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Photo: Cindy Chen

It is not uncommon while sitting in a College course to see students from Engineering, Nursing or Wharton sitting next to you.

This is largely because of Penn's well-advertised "interdisciplinary" aspect of the undergraduate education. Undergraduates are often encouraged — and sometimes required — to take classes in one of the four undergraduate schools outside of their "home school." 

When they take classes offered in different schools at Penn, however, part of their tuition gets re-allocated to the school that the class is being offered. 

This in turn, means that each undergraduate school does not make its tuition revenue exclusively based on the number of students enrolled each respective school, but rather, on the number of undergraduate students across all four schools actually taking the courses offered by the school.

In 2016, 53 percent of the undergraduate student body was enrolled in the College of Arts and Science, but  approximately 60 percent of the total undergraduate tuition revenue was allocated to the College, said the Vice President of Budget and Management Analysis Trevor Lewis. 

At other undergraduate schools, the figures were reversed. 

The School of Engineering and Applied Science makes up 18 percent of the student body, but it only received 13 percent of tuition revenue; the School of Nursing makes up 7 percent of the student body, but only received 4 percent of the revenue; the Wharton School makes up 23 percent of the student body, but only received 20 percent of the revenue.

Photo: Julia Schorr

Lewis explained that each Penn class has the same "value" attached to it, so no course is worth more tuition than another, regardless of the school in which it is offered. Lewis was not immediately able to provide a quantitative number for this "value."

“A proportion of our tuition is directed towards the school that teaches the course,” Lewis said.  “The value of Engineering teaching a College student is equal to the value of the College teaching an Engineering student or Wharton [student]. It’s the same for all undergrads.”

The College is the largest of the four undergraduate schools, but also attracts many outside students looking to fulfill humanities requirements of their respective schools.

“The College has the most students, and they do the most teaching in terms of courses taught,” Lewis said. “They have the most revenue by far.”

Engineering Dean Vijay Kumar estimated that an average Engineering student will take half of his or her credits outside of Engineering. Most of these credits will be taken in the College, where Engineering requirements such as chemistry and math are offered. 

Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett added a single degree at Wharton requires a student to take 40 percent of his or her classes outside of Wharton.

Multiple administrators contacted by The Daily Pennsylvanian said they did not know which courses are most popular among students from outside schools. They also could not give the breakdown of what percentage of a school's classes were taken by students from different schools. Additionally, none could identify an office at Penn that precisely tracked this information. 

The Office of Budget and Management Analysis suggested the Provost's Office might have this information. The Provost's Office directed the DP to the Office of the University Registrar, which pointed to the Office of Communications. The Office did not have this data.

The person who answered a phone call to the Wharton School Office of Undergraduate Admissions said Wharton did not have this information and suggested contacting the Office of the University Registrar. This time, the Office of the University Registrar suggested contacting the Provost's Office. 

At the College office, Associate Dean of the College Kent Peterman wrote in an email that he had "no idea what [College] courses are most popular" with students outside the College. 

He continued, “Why is that important to anyone but sheep? It’s of no interest to me.”

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