January 30, 2015

Scholarship and Grant Awards

USC provides undergraduate scholarships and grants to students consistent with the specifications of our generous benefactors on the basis of financial need, merit, or both. To be eligible, students must be enrolled full time in degree-granting programs, unless otherwise specified by a gift or by agreed-upon enrollment goals of the academic units. All funds provided by private and corporate donors, alumni, and university general funds held by USC and its academic units are deemed to be institutional awards. Awards must be made consistent with donor restrictions. Unless expressly approved as an exception, the total amount awarded to any USC undergraduate from institutional award funds may not exceed the student’s cost of attendance as determined by the Financial Aid Office.

The Enrollment Services Division and collaborating academic units have flexibility to accomplish annual enrollment targets through the coordination of scholarship and grant awards. Centralized coordination of scholarship fund awards is conducted through the Financial Aid and Admission Offices and applied directly to student accounts.

Enrollment targets and associated scholarship strategies are reviewed annually in accordance with integrated enrollment planning targets set jointly by the academic units and central administration. Institutional scholarship targets are approved annually by the Admission Office in consultation with the Financial Aid Office.

Award and Financial Aid Definitions

Scholarship – A scholarship is financial support based on academic achievement or other specified meritorious criteria. The donor (or designator of institutional funds) sets the criteria for recipient selection (e.g., financial need, field of study). Scholarships may be awarded on a one-time or renewable basis. Renewable scholarships must have defined criteria for retention (usually defined in terms of GPA requirements, earned hours and/or service expectations) and specified limits as to maximum number of terms or credit hours to be covered.

Grant A grant is financial support based on defined criteria that usually includes financial need. A grant recipient is selected based on these specified criteria set by federal or state governments or the institution. Grants are usually awarded for a specified academic term. They may be re-awarded for continuing academic terms after assessment as to whether the specified criteria are still in place.

PrizeRecognition based on a competition or other selection criteria. While prizes are generally awarded as culminating events, they act as scholarships for policy purposes.

StipendA fixed regular sum paid as an allowance. Stipends may be granted on a competitive basis.

Institutional aidFunds awarded at the discretion of USC decision-makers from resources held by USC and its academic units. Institutional aid encompasses both donor-provided and general funds aid. Examples include, but are not limited to: university grants, trustee scholarships, department awards, and stipends. (Awards and eligibility decisions made by sources external to USC, including federal Pell Grant, Cal Grant, National Merit Scholarship, Gates Millennium Scholarship, etc. are not considered institutional aid.) Institutional aid includes athletics grants-in-aid and tuition assistance for USC employees and dependents.

Cost of attendance – Includes tuition, fees, room and board, transportation, books and personal expenses. These costs are set by the Financial Aid Office and based on average or actual student expenditures as appropriate. See “Limits and Eligibility for Institutional Awards” below.

Specialized Categories of Institutional Aid

Certain types of institutional aid are specialized and cannot be treated as regular institutional aid. These funds are usually held by USC but are subject to additional regulations which are not controlled by the university.

Athletics grants-in-aid are awarded at the discretion of USC Athletics. Student eligibility for these awards and additional institutional and external awards must be applied consistent with NCAA regulations.

Tuition assistance for USC employees and dependents is an institutionally-provided and defined benefit for USC faculty, staff and retirees. Tuition assistance is applied in coordination with other forms of institutional aid as defined under the Limits and Eligibility section below.

Limits and Eligibility for Institutional Awards

Student eligibilityUnless otherwise specified in the specific scholarship agreement or stated through agreed-upon enrollment goals, students must be enrolled full time in a degree granting program, or in their graduating term, and in good standing academically. Students awarded scholarships and grants with further academic, programmatic, and participation qualifiers as defined by the donor or the university must meet those qualifiers to attain and retain eligibility.

Tuition and fee awardsTuition and fee awards may not exceed the amount billed (and not otherwise remitted in the form of reciprocity or tuition benefits) to the student as instructional fees or mandatory fees. Funds limited to individual billed components must specify to which component they apply (e.g., room, board, books).

Book awardsBook awards may not exceed the book allowance established by the Financial Aid Office.

Room awardsRoom awards may not exceed the highest cost USC Housing option and may not be greater than the total amount billed to the student account (whichever is less).

Board awardsBoard awards may not exceed the highest cost USC Housing meal plan option and may not be greater than the total amount billed to the student account (whichever is less).

Organizational Responsibility

Academic and other awarding unitsWhen student recipients are determined outside of the centrally managed scholarship programs, the awarding unit must select students consistent with the terms of any donative agreements; enter the student award in the Department Award module in the Student Information System; notify students in writing as to their award status and next steps so that official awards can be completed; and coordinate with other units where multiple award eligibility is a possibility. Deans of academic units or the senior officer of other awarding units (vice provost, senior vice president, etc.) will annually certify compliance with donor agreements.

Development officersDevelopment officers must communicate scholarship needs to donors, and report to donors regarding the successful selection of students and the achievement of enrollment objectives (using information provided by academic departments and the Financial Aid Office).

Financial Aid OfficeThe Financial Aid Office must comply with federal, state and university policies when it awards grants, scholarships and prizes; determine student financial need (whether by federal methodology, USC institutional methodology, or both); maintain associated systems and procedures required to facilitate the same; provide access to relevant and necessary information to assist in the collaborative awarding of scholarships; and provide to the appropriate development officers information required to develop reports to donors.

Enrollment Services DivisionThe Enrollment Services Division is responsible for communicating university enrollment strategies and goals to those persons who are part of the awarding process.

Conflict of Interest

All USC employees must avoid both actual conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts of interest with the university. The term “conflict of interest” refers to situations in which financial or other personal considerations compromise, or has the appearance of compromising, an individual’s professional judgment and ability to perform his or her responsibilities to USC.  (https://policy.usc.edu/conflict-of-interest/)

Employees must disclose any actual or potential conflicts that they may have in connection with the review, evaluation, award, and/or distribution of scholarship or other institutional award. Similarly, university representatives who are involved in the selection of recipients of university-affiliated scholarships should disclose any actual or potential conflicts of interest.

Procedures and Processing

See Appendix (below) for guidelines for reporting and recordkeeping, determination of student financial need, scholarship/grant disbursement, timely awarding, fund processing, coordination with Financial Aid, and interpretation of endowment agreements and donor language.

Responsible Office

Dean of Financial Aid

(213) 740-5445

Issued by

Michael Quick, Interim Provost
University of Southern California


Reporting and Record Keeping

The Office of University Advancement maintains the central records of all donor funds solicited, received and administered by academic and administrative units. All academic and administrative units must report all gifts to University Advancement and forward the governing donor agreement. The Office of University Advancement will maintain copies of all donor agreements. Academic units must annually report the awarding of funds to the Office of University Advancement, and the academic deans must monitor and annually certify compliance with the applicable donor requirements.

Determination of Student Financial Need

The Financial Aid Office is the university authority for determining financial need. As such, the Financial Aid Office will coordinate, determine eligibility and make the selection of recipients for all centrally awarded need-based scholarships and grants and merit scholarships that have a need-based component. The Financial Aid Office will serve as a resource to other awarding units of need-based funds to assure compliance with regulatory and donor-established obligations.

Disbursement of Scholarships and Grants

In compliance with federal student aid regulations, all scholarships and grants to USC students will be managed through the Financial Aid Office. Organizational units making awards to targeted students must do so in collaboration with the Financial Aid Office before communicating to students to assure maximization of resources and to avoid over-award situations resulting in post-notification adjustments. This guideline is intended to maximize the use of all university resources for scholarship and grants, as well as to assure clear and accurate communication with students. The Financial Aid Office will maintain a shared database of centrally awarded and unit awarded aid to facilitate enhanced communication.

Timely awarding of scholarship/grant funds

In order to have maximum impact on enrollment, March 20 of the previous academic year is set as the target date for awards to incoming freshmen students with the understanding that awards to new incoming students may continue as part of the academic unit’s strategic leverage to achieve target enrollment. Awards for continuing students and new transfer students should be completed by May 31 for the next academic year. Mid-year awards are possible but should be coordinated in advance as they often replace other aid sources and require unanticipated adjustments. Ideally, mid-year awards for continuing students should be determined 45 days before the start of the academic term.

Fund processing

All scholarship and grant funds must be processed via the appropriate departmental award modules in the Student Information System. Credit of the award is finalized with the Financial Aid Office, charged to the appropriate account, and then credited to the student bill. Award adjustments based on USC policy and federal regulations as determined by the Student Financial Aid Office are final unless preapproved.

Coordination with Financial Aid

When an institutional award is coordinated with financial aid, the student’s total assistance cannot exceed the student’s financial need, as determined by the Financial Aid Office and as allowed by federal and state regulations. Exceptions to this policy can be made with the approval of the Dean of Financial Aid. Standard coordination rules allow federal student loans to be adjusted to meet the cost of attendance and work study to be replaced by the institutional award. If the institutional award is greater than the total federal student loans and work study award, need based grant aid may be reduced.

Interpretation of Endowment Agreements and Donor Language

When the donor (or funding source) is silent on programmatic, financial need and merit requirements, the application of scholarship funds will be consistent with university and academic unit enrollment goals. Development officers, in coordination with the Financial Aid Office, are the coordinating officers for questions regarding the interpretation of scholarship language in existing donor agreements with respect to scholarship awarding requirements. The Financial Aid Office will manage the overall award process and respond to outcomes of award decisions to students. The goal is to provide proper stewardship of funds based on donor wishes while maximizing flexibility to meet enrollment strategic goals.