Penn Eliminates Debt for Lots of Kids

Sometimes something happens that is just really, really cool. Yesterday, Penn did one of those things.

In case you missed it, yesterday's Daily Pennsylvanian reported that Penn is no longer going to make kids with families that make less than $50,000 take out loans. Instead, they get grants only and will graduate with no debt.

This is.... INCREDIBLE.

From the article:

Eligible students -- including those already enrolled at Penn and members of the incoming freshman class -- will not owe the University any money upon graduation. The grants will not necessarily cover all tuition costs for students who qualify, though.

Several of Penn's peer institutions have implemented similar policies providing unconditional financial aid packages to students below a certain income level in recent years.

The change, Gutmann said, will help Penn attract a more economically diverse applicant pool.

"It ... sends the accurate signal that Penn is affordable to students regardless of income," she said.

I think Amy Gutman should run for Mayor! OK, maybe not, but still, this is a wonderful thing. Penn should be seen as an accesible University for high acheiving kids from Philly, regardless of income. Now the trick is, making our public schools good enough so that Philly kids can take advantage of Penn's generosity. Such an easy task!

Either way, this is awesome.

Penn Yuppy!

Jeez man, first you go to Penn, and now you are singing it’s praises. It’s a long way from the good old days with Town Meeting and Group Skills day.

But joking aside, yes, this is cool. But don’t you think that it is just a marketing ploy? Will this really make Penn more diverse? Can programs really work if the motivation is crappy? Also, could this work somewhere else? Penn has the advantage of charging 30K a year and having a load of old money students and alumni. How can we transfer this to more schools?

marketing, sort of

Yeah, well, it is marketing, in the sense that Harvard and Yale did it, so I think there was some pressure to match them. But this is no ploy- it will cost Penn millions of dollars over the next few years.

They indeed do have the advantage of having more money than public schools. My solution? How about having a 2 year Pennsylvania service program for high school graduates (a PA Americorp), whereupon completion you get 100 percent free attendance at any four year PA State University (including Temple and PSU, plus schools like E. Stroudsburg, Shippensburg and Slippery Roc? You could complete the service before school, and get your college paid beforehand, or do it after and get your loans forgiven.

great, but overdue

I agree, this is a GREAT thing. However, it is long overdue. I'm not just picking on Penn, but all Ivy League schools and the second tier of wealthier institutions around the country. In order to sustain a system such as the one Penn has just initiated, you need to have a tremendous endowment. Perspective - less than 10% of our 3,500 institutions of higher education in the US have endowments of any sort (e.g. enough to put up a building, maybe), and less than .5% have an endowment deep enough to do this. I say overdue, because when your Harvard ($20+ billion endowment), Yale ($12 billion) and Penn (slightly more "poor" at $4 billion), it should be a no-brainer to "meet need" as it is referred to in higher education. The harsh reality is that few students from Philadelphia schools that are in the lower socioeconomic tiers will be able to gain admission to Penn. While it is encouraging to see other schools considering and/or running programs such as this around the country (UNC-Chapel Hill, Stanford and a host of other "selective schools"), a real difference could be made if these political power-players took a stand to change how education is funded around the country. Instead of, or in addition to, a need meeting program, how about reaching out to most of the legislators and politicians you educated currently serving at the state and federal level and asking them to fund, rather than cut, money to school districts, federally funded programs (TRIO, Gear-Up, Pell Grants), and public colleges.

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