Bryan Barnes, 20, and Javier Bolden, 19, are accused of shooting Ying Wu and Ming Qu April 11 during what's believed to be a botched robbery.
The two engineering international graduate students were sitting in a BMW about a mile from campus in the West Adams District when they were shot and killed.
Police say shell casings tie Barnes and Bolden to the shootings, as well as other crimes committed in the area.
The case has attracted a lot of attention in China and has raised questions about the safety of the neighborhoods around the USC campus.
In court Wednesday, friends of the victims said they miss the two students, but they also had some sympathy for the suspects' families.
Friend Julia Liu said the suspects' parents may lose their sons as well, and that makes it hard for everyone involved.
"It's going to be sad for four families," Liu said.
Both men were ordered to return to court Sept. 20 for a hearing to determine a date for a preliminary hearing. They are being held without bail. They could face the death penalty if convicted.
Wu and Qu's parents have filed a lawsuit against USC, claiming the school made false claims about safety. The lawsuit accuses the university of hiding behind the word "urban" in its online application form and not saying the school is in a high-crime residential area.