tuition
Photo: Morgan Rees / The Daily Pennsylvanian

The 3.9 percent hike in tuition announced by the University Board of Trustees on Feb. 16 has sparked debate over who will bear the brunt of the increase.

College freshman Michelle Lu, who receives financial aid for approximately half the total cost of attendance, said that while the $3,000 tuition increase doesn’t seem like a lot incrementally, it will be significant by the end of her four years at Penn. Lu said she thinks the hike will affect students who receive partial to no financial aid most dramatically. Most individuals in need of full aid will likely still receive that assistance, she added.

“I can’t do anything but hope Student Registration and Financial Services works to keep all students enrolled and not bury them in loans,” Lu said.

Shane Goldstein, like Lu, is a college freshman who receives about half the cost of attendance in financial aid. He said he trusts that the financial aid scale will meet the tuition increase. He agreed with Lu that the increase in tuition will most likely affect those not on financial aid more, considering the financial aid budget increased as well.

“I imagine that it would probably be more of a difficulty for people who perhaps didn’t need financial aid and were able to pay full tuition, however now are going to have more difficulty paying full tuition,” Goldstein said.

College sophomore Josh Granader, who does not receive any financial aid, disagreed with Lu and Goldstein. He said that if a student is paying for the full cost of attendance, a $3,000 increase probably would not affect them significantly. He, instead, thought that tuition increase is more problematic hypothetically for someone on financial aid who would have to pay more after re-evaluations and wouldn’t be able to do so.

“If you need money, any increase will affect you more,” Granader said.

The increase is on par with Penn’s peer schools. Last year, Dartmouth College’s tuition increased by 3.8 percent, Yale University by 3.9 percent, Brown University by 4.1 percent and Georgetown University by 4 percent. Cornell University announced that for the 2017-2018 school year, its tuition will rise 3.75 percent.

SRFS spokesperson Karen Hamilton, said that SRFS evaluates every student’s circumstances annually after the cost of attendance is set for that fiscal year.

“The University is never trying to have financial consequences that hurt our families,” Hamilton said. “For students who are not aided, an increase in tuition, if it impacts their family differently, is something Student Registration and Financial Services will be willing to re-evaluate.”

Bonnie Gibson, the vice president of budget and management analysis, noted that the increase in the financial aid budget is independent of that of tuition. For example, she and Hamilton both acknowledged that the economic recession in 2008 resulted in large increases in the financial aid budget. Since 2008, the financial aid budget has increased by 122 percent. Its annual average growth has been 8.3 percent even though it has been smaller in recent years, while, on average, tuition has increased about 4 percent annually.

“One of the great drivers [of the dramatic increase in financial aid] was an incredible increase in the number of aided students between 2009 and through about 2015,” Gibson said. Gibson added that the increase in the financial aid budget “is a direct result of the recession.”

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