When it comes to paying for their Penn education, international students are at a disadvantage.
While the Admissions Office is “need-blind” for students from the United States, Canada and Mexico, it “take[s] into consideration a family’s ability to pay” for international students, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda wrote in an email.
Every year, the Office of Student Financial Services provides about $8 million in financial aid to international students, compared to the $149 million that domestic students receive. International students comprise around 10 percent of Penn’s undergraduates.
Penn’s “need-aware system is a violation of its nondiscriminatory policy,” said College senior and Undergraduate Assembly Speaker Cynthia Ip, a Hong Kong native.
A number of students on the UA executive board are investigating this issue, Ip said.
Although Ip says need-blind financial aid for international students has “been on the table for a long time,” the UA has not voted on it yet.
“We often hear that there are not enough funds,” College senior and President of the Assembly of International Students Florentina Dragulescu said. She added that her organization “would like to see that the international students would rank higher in the University’s priorities.”
“Other peer universities do have these programs for international students,” she added, noting that four of the Ivies — Harvard, Yale and Princeton universities as well as Dartmouth College — have need-blind financial aid for international students.
“I know friends of mine applied to Princeton or Harvard but dismissed Penn because they wouldn’t guarantee fair admissions based on their potential,” added Dragulescu, who is from Romania.
Ip agreed. “When you’re giving such a generous aid to international students, they’re definitely going to go to the schools. This makes us less competitive.”
If Penn offered need-blind financial aid for all, it would have a “much more competitive international student class,” she added.
Many international students who do decide to apply to Penn, such as College sophomore Lana Andoni from Jordan, do not apply for financial aid even if they need it, because they believe it will compromise their acceptance.
After Andoni was admitted to Penn, she had to choose between attending the University with no financial aid or a university in Canada, where she would have to pay only $4,000 a year.
Although she said it was a very tough decision, she believes the quality of Penn’s education makes it worth the $52,000 price tag.
While Ip and Dragulescu do not think Penn will adopt this policy this year or the next, Dragulescu believes that “as more and more peer institutions get this policy, Penn will have to reevaluate.”
However, she recognized that if the University rushed into the policy, it might not be able to meet the full need of the international students admitted.
“It’ll be a process,” she conceded, “but it will happen.”
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