Since 2008, the number of Pell Grant recipients at Penn has risen by 60 percent.
The Federal Pell Grant Program provides financial aid that does not need to be repaid to qualifying low-income undergraduates — and 15 percent of Penn’s current freshman class received grants this year.
Director of Financial Aid Joel Carstens said that the significant increase in Pell Grant recipients is because of Penn’s recruiting efforts in low-income communities, which are now more aware of Penn’s all-grant, no-loan policy, launched in 2007.
The Office of Admissions’ partnerships with organizations including Questbridge and Say Yes to Education — nonprofits dedicated to giving low-income students access to higher education — have facilitated Penn’s efforts.
“Messages have been delivered intentionally to those groups of students that ‘you can achieve an Ivy League education without debt,’” Carstens said.
The overall amount of aid available through the Pell Grant program has increased in recent years as well, from almost $14 billion in 2007 to $35.8 billion in 2011, which was the latest year with available information. However, Carstens said that such an increase is to keep up with rising college tuition and has had little impact on the number of Pell Grants received by Penn matriculants.
Penn’s average financial aid package is $44,800, of which Pell Grants constitute about $2,000. Carstens said that in cases when qualified students do not receive the federal grant indicated in the financial aid package, Penn covers the cost with its resources on top of the amount it has promised in the original aid package.
“Our commitment as an institution far exceeds other assistance students might be getting,” he said.
Penn’s commitment to fulfill students’ financial need is reflected in the highest-ever undergraduate financial aid budget of $197 million for the 2015 fiscal year, a 4.5 percent increase from the previous year.
Carstens said that the Making History Campaign helped offset financial aid expenses.
“Penn is really proud of the incremental change we have made in helping to increase the socioeconomic diversity of our undergraduate body,” Carstens said.
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