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Credit: Julia Schorr

On Saturday, Jan. 20, President Donald Trump will mark one year since his inauguration while his alma mater, Penn, marks the first full year of having a graduate in the country's top office. 

While boasting about an Ivy League education is not uncommon, Trump has cited his academic credentials more frequently and more assertively than his predecessors. And regardless of what students, alumni, or faculty think about the 1968 graduate, the Penn brand has now inevitably entered the national discussion surrounding Trump’s administration, personal background, and combative late-night tweets. 

As we fast approach the one-year mark, The Daily Pennsylvanian decided to count just how many times Trump has called on Penn in relation to himself. The results speak for themselves: Since May 16, 2015, Trump is documented to have referenced his education 93 separate times.

This number was derived from aggregating instances of Trump saying words related to either Penn or to his time as a student. This project uses data from Factbase’s archive of Trump’s speeches, debates, tweets, and other forms of public commentary.

From June 16, 2015 to Jan. 11, 2018 where he mentioned Wharton in his interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump has said “Wharton” 52 times. Over the same time period, he has noted that he went to an Ivy League school 12 times, and referred to himself as a “good student” (or some variant like “great” or “excellent”) 27 times. 

From 1902 to 1971, Penn's business school was known as the "Wharton School of Finance and Commerce," though this was changed in 1972 to just the "Wharton School." Nonetheless, Trump's name of choice for his alma mater seems to be the “Wharton School of Finance."

Out of the 52 times that he has mentioned Wharton in the past 32 months, Trump has used the name the "Wharton School of Finance" 31 times, which is approximately 60 percent of his total mentions of Wharton.

In contrast, Trump has also mentioned the University of Pennsylvania by its full name only twice, neither of which were in reference to himself. 

The first instance, which took place in an interview with Chris Matthews of MSNBC on Mar. 30, 2016, was to mention a 1999 interview with Matthews that took place at Irvine Auditorium. And even during that interview, Trump used the term "Wharton" rather than "Penn" to index his credibility.  

“I could be married in 24 hours if need be. That’s what happens when you go to Wharton,” Trump said during the interview. 


This is one of several stories that The Daily Pennsylvanian has written about Trump and his connections to Penn. Here is a guide to all of our stories from 2017, which include an investigation into his academic performance at Penn as well as his ambiguous financial contributions to the University.


The second reference, which took place only a day later, was made in a Washington Post interview, in which Trump mentioned his daughter, 2016 College graduate Tiffany Trump. 

“Tiffany, my daughter, she’s a very smart young woman, she’s up at University of Pennsylvania doing great,” he said. 

Of all the information documented in Factbase's archive, Trump has never once mentioned Fordham University, the school he attended for two years before transferring to Penn.

The bulk of the times that Trump mentioned his alma mater and his performance as a student are condensed largely toward his time on the campaign trail. Since taking office, he has said any of these terms only eight times. There is no record of him mentioning these terms between the election in November 2016 and his inauguration in January 2017.

While campaigning, Trump mentioned his college education often as a means to assert credibility, and often when comparing himself to others. Of the 11 times he mentioned the Ivy League before the election, he also referenced the Obama administration or other presidential candidates seven times.

“Our leadership — I went to an Ivy League school. But there’s some words that you can’t describe any better," Trump said in a rally on Oct. 24, 2016 in Florida. "Our leadership is stupid, these are stupid people.”

In general, Trump seems to equate going to Wharton with intelligence, usually referencing his alma mater in conjunction with a description of himself as a "good student" or of the school as the "best."

At a rally in Arkansas on Feb. 27, 2016, Trump used his Ivy League credential to specifically insult then GOP candidate Marco Rubio.

“So I went to the Wharton School of Finance, which is considered the best business school, okay? Gotta be very smart to get into that school, very smart. The Rubios of the world cannot get into that school, believe me.”

In other instances, Trump both boasts and dismisses his Wharton education to assert differing messages about his platform. 

"I was really a good student, at the greatest school, the Wharton School of Finance and you don't have to go to Wharton, you can — you don't have to go to school. How does it help us to have Carrier go to Mexico?" Trump said on Feb. 7, 2016, referencing Carrier Air Conditioner's announcement a month earlier to move its manufacturing plant to Mexico.

When in Pennsylvania, however, Trump has primarily used his education to connect with voters. He mentioned one of the four terms six times at rallies in the state, making it one of the states with the most mentions of any of the terms.

Often, Trump specifically called attention to the fact that he was pointing out Wharton and his education there because of its proximity to the rally attendees.

“Hey, the Wharton School of Finance right here in this great state, right? But — but the best school, best school, number one, best school," he said at a rally in Scranton, Pa. on July 27, 2016.


This article is part of a data journalism project. If you're interested in reading all of Trump's individual mentions of his education or want to learn about how the data was gathered, check out our source code here.

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