assistance for themselves are allowed a maximum of 6 units per semester or summer term, of which no more than 4 may be at the graduate level.

You are eligible for 100% free tuition to take one job-related course per semester, NOT for credit, if you are benefits-eligible staff, and have supervisor permission—no formal admission required to audit course

In all cases, Tuition Assistance is strictly limited to tuition payments and does not cover room and board, fees, books, or other expenses.

Tuition Assistance granted for undergraduate work is not taxable if a child of an employee or former employee qualifies as the employee's or former employee's dependent under applicable IRS provisions. The employee or former employee will be asked to certify this by completing a Tuition Assistance Dependent Child Certification Form available at the Payroll website. In the case of a sponsoring employee or former employee who cannot certify to this effect, any tuition assistance for undergraduate courses taken by the child will be considered taxable and reportable income. This form must be filed and renewed at the beginning of each calendar year in which the dependent child is taking undergraduate courses.

All graduate coursework is considered taxable and reportable income to the sponsoring employee.

The Tuition Assistance Benefits taxation schedule is as follows. The gross amount of the benefit will be divided into three, added to the employee's monthly pay and taxed accordingly. This may significantly impact the employee's net pay. Former employees will receive a year-end tax form for the taxable Tuition Assistance Benefit received.

Benefit taken Months taxed
Spring semesterFebruary, March and April
Summer sessionsJuly, August and September
Fall semesterOctober, November and December

When and how

    Eligibility must be established (i.e., any waiting period requirement met, etc.) on or before the first day of classes in the semester or session in which you are applying to use Tuition Assistance. Examples:

  • Your first day of employment as a USC faculty member is August 30, but the semester started August 29. You would not be able to use Tuition Assistance until the spring semester.
  • You were hired as a USC staff member January 15, 2012. The spring semester of 2014 begins on January 13. Your dependent would not be able to use Tuition Assistance until the first summer session.
  • Contact Benefits as far in advance as possible for help in determining:

  • Which forms are needed, including any tax forms you may need to complete
  • What documentation is required for establishing dependent relationships (for children, spouses and domestic partners)

Employees must submit their TAB forms before the start of every semester (including summer). Dependents, spouses and domestic partners need only submit a TAB form their first semester.

All paperwork must be completed before the registrar's settlement deadline for the relevant semester or session.

* The university's Tuition Assistance program underwent some changes in 2011; see the Tuition Assistance Benefit program document for complete information regarding eligibility and requirements.

Tuition Exchange

Children who are eligible for tuition assistance are also eligible to compete for scholarships in the Tuition Exchange program, which is not a benefit program but a selective and competitive scholarship program that allows the children to obtain their degrees from other institutions at greatly reduced cost. Tuition Exchange is a nonprofit association of 600+ schools, of which USC is a member, that administers this reciprocal scholarship program for children of eligible employees at participating institutions.

The scholarships generally cover approximately 75% to 100% of tuition costs; a few member schools may also cover some other costs (i.e., housing, etc.). Each year the Tuition Exchange national office establishes a minimum dollar value that every participating institution must provide.

USC's Tuition Exchange scholarships will be awarded for eight semesters, renewed each year dependent upon satisfactory academic progress and good conduct. Scholarships are awarded based on policies set by each member institution, and are primarily for undergraduates seeking their first bachelor's degree.

Units used under the Tuition Exchange scholarship program count against unit maximums allowed under the Tuition Assistance program.

A complete listing of participating institutions is available at the Tuition Exchange website.

Eligible employees who wish to participate in the program should carefully review the Tuition Exchange website, then submit a Tuition Exchange application prior to October 1 of their child's senior year in high school (or the year before their anticipated fall semester matriculation). Applications are available from the Tuition Exchange liaison in JHH 101. The liaison may also be contacted at (213) 740-5568 or (213) 740-6963.

As is the case with Tuition Assistance, prospective Tuition Exchange students must apply for admission through the normal admission process at the institution where they wish to attend.

Preparing your children for college

USC's Office of Admission occasionally offers sessions for employees on how to help your children prepare for higher education, understanding financial aid, and other college-related topics. See their Preparing for USC site.