Progressive Degrees

What is a Progressive Degree Program?

Progressive degree programs enable USC undergraduate students to begin work on master’s degrees while continuing to complete requirements for their bachelor’s degrees. Applicants must complete between 64 and 96 units of undergraduate coursework. A master’s degree may be awarded simultaneously with, but not before, a bachelor’s degree is awarded.

Progressive degree students may enroll in both graduate and undergraduate courses, regardless of class level.

How Progressive Degree Class Level Affects Financial Aid

The Financial Aid Office determines aid eligibility based on a student’s class level. A progressive degree student transitions from undergraduate to graduate class level as soon as any one of the following conditions is met:

  • The bachelor’s degree is conferred; or
  • The student is awarded a graduate research or teaching assistantship as contracted through the academic department and the Graduate School; or
  • The student earns a total of 144* units.

Refer to the USC Catalogue for more details on the determination of class level for progressive degree students.

The Financial Aid Office strives to equitably distribute limited undergraduate grant funds among students pursuing their first bachelor’s degree. When classified as undergraduates, progressive degree students are considered eligible for undergraduate-level aid. As with all master’s degree students, progressive degree students classified as graduate students may be eligible for Federal Direct Unsubsidized and/or Graduate Plus loans to help with their educational expenses.

* Due to the higher number of unit requirements for the Bachelor of Architecture degree, students pursuing the five-year program will have a 176-unit limit. Except in the case of unapplied transfer units as described in the policy, no other exceptions to the 144-unit limit will be made.

Impact of Progressive Degree on Different Types of Aid

When deciding whether or not to pursue a progressive degree program, please review the information below and work with your academic advisor(s) to consider what is best for your academic and financial aid needs.


Need-Based Aid

Progressive degree students classified as undergraduates maintain any eligibility for Federal Pell Grants, Federal SEOG Grants, Cal Grants, Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, Direct Parent PLUS Loans, and University Grants. Once students transition to graduate class standing, the Financial Aid Office cannot approve undergraduate-level eligibility for need-based financial aid.

Progressive degree students who transition to graduate class standing may become eligible to borrow Direct Unsubsidized Loans up to the maximum yearly amounts established for graduate students, in addition to Direct Graduate PLUS Loans.


Merit-Based Aid, Gift Aid, and Other Awards

USC Merit Scholarships (Trustee, Presidential, Leadership, Deans and Associates)

Progressive degree students who transition to graduate class standing by exceeding the unit limit will maintain eligibility for their USC Merit Scholarships for eight semesters total (or for four to six semesters total for Transfer Merit Scholarships), as long as the bachelor’s degree remains active and renewal requirements are met. Renewal requirements for Merit Scholarships include completing 30 or more units each academic year. Both undergraduate and graduate units count toward that total. Once the bachelor’s degree has been conferred, students are no longer eligible for USC Merit Scholarships. For more information on USC Merit Scholarship eligibility requirements, please review both the Academic Honors and Fellowships webpage and the Undergraduate Admission Scholarship page.

University Scholarships Awarded and Administered by the Financial Aid Office
Progressive degree students who transition to graduate class standing by exceeding the unit limit will maintain eligibility for University Scholarships awarded and administered by the Financial Aid Office, up through the full timeframe the scholarships were awarded for, as long as the bachelor’s degree remains active and renewal requirements are met. Once the bachelor’s degree has been conferred, students are no longer eligible for University Scholarships. This policy includes University Scholarships that have been replaced by the Financial Aid Office with named Donor Scholarships. It does not include scholarships awarded and administered by academic departments. For more information on eligibility requirements for University Scholarships and other scholarships administered by the Financial Aid Office, please visit the University Scholarship Information Guide.

National Merit Scholarships
Progressive degree students who transition to graduate class standing for any reason become ineligible for the National Merit Scholarship from that point forward. The scholarship’s eligibility requirements are determined by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and cannot be changed by USC. Please review the National Merit Scholarship eligibility requirements for more information.

Academic Achievement Awards
According to the award’s eligibility page, progressive degree students are ineligible to receive an Academic Achievement Award. For more information on Academic Achievement Award eligibility, please visit the USC Academic Achievement Award page.

Departmental Awards, USC Affiliate Awards, and Outside Scholarships
Scholarships and merit-based awards not administered through the USC Office of Admission may be subject to class level eligibility policies as set by their respective awarding agencies. Please contact the awarding agencies directly for any questions about how your progressive degree program and class level may affect your continued award eligibility.

Graduate Assistantships
Progressive degree students who receive research assistantships or teaching assistantships are classified as graduate students regardless of whether or not their bachelor’s degrees have been conferred or they have reached the 144-unit limit. For more information on graduate assistantship eligibility requirements, please visit Graduate & Professional Students Types of Aid.

Tuition Assistance Benefits
Progressive degree students who transition to graduate class standing may remain eligible for Tuition Assistance Benefits (TAB), as detailed under the Limitations and Restrictions of the TAB policy. However, USC Payroll Services reports any remaining funds as taxable income to the sponsor. For more information on TAB eligibility requirements, please visit the policy webpage.

Tuition Exchange (TE)
According to the program’s information page, progressive degree students are ineligible to receive Tuition Exchange (TE) benefits. For more information on Tuition Exchange eligibility, please visit the Tuition Exchange Program page.

Progressive Degree Status Check

Transfer units and all units completed at USC, including both undergraduate- and graduate-level coursework, count toward the 144-unit limit. If you have transferred in pre-matriculation units, including AP or IB units, you may request a Progressive Degree Status Check to determine how many undergraduate units remain before you transition to graduate status. In rare cases, transfer coursework not applied toward subject requirements, electives, or the minimum unit requirement for the bachelor’s degree program may increase the 144-unit threshold that determines when a student transitions from undergraduate status to graduate status.

To request a Progressive Degree Status Check, log in to your FAST portal. Follow the link to the “Document Library” and select the “Unknown or Unlisted” type of Financial Aid Document to upload your request. State that you are requesting a Progressive Degree Status Check and provide the following information: your name and USCID number, your intended graduate academic department (e.g. Viterbi School of Engineering) and the names and email addresses of your current undergraduate and graduate academic advisors.

The results of a Progressive Degree Status Check are final and may not be challenged with the Financial Aid Office or any department of the Office of the Registrar.