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Half of the fee freshmen pay for NSO goes to meals at the dining halls, while the other half covers some of the costs of other parts of the program.

Credit: Daniel Xu

At the start of every year, Penn welcomes first-year students with a packed orientation, filled with five days of of educational programming and elaborate festivities.

This year’s orientation began August 25 and spanned five days. Freshmen, transfer students and exchange students enjoyed a night at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a toga party at the Penn Museum, numerous school-specific programs, late-night events run by various student groups and informative presentations.

But, as Penn tuition rates steadily climb from year to year, how much does NSO cost?

Rob Nelson, the VPUL Executive Director for Education and Academic Planning, couldn’t disclose the actual cost of the program — the expenses of NSO also include Penn reading projects, the Thrive at Penn program and First Year Fridays, all of which expand beyond the five days of orientation. But he did break it down into two main parts.

“That fee goes for two major elements of the NSO: one, it pays for the meals that first year students get at the dining halls during NSO, and that’s usually about half the fee,” Nelson said. “The other half of the fee goes to offset some of the costs of the rest of the NSO program.”

Students pay a hefty portion of the fee for eight different meals over the course of the five days. This includes dinner three of the nights and lunch/brunch every day during NSO.

The amount of money spent on NSO is also complicated by the fact that costs are shared with other organizations — like the Undergraduate Assembly, which splits costs for late-night programming.

Beyond this fee, Nelson did not elaborate further on the cost of the program. Specific expenses with various venues, caterers, or other service providers were also unavailable.

“We don’t actually makes those figures public,” Nelson said. “In terms of a value proposition for freshman, is the $400 or so fee worth what you get out of NSO?”

Penn’s administration believes the fee is worth it. Not only are the events designed to provide a fun introduction to Penn — they also aim to build community and introduce students to Philadelphia.

According to David Fox, Director of NSO, many of the events change annually. But the night at the Philadelphia Museum of Art remains a signature event of NSO — this is the 12th year it’s happened.

“I think it’s important for students to understand that they are in Philadelphia and that Philadelphia has these incredible resources and is an amazing city,” Fox said.

Nelson emphasized the importance of the Philadelphia Art Museum event as well.

“I think it serves two great purposes. It’s a kind of touchstone event for community building for the first year class ... the other thing is it does get students off campus and into the city in this incredibly important cultural institution.”

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