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Financial Aid and Scholarships

Gamecock Guarantee

The Gamecock Guarantee is a need-based financial and academic support program to expand access to the university. Our goal is to make a Carolina degree more attainable for academically talented first-generation students from South Carolina families.

The Gamecock Guarantee promises that each eligible student’s undergraduate tuition and technology fee will be covered for four years, as long as the student continues to meet the program’s criteria. While all university students have access to programs and services that help bolster their academic achievement, students who qualify for Gamecock Guarantee will benefit from a coordinated network of offerings that can further enrich their undergraduate experiences.

At minimum, the Gamecock Guarantee provides each participant an award of $4,500. If this award combined with the total of other grants and scholarships in the student's financial aid package does not meet the cost of the undergraduate tuition and technology fee, Gamecock Guarantee will increase its support to cover the difference to reduce or eliminate the need to incur student loan debt. Twenty-seven percent of the program participants who graduated within six years did so without incurring student loan debt. 

For more information about the impact of Gamecock Guarantee, view our Facts and Figures at a Glance.

Initial Program Criteria

No special application is required. The university will identify and notify eligible students after April 1 of each year. A prospective student is eligible for the Gamecock Guarantee if he/she is a South Carolina resident and meets the following criteria:

  • applies for admission by Dec. 1
  • is admitted to the University of South Carolina’s Columbia campus
  • enrolls as a first-time, full-time freshman student in the fall semester after being admitted to a program (admission must be within five years of high school graduation)
  • pursues a bachelor’s degree
  • is a first-generation college student (neither parent completed a four-year college degree)
  • completes and submits the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and any additional documentation requested by the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships by April 1
  • family’s income for the most recently completed FAFSA is not greater than 150 percent of the Department of Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines
  • is eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant.


Renewal Criteria 

After becoming Gamecock Guarantee participants, students maintain their eligibility by:

  • remaining eligible for a Federal Pell Grant or a USC Access Grant
  • submitting the FASFA and any additional documentation requested by the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships by April 1 of each year
  • enrolling as a full-time student with at least 12 credit hours per semester and completing at least 24 credit hours by the end of the academic year, to include summer enrollment if necessary
  • making satisfactory academic progress for financial aid eligibility
  • participating in the array of programs and services offered to ensure their success
  • remaining enrolled as a full-time student at USC Columbia, pursuing a degree
  • actively pursuing a bachelor's degree
  • maintaining South Carolina residency status.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What financial support does the Gamecock Guarantee provide?

At minimum, the Gamecock Guarantee provides each participant an award of $4,500 per year for four continuous years of enrollment. If this award combined with the total of other grants and scholarships in the student's financial aid package does not meet the cost of undergraduate tuition and the technology fee, the Gamecock Guarantee will increase its support to cover the difference. In other words, Gamecock Guarantee participants who retain eligibility and graduate in four years will not pay any tuition and technology fees from their own pockets. For students who enter graduate or professional school before exhausting their four years of eligibility, the Gamecock Guarantee is limited to $4,500 per year or $2,250 per semester.

How may the Gamecock Guarantee financial award be used?

The purpose of the annual $4,500 program award is to help offset the participant's educational costs while attending the University of South Carolina Columbia. Many Gamecock Guarantee participants will find that their other awards cover or nearly cover their tuition and technology fees. If so, they can use the remaining $4,500 program award to pay for other college-related expenses such as course fees, equipment or lab fees, books and supplies, room, board or other miscellaneous expenses. Participants should diligently pursue and maintain their eligibility for other scholarships and grants. By doing so, the Gamecock Guarantee award can help to reduce or eliminate participants' need for incurring educational debt.

How does the Gamecock Guarantee work with other financial aid awards?

Gamecock Guarantee students can receive any type of financial aid to meet their cost of attendance, including room, board, books, personal, and transportation expenses. According to their needs, Gamecock Guarantee participants will be awarded financial aid that may include scholarships for which they are eligible, grants, work-study and loans when they are necessary. All Gamecock Guarantee participants must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which, in addition to establishing program eligibility, will allow them to be considered for other federal and state financial aid programs. It is the student's responsibility to pursue other opportunities for scholarships and grants.

In addition to the grant, what else do Gamecock Guarantee participants receive?

The goal of the Gamecock Guarantee is to ensure that University of South Carolina first-generation students from South Carolina families with high financial need succeed in all facets of college life and earn their degrees. To that end, all Gamecock Guarantee recipients will be enrolled in either the University's Opportunity Scholars Program, the South Carolina Honors College, the Capstone Scholars Program or another campus program that receives the approval of the director of TRIO Programs. Please note that students have to be invited to join the Capstone Scholars Program or South Carolina Honors College separately. A student who is not invited into the Capstone Scholars or South Carolina Honors College will automatically be invited into the Opportunity Scholars Program. Additionally, the Gamecock Guarantee program will coordinate student engagement in various campus services and programs that enrich the undergraduate experience.

Program components include:

  • OSP sections of Carolina Core offered at a reduced tuition rate for Gamecock Guarantee recipients in the Opportunity Scholars Program*
  • an extended orientation program prior to the beginning of classes in the first year for Gamecock Guarantee recipients in OSP*
  • intensive and ongoing academic and financial aid advising
  • special sections of the nationally recognized University 101 program
  • career exploration programs
  • comprehensive academic support services.

* Students enrolled in the South Carolina Honors College or the Capstone Scholars Program will participate in their respective programs and services.