educ-tTuition Assistance… and more

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:

But the educational benefit that most full-time faculty and staff most appreciate is Tuition Assistance – the benefit that allows us (or our eligible children) to earn a USC degree 100% tuition-free (and spouses 50% 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 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.
  • For our children, USC offers a comprehensive website loaded with information on how to prepare for USC (or other college) admission, beginning as early as 8th grade. In addition, Admissions offers regular sessions for employees on how to help children prepare for higher education, understanding financial aid, and other college-related topics. Contact for more information.

Apply for admission

The university does not waive any undergraduate application fees for employees or their children, but the Office of Graduate Admission does offer graduate application fee waivers for employees as well as their spouses and children.

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 before the start of every semester (including summer sessions):

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.


For your children to access the 100% tuition free benefit, the following conditions apply:

  • Must be benefits-eligible and full-time
  • If staff, you must have completed at least 2 years of service (as long as the 2-year anniversary occurs no more than 30 days from the start of the semester, the benefit will apply, so in some cases the wait period may be slightly less than 2 years)
Your child:
  • Must be your biological or legally-adopted child (children under your legal guardianship are not eligible)
  • Must be under age 35
  • Must not have already used Tuition Assistance (or Tuition Exchange) toward another degree; both programs only apply to one degree, and Tuition Assistance is capped at 144 undergraduate or 72 graduate units, unless enrolled in a progressive degree program that joins a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the same or different departments

Before their first semester, children must email a Tuition Assistance (child or spouse) form to AND – at the beginning of each calendar year that the child is enrolled in an undergraduate program, you must submit the Tuition Assistance Dependent Child Certification form to Payroll Services (see more information on taxes below).

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. If you fall into that category, you’ll need to email a Child of Employee with 15+ Years form to See the Tuition Assistance program document for details.

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 is permitted, and all the same limits mentioned in the above paragraph apply. See the Tuition Assistance program document for details.


If your spouse is accepted into a USC degree program, that program will be 50% tuition-free as long as you remain a benefits-eligible, full-time employee – and your spouse has not already used Tuition Assistance toward another 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 that joins a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the same or different departments). Spouses must email a Tuition Assistance (child or spouse) form to before their first semester.

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. This fee can only be waived if the student is a benefits-eligible USC employee (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 and your children likely qualify for this waiver.

Know the tax situation

Employees and spouses

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 supervisor certifies that the coursework is job-related, non-taxable Tuition Assistance may be available.


Tuition Assistance granted for undergraduate work is not taxable if child qualifies as the employee’s dependent under applicable IRS provisions. The employee must certify this by submitting a Tuition Assistance Dependent Child Certification form to Payroll Services 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.

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.

Consider an alternative education benefit for your child – Tuition Exchange Competitive Scholarship

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 degree from another institution at greatly reduced cost.

See how lives have been changed

That’s what USC’s educational benefits do. But don’t take our word for it…

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

Email completed forms to