A student rushes up the stairs toward the Bing Theatre.

USC School of Dramatic Arts to offer free tuition for its MFA programs

The acting and dramatic writing degrees will now have tuition costs waived for incoming and current students starting in the Fall of 2024

For the first time in its history, students attending the USC School of Dramatic Arts to receive their Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in the acting and dramatic writing programs will be attending the university tuition-free starting in the 2024-25 academic year. Incoming graduate students, as well as continuing MFA students in those programs, will no longer shoulder any tuition costs. 

The decision comes at a pivotal moment for the entertainment industry, as actors and writers navigate tightening competition for opportunities in film and TV. USC is committed to ensuring that talented individuals from diverse backgrounds have access to a world-class education without financial constraints.

“Removing the tuition burden for the MFA acting and writing programs is an important investment in the future of storytelling and the performing arts,” says School of Dramatic Arts Dean Emily Roxworthy. “So often we see exceptional talent unable to reach their potential because financial barriers keep them from accessing top-tier training. At the USC School of Dramatic Arts, we’ve been privileged to witness the unique voices and multi-hyphenated ambitions of these diverse young artists. By offering free tuition, we can now give more of these promising students the artistic home they deserve.”

This groundbreaking initiative reflects USC’s ongoing commitment to fostering a vibrant and inclusive academic community. The university recognizes the importance of diversity in both background and experience, and has implemented numerous programs to break down barriers to higher education. USC also offers an Affordability Initiative, for example, launched by President Carol Folt in 2020 to ensure tuition-free attendance for undergraduate U.S. students whose household annual income is $80,000 or less. 

The tuition-free MFA programs will allow the university to more competitively recruit extraordinarily gifted creatives who bring distinct stories and experiences to stage and screen with no financial barriers. The MFA programs serve 30 students, and 100% of them had been receiving financial assistance through scholarships or grants.

These full-tuition scholarships were possible thanks to the steady support of scholarship donors and the leadership of the School’s Board of Councilors, an advisory board composed of notable professionals, alumni, and community leaders, who inspire the generous philanthropy that will continue to grow SDA’s endowment.

“Providing full tuition scholarships to the current and incoming MFA acting and dramatic writing students is a commitment to creating opportunity for all, and emphasizes the School’s value in telling diverse stories from varied backgrounds regardless of financial means,” says Actress and Board Member Connie Britton. “We’re letting the storytellers and performers of tomorrow know that we believe in them and the power of their dreams. I’m so proud to be supporting this groundbreaking initiative!”

The university has expanded need-based grant funding by more than 60% since 2010, far exceeding the rate of tuition increases. Two-thirds of USC undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, and more than 21% of undergraduates come from low-income families.