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The Quaker Consortium, an arrangement between Penn and three Liberal Arts colleges in the Philadelphia area — Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore and Haverford — lets students attend the other schools for certain classes. | Courtesy of Creative Commons

It might already be a pain to make the trek from your high rise apartment to DRL in the morning, but imagine having to take a train to class. 

Bryn Mawr sophomore Nam Khanh Nhat Nguyen, did just that last semester, commuting to Penn to take an Operations, Information and Decisions class in Wharton. A non-Penn student, Nguyen could take advantage of the class because of the Quaker Consortium, an arrangement between Penn and three liberal arts colleges in the Philadelphia area — Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore and Haverford — that lets students attend the other schools for certain classes. 

Nguyen took the class because Bryn Mawr doesn’t offer business classes, but it was also appealing for her just to have a change of scenery. 

“Bryn Mawr is in the suburbs, and I wanted to explore city life,” she said. 

Bryn Mawr also reimburses students for travel when they take advantage of the Consortium, another incentive for Nguyen. She said she thinks 75 percent of the people she knows at Bryn Mawr have taken a class at Penn at some point. 

Through the Consortium, Penn students can also take classes at Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore and Haverford, but it’s utilized a lot less frequently.

Associate Director of Advising Wally Pansing, who coordinates the Quaker Consortium on Penn’s side, said that “zero to 2” Penn students go to other schools for classes each semester. In contrast, 155 students are currently coming to Penn from other consortium schools for various classes this semester, and 188 came for classes last spring. Pansing attributes the low numbers on Penn’s side to the variety of classes already available here at Penn.

If a Penn student does take a class at another school, he said, usually it has to do with them wanting to be in the class of a particular “eminent professor.” It’s also “most productive for students thinking about an area of research that’s fairly specific,” he said.

“It’s really more attractive to students at smaller schools,” Pansing said. “Penn students are less likely to make the commute.” 

The commute, he added, is quite long and represents a large time commitment to go back and forth. When Nguyen took Operations, Information and Decisions 101, she said she actually didn’t have any other classes on the same day as her Penn class, so she had the whole day to travel. She said she needed to leave Bryn Mawr an hour before the class actually started, but for her, it was worth it. Nguyen is even thinking about taking another class at Penn next semester, but something a little different than the Wharton class she took last semester — this time she’s thinking about taking "Sequential Drawing" in the Fine Arts Department. 

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