USC to Make MFA Program in Acting and Dramatic Writing Tuition Free | Playbill

Education News USC to Make MFA Program in Acting and Dramatic Writing Tuition Free

The California school joins Juilliard and Yale in making drama school more affordable.

USC School of Dramatic Arts bluestork / Shutterstock

USC School of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles has announced that its Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) programs in acting and dramatic writing will be tuition-free beginning this fall in the 2024–2025 academic year. This will apply to incoming students as well as current students in the programs. The news was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

“Removing the tuition burden for the MFA acting and writing programs is an important investment in the future of storytelling and the performing arts,” said School of Dramatic Arts Dean Emily Roxworthy in a statement. “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.”

The MFA program at USC currently enrolls 35 students, who all receive financial aid. These new scholarships are possible due to an influx in private donations, overseen by the school’s Board of Councilors, an advisory board composed of notable professionals, alumni, and community leaders.

“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,” said actor and Board Member Connie Britton in a statement. “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!”

USC alums include two-time Tony winner Swoosie Kurtz, John Ritter, Stark Sands, Anthony Sparks, Briga Heelan, and Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton.

USC's undergraduate programs also offer tuition-free attendance for U.S. students whose household annual income is $80,000 or less. Around 21% of undergraduates come from lower-income families. 

In the aftermath of last year's Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America strikes, there's been a growing call in the entertainment industry for higher wages commensurate with the increased cost of living. Young people entering the industry typically take artistic gigs for low (or sometimes no) wages. Making theatre education tuition free enables students to graduate without the burden of debt.

USC joins a number of other programs who have made their theatre programs tuition free, including Juilliard, Yale School of Drama, and the University of Central Florida.

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