International students face large financial burden
Many overseas applicants choose to not apply for financial aid to increase chances of admission
January 31, 2012, 8:11 pm · Updated February 1, 2012, 10:37 pm·
For College freshman Xin Wan, a $50,000-plus tuition isn’t cheap change, but he believes a Penn degree is worth the money.
Wan, who is from China, is one of many international students who choose not to apply for financial aid in order to avoid hurting their chances of gaining admission to Penn.
For students like Wan, the decision of whether or not to apply for aid is one that is not taken lightly.
Because of Penn’s policies — which do not evaluate foreign applicants on a need-blind basis — international students are sometimes hurt in the admissions process if they choose to go through with an aid application, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said.
“We’re not at the point where we can do need-blind admissions” for internationals, Penn President Amy Gutmann said.
Furda added, however, that once international students are admitted to Penn, their demonstrated needs are met entirely. On average, the University offers aid packages to 60 international students who are admitted as freshmen.
For Wan, the consequences of the decision to not apply for aid have been difficult.
“It’s definitely not that easy for my family to pay for it,” Wan said. “But generally, my family thinks it’s a good investment.”
Wan added that, while he has a job on Penn’s campus, it does little to ease the heavy burden of tuition.
Though paying for a Penn education “won’t kill my family’s financial situation,” he acknowledged that the University’s tuition could possibly “lower their living standards a little bit.”
College freshman Chengcheng Yang, who is also from China, had a different reason for not applying for financial aid.
He said that, while Penn is a good investment for down the road, his choice to apply had more to do with gaining a positive college experience.
For College sophomore Sophie Kim, who is from South Korea, the decision not to apply for aid stemmed from a different concern.
While Kim said her family is not in desperate need of aid, her tuition still puts a heavy weight on her parents because her older sister is currently considering law school.
“I’m just always looking and open for a means to relieve the financial burden,” she said.
For Kim, this includes taking on a part-time job last year, as well as cooking her own food to avoid having to pay for a meal plan.
When asked whether she thought a Penn degree was worth the current price tag, she said, “I’ve never felt like it’s not worth it. But I definitely wouldn’t say that I’m getting so much more out of it than what I’m paying.”
Though Penn would ideally like to offer need-blind aid for international students, Furda said the ultimate decision boils down to practicality.
“What can we afford and continue to do?” he said, adding that it is also important to take into account the broader context of things like the current status of the economy and the maintenance of Penn’s no-loan policy.
For Wan and Kim, there are no easy answers, and their status as international students limits the number of financial options available to them.
“I understand where they are coming from,” Kim said. “But I definitely do agree that there need to be more financial opportunities for international students.”