Types of Aid


Although financial aid for graduate students is composed primarily of federal loans, other resources are available. Depending on your eligibility, you may receive Federal Work-Study, USC or outside scholarships, and fellowships or assistantships.

USC also participates in a variety of private loan programs for interested students who qualify.

After the Financial Aid Office has processed your financial aid application, you will receive your financial aid summary, which will detail your financial need and the types of aid you qualify for.

Scholarships, Fellowships and Assistantships

Scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships are types of gift aid, which does not have to be repaid after you graduate. Scholarships and fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis by USC schools and departments, as well as by outside agencies. Check the following sources for opportunities you may qualify for:

  • Your academic department or professional school. Some departments disburse their scholarships in the form of monthly stipends paid directly to the recipient. Stipend payments are made according to the stipend schedule.
  • USC Financial Aid Office. Although our office does not award scholarships, fellowships and/or assistantships, we do administer federal aid programs, including Federal Work-Study awards, and coordinate departmental scholarships and stipends.
  • The Graduate School administers fellowship programs and provides information about non-university funding sources.
  • Federal agencies and private foundations, which support students engaged in specific fields of study.
  • Corporations, which offer fellowships or tuition reimbursement for employees.

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistantships are awarded by academic departments based on scholastic accomplishment, academic promise and competence. Your appointment may last for a maximum of one year at a time and confer both tuition credit (you must be registered for at least six (6) graduate units for credit in a full-time course) and a stipend.

Assistantships usually require 20 hours of work per week under the supervision of USC faculty. There are three types of positions. Contact your academic department to apply for any of the following:

Teaching/laboratory assistants
Students do not serve as the instructors of record but perform specific duties that assist university teaching staff. These positions help develop research and teaching skills.

Assistant lecturers
Students teach in the Freshman Writing Program; language programs in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences; the American Language Institute (ALI); and other programs approved by the Director of Graduate and Professional Programs. Assistant lecturers may serve as instructors of record.

Research assistants
Students further their own research interests by assisting faculty members in research-related tasks.


Fellowship awards consist of tuition credit and/or stipends. Most Ph.D. students at USC are fully supported by fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships or a combination of these funding sources.

Endowed USC Fellowships
Several endowed fellowships are administered by The Graduate School. Some require candidates to be nominated by their department. Others are awarded to students who apply. For more information, visit the Graduate School website.

External Fellowships
Detailed listings of outside fellowships, for study and research in the United States and abroad, and for underrepresented students, can be found on our Awards Database.

Federal Work-Study & Other Employment

Offered by the Department of Education, Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for students with exceptional financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay their education expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to a student’s course of study. Most of these jobs are on campus, but some opportunities are also available with local nonprofit agencies. Visit studentaid.gov for more information.


To receive Federal Work-Study, you must:

  • Demonstrate financial need (through the information provided in your FAFSA and any supporting documentation).
  • Meet all application deadlines.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
  • Enroll in at least 8 units for credit each semester.

Please note that students will not be able to use their work-study awards to pay their university bill. The bill is due before the semester begins, but work-study funds need to be earned over the course of the semester.

Work-study is limited to on-campus students only. Work-study is not offered to students in online graduate programs.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Graduate students may borrow up to a maximum of $20,500 per academic year at a fixed interest rate, regardless of financial need.

Certain health professions may be eligible for a higher amount.

Please visit studentaid.gov or for more details about the program and its benefits.

Managing the Student Contribution

After any financial aid is posted to your account, the following options are available to cover the balance of your cost of attendance.

  • Savings or current income. Pay the USC Cashier’s Office directly.
  • The USC Payment Plan: Establish an interest-free line of credit for tuition, fees, university housing and other student expenses. The plan is billed in five monthly installments per semester. There is an application fee of $50. For more information, visit the Student Financial Services website.
  • The USC Prepayment Plan: Prepay up to five years of full-time tuition and mandatory fees, locking in current tuition rates. For more information, visit the Student Financial Services website.
  • Additional loans for all or part of the amount. Apply for the amount you will need for the entire academic year.

Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan

If you choose to borrow loans to manage your contribution, we recommend you start with the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan. It features a fixed interest rate and more favorable terms than most private loans. You may defer repayment while you are enrolled at least half-time. There is no prepayment penalty. For application information, visit our Graduate Plus Loan page.

Please note: Graduate students are not eligible for Grad PLUS Loans until they have first exhausted their eligibility for Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Private Financing

Students who need to apply for private loans must typically do so with a credit-worthy co-borrower, which can substantially reduce interest and fees. For more information, refer to the Private Financing section of our website.