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Credit: Brandon Li

International undergraduate applicants and applicants to the College of Liberal and Professional Studies at Penn face a major disadvantage. Unlike other undergraduate applicants, their financial need affects their chances of admission to the University. Penn touts its "need-blind" application process, which means that degree of financial need does not affect admissions decisions. But this policy only extends to undergraduate applicants from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. All other international students “must apply for aid when they apply for admission," according to the Penn Admissions website.

Neither LPS students nor international students deserve a lower chance of acceptance depending on whether or not they are able to pay tuition at Penn. Penn should extend the current need-blind application process for students in the United States, Canada, and Mexico to LPS and international applicants. This would bring Penn in line with other Ivy League schools and grant more people access to a Penn education.

Currently, international students have to apply for financial aid when they apply for admission. This forces international applicants to make a difficult choice between asking for aid and lowering their chances of admission or having to stomach the high cost of attendance. Similarly, according to the LPS website, “students are not eligible for Penn’s all-grant program,” which meets financial need for other Penn undergraduates through grants and work-study funds. 

The precedent set for need-blind admission for international applicants from Canada and Mexico should be extended to all other applicants. International and LPS applicants should be admitted based on their merit, not on their financial security. This would follow the example of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, which already admit all students on a need-blind basis. Penn has an immense operating budget and endowment, and this one cost-cutting measure challenges the academic integrity of the institution. It is time for Penn to make admission fully need-blind.

The University's current need-based policies may also be alienating many fantastic potential applicants. While some prospective students may apply and be rejected because of their financial needs, there is likely a host of qualified applicants who are not applying to Penn for the simple reason that they know their need will harm their chances at admission. If Penn valued academic excellence above profit and endowment growth, it would use a pure need-blind model. This would allow a more diverse group of students to pursue a Penn education.

Domestic LPS students are also suffering from need-based application processes. While the LPS program tells applicants it will give them “an opportunity to take full advantage of the Ivy League,” this cannot be true if some applicants face a disadvantage at the onset.

Penn should stop subjugating LPS and international students to an unfair admissions process. Rather, it should do what other Ivy league schools have already done, and start offering a need-blind admissions process that favors the academic excellence of the institution over the accumulation of capital. While the Class of 2024’s international and LPS students will be admitted by a need-based process, the Class of 2025’s should not be.

Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.

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