The families of Penn students seem to be financially stable relative to this year's unpredictable economy.
Midyear undergraduate requests for additional financial aid increased to about 90 cases this academic year compared to 60 last year, but that difference is not the "sharp rise" the University had been expecting, according to Student Financial Aid director Bill Schilling. He speculated similar situations at peer institutions.
SFS has just begun processing applications for next year and will not be able to gauge the full impact until May. However, said Schilling, "Just in my gut from the bad news we've been hearing in the media, we are anticipating a significant level of growth in the number of students requiring aid and the amount requested."
He added that SFS will review aid eligibility anytime a student's circumstances change, even midsemester.
While Penn has pulled back in faculty hiring and salaries, University President Amy Gutmann has reaffirmed the school's commitment to maintain need-blind admission for students and to implement the no-loan aid package initiative that will be fully effective this fall for all aid-eligible students, regardless of family income or class year.
So far this fiscal year, SFS has distributed a total of $131.5 million of aid to 3,838 students, $116 million of which is grant aid and of that, $102 million comes from Penn funds, according to Schilling.
The average package size was $34,269 - a slight increase of 2 percent over last year - and consisted of $30,142 in grants, $1,449 in loans and $2,678 in work-study.
Money for financial aid comes primarily from Penn's operating budget, as well as from the endowment and the employee benefits pool. About 19 percent of the endowment is set aside for aid, and its spending rate for aid increased from 4.7 to 6.5 percent this year to carry out the no-loans aid policy.
According to a December survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, 83 percent of private colleges reported lower-than-usual tuition increases for next year.
Penn recently announced a tuition increase of 3.8 percent for next year, its lowest increase in 41 years.
The increase in tuition and the endowment spending rate for aid will allow Penn to raise the budget for financial aid by $17.6 million - 15 percent - for the next academic year to implement its no-loans aid policy.
Penn's budget office is still identifying where funding for the increased budget and potential increased aid requests next year will come from, according to Schilling.
He added that if Penn's projected expenditures continue to worsen, one solution will be tapping into unspent reserve funds for aid.
Schilling also anticipated some of the increased need from students to be offset by the increase in Pell grants from the stimulus package.
"It's even more critical right now to have as robust of an aid program as we can," said Schilling.Comments powered by Disqus
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