Before Penn's Board of Trustees announced that tuition will increase another 3.9 percent for the upcoming year, members of student government met with members of the administration and a trustee to advocate against the hike.
Kat McKay, College senior and president of the Undergraduate Assembly, and Eric Tepper, College senior and member of the UA, attended these meetings prior to the Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Feb. 16, where the Board of Trustees announced the increase.
McKay and Tepper met with Penn President Amy Gutmann, Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, Vice President and University Secretary Leslie Kruhly and Vice President for Budget and Management Analysis Bonnie Gibson. They even met with Robert Levy, a member of the Board of Trustees and the chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, which was “unusual and one of a kind,” Kruhly said in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
McKay and Tepper said they met with Levy to discuss the yearly tuition increase and the possibility of considering a “student voice” in the future. Kruhly, who helped facilitate this meeting, emphasized that meetings between students and trustees are uncommon.
“Student input on all issues is something that the administration welcomes and values,” Kruhly told the DP. “Student input directly to trustees is unusual and not the norm.”
She said Levy met with the students because McKay has indicated from the beginning of her tenure in the UA that there is widespread concern among undergraduate students about tuition increases.
According to McKay and Tepper, what they told Levy was similar to the statement Tepper gave a day later at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting. In the statement, Tepper was critical of the increases and noted that if tuition continues to steadily rise at approximately 4 percent annually, it will reach over $100,000 in 11 years.
“How can we, students, administrators and Trustees, work together to continue to increase affordability at Penn?” Tepper asked in his statement.
Before meeting with Levy, McKay and Tepper met with Gibson to ask questions about the budget, tuition and financial aid. In addition to meeting with Gibson, they attended other Budget and Finance Committee meetings as well, and did research on the topics of financing and financial aid.
“It’s hard as a full-time student to learn enough to make a compelling case,” McKay said.
Gibson said she has met with curious undergraduate and graduate students before to discuss similar topics. She acknowledged, however, that she “only very occasionally” is approached by representatives of student government. She also agreed with Kruhly that McKay and Tepper’s meeting with Levy was “unusual.”
Gibson highlighted that the University is open with its budget information, even posting updated budgets online for members of the Penn community to see. She said she would not have met with McKay and Tepper if she did not believe that knowing about the budget was important.
“Students always benefit from understanding how the University works,” Gibson said.
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