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Dozens of Penn students registered to receive subsidized passports at an event co-sponsored by the Penn First Plus Office on Sept. 14. Credit: Alec Druggan

It typically costs $160 for U.S. citizens to obtain a passport, but at a Penn event last week, dozens of first generation, low-income students received partially subsidized passports for just $10 each.

The subsidy was offered at a Sept. 14 event co-sponsored by the University's newly-formed Penn First Plus Office and Penn Global. It was designed to support FGLI students considering study abroad programs, and marked the first time that such a subsidy was offered to students.

Nursing sophomore and FGLI student David Bartolome was one of the students who received a subsidized passport.

“I do want to go abroad one day. I have no idea how I’m going to figure that out, logistically [or] financially,” Bartolome said. “But this is the first step.”

While students at Penn are charged a flat fee each semester for tuition regardless of whether they are studying on campus or abroad, there are often additional costs associated going abroad that can make the opportunity prohibitively expensive. Apart from paying for international student visas, those going abroad may also have to foot the bill for local transportation, books and supplies, housing and round-trip flights.

Analysis from The Daily Pennsylvanian has also shown that Penn students often pay more than their Ivy League counterparts for the chance to go abroad. 

At the Friday event, fifty students registered to receive a passport, said Erica Sebastian, senior associate director of programming for Penn Abroad. Of those who registered, 30 were considered “highly-aided,” a term referring to a specific portion of students on financial aid. 

Sebastian said the event was open to all students, but specifically designed to support FGLI students concerned about the financial strains of spending a semester outside of the U.S. She added that for many students, "cost, [or] at least the perception of it, is one of the biggest barriers" to going abroad. 

Sebastian added that while Penn First Plus’ contribution to the event was “largely financial,” the office may have an expanded role in reaching FGLI students if the event is hosted again.

Credit: Ben Zhao

This event was one of the first events sponsored by Penn First Plus since its formation in the spring. While the office said they hope to offer the passport event again in the future, there have been no further announcements about upcoming events or initiatives. 

Last semester, the office received criticism from students who said there was a lack of student involvement in its creation. Earlier this month, Provost Wendell Pritchett appointed professors Camille Charles and Robert Ghrist to serve as the two faculty directors of the office. The national search for an executive director is still ongoing.