How Aid Works

At USC, we meet a student’s full USC-determined financial need, with available funds from federal, state and university sources.

How Your Financial Aid Eligibility is Determined

Your eligibility for federal and university need-based aid is based on two factors: the Cost of Attendance (COA) and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), as calculated by USC.

The Cost of Attendance includes USC tuition and fees, on- or off-campus housing, a meal plan, and allowances for the estimated costs of books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses (clothing, toiletries, entertainment and so forth).

Your Expected Family Contribution is determined by analyzing your family’s financial information, such as:

  • Your parents’ taxable and untaxed income
  • Family assets (money in bank accounts, stock funds, real estate, etc.)
  • Any special circumstances your family has (such as a job loss or higher-than-average medical expenses)
  • The number of children in your family
  • How many children are full-time undergraduates in college
  • How close your parents are to retirement age

Calculating the Expected Family Contribution

All colleges use a need analysis called the Federal Methodology to determine the amount of federal student aid for which you may qualify. USC also uses its own Institutional Methodology to determine the amount of university aid for which you qualify, in addition to federal aid. Your EFC is then subtracted from the COA: 

COA – EFC = Your eligibility for financial aid

  • The EFC includes a minimum student contribution plus an estimated parent contribution.
  • USC assesses a minimum student contribution for all students. This is the amount we expect students to contribute to their education through summer earnings or other savings.
  • If your biological parents are divorced or not married, a noncustodial parent contribution may also be included in the EFC.
  • Students must apply for financial aid every year. The EFC will be adjusted to reflect any changes in a family’s financial strength. 
  • Your need-based loan and work-study eligibility can increase as you progress through your academic career. This doesn’t directly affect your eligibility for a university grant. If your EFC is relatively stable, the university grant should remain about the same or increase as tuition increases.

Visit the How Aid Works at USC section on for more details.