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Expenses differ for students living on or off campus, with the estimated cost of attendance for students living on campus totaling $66,800 compared to $55,100 for students living at home.

Photo: Carson Kahoe

The 2015-2016 undergraduate cost of attendance is no precise calculation.

Expenses differ for students living on- or off-campus as opposed to those living at home with their parents. According to the Student Financial Services website, the estimated cost of attendance for students living on-campus is $66,800, compared with $55,100 for students living at home with family.

But there are more to these costs than can be expressed in a budget.

The total cost of attendance is made up of tuition and fees, meals, housing, books and personal expenses. There are many factors that can affect the outcome of a student’s total cost when living at home with their parents, which is why the University stresses that these comparisons cannot really be represented by fixed numbers.

With many other variables to take into consideration, the approximate amount of money that students save by living at home totals around $11,700, according to the SFS website.

“If you’re talking about a commuter school versus a residential school, Penn’s a residential school. One hundred percent of our freshmen live on campus,” Executive Director of Business Services Doug Berger said, adding that commuting is not something that Penn administrators see often because many of the students come from a wide geographic range.

There are even variables affecting costs for students who live in off-campus housing. Off-campus apartment expenses can include cable, internet, some utilities, a security deposit and usually a 12-month lease. Because these costs vary, there is no real way to put a definite number to the actual cost of off-campus rent.

In terms of dining and meal plans, the job of the school is to provide an adequate number of meals per week for the students. While freshmen are required to enroll in a meal plan, upperclassmen are not — leading them, especially those who move off-campus or have kitchens, to choose to cook instead.

Some students opt to go home on the weekends as a money-saver. Penn recognizes that there is a difference in cost between students living at home versus those living on campus because they have meals provided at home, but the situation is dependent on each individual and their own expenses.

“Most of the cost of attendance items are set by the Board of Trustees. Those happen annually — generally in the spring, they’ll make an announcement of what the tuition and fees will be,” Director of Financial Aid Joel Carstens said. “Cost is individual to students — you can’t generalize that everyone is going to save an exact dollar.”

Carstens emphasized how hard the trustees work to keep the cost of attending Penn affordable for all students.

When it comes down to the cost of attendance for undergraduate students, Vice President of Budget and Management Analysis Bonnie Gibson stressed that an accessible Penn education is the most important issue for the school to consider.

“We have an endowment, and we have philanthropy, which help to cover the other costs,” Gibson said.

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