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housing-credit
Credit: Chase Sutton

A few weeks ago, Penn announced that it would provide housing credits to students based on their family contribution. However, for highly aided students, that announcement meant little to nothing because highly aided students do not have significant family contributions. At first glance, it makes sense that Penn shouldn’t be obligated to pay a credit to a student whose family didn’t pay a hefty contribution towards their housing. Upon further reflection, however, it became obvious that first-generation low-income students continue to face housing insecurities and homelessness. Highly aided students are vulnerable and in absolute need of housing credits, regardless of their family’s underlying income or lack thereof. Therefore, they should not be penalized for lack of familial contribution and should be entitled to housing credit.

Equity and equality aren't the same. History has taught us that fairness often needs a second look to flourish completely and be recognized. Displacement breeds uncertainty. For many FGLI and highly aided students, being unexpectedly ousted from their homes means finding new places to sublet or rent to avoid homelessness. Subletting and renting are not free, they each come at a cost. Where are highly aided Penn students that have little to no family contribution towards their cost of attendance supposed to find the money to foot these costs? We are all dealing with the chaos that COVID-19 has placed in our paths. All students should be given housing credits because all students were disrupted and displaced from their homes. A grey area is unnecessary. 

Penn students have a lot in common. We are all curious. We are all ambitious. We all love learning. We all work hard. These elements of our identities intertwine us. But make no mistake, we are not all exactly the same in terms of where we come from. We all come from different backgrounds; economic backgrounds included. We all did not have a place to go when Penn ended campus housing. Penn’s diversity relies on the differences we all bring to the Penn community. The deepest beauty of diversity is its element of contrast. We learn from each other. We thrive from each other. Regardless of the amount of money our families contribute to our education. 

Resources matter. Housing costs have not disappeared, they’ve continued to hold their weight throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Around the globe, rent, mortgages and dare I say, assignments, have continued to be due. Princeton University, Cornell University and Johns Hopkins University have all enacted policies that provide reimbursements to all of students, regardless of their family contribution, that were displaced from their campus housing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of Penn’s recent announcement that it would not accept 9.9 million dollars in CARES Act funds, it makes sense to wonder how those funds could have been allocated to help secure stability for vulnerable students. 

Let’s hope Penn will take a second glance and evaluate the difficulties all campus housed students continue to combat in relation to housing costs. Everyone from the Penn community that was displaced from their home should be accommodated appropriately.

JESSICA GOODING is a College junior from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania studying History and English. Her email address is jgooding@sas.upenn.edu.

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