This is the first year Penn is requiring all sophomores to live in on-campus housing — and students have mixed feelings about the change.
The new housing policy is part of the Second-Year Experience, which includes special programming and a two-year on-campus housing requirement beginning with the Class of 2024. While many sophomores reported a sense of community and convenience in their dorms, some students feel that the housing requirement is too restrictive and the drawbacks of the policy outweigh Penn’s goals of community building and enhanced academic and social support.
Community and Convenience
Many sophomores, including Harrison College House resident and College sophomore Farheen Shamdasani, said they appreciate the proximity of the College Houses to Penn classrooms and other buildings on campus. Shamdasani added that she appreciates living close to her friends, now that all sophomores are required to live on campus.
Students are able to choose their roommates or live with roommates assigned by the University in on-campus housing.
New College House West resident and College sophomore Anna Siv added that while she has had a good experience socially, living in an upperclassmen College House isn’t as effective at community building as residing in the Quad or Hill College House where only first-year students live.
All of the upperclassmen College Houses — NCHW, Harrison, Rodin College House, and Harnwell College House — are located near each other on the west side of the 38th street bridge, while the four-year College Houses are scattered across campus. Many juniors and seniors who do not live on campus also reside on the west side of the bridge.
Engineering sophomore Anthony Bell, who lives in Lauder College House, one of the four-year College Houses, said there is a divide between those who live in College Houses on different sides of the bridge. Lauder College House is located between 33rd and 34th.
Bell added, however, that he is content with his living situation due to its close proximity to the athletic facilities and Engineering Quad, as a player on the men’s football team and an Engineering student.
Cost of Living
All rooms for upperclassmen have two room rates, $11,356 or $15,418, which vary according to room type. Sophomores are required to pay one of these prices, rather than look for cheaper off-campus accommodations — a blow to many students.
Wharton sophomore Matthew Matese, who lives in NCHW with some of his fraternity brothers, said his fraternity had a hard time filling their house due to the new housing requirement, since many sophomores typically live in Greek housing.
Under the new requirement, only juniors and seniors are allowed to live in fraternity and sorority housing, despite Penn owning some of the chapter houses.
Matese said he also has additional expenses for abiding by Penn’s requirement, paying an “Out-of-House Member Fee” for living on campus in college housing, not in his fraternity house.
“The worst part is I could live somewhere else for cheaper,” Matese said.
But for Harrison resident and Engineering sophomore Declan Cambey, the housing requirement offers ease for students who may be intimidated by finding off-campus housing — notwithstanding its cost.
“It definitely does offer some security for people who are otherwise not the most financially stable,” said Cambey, who is a first-generation, low-income student.
While Harnwell resident and College sophomore Riley Macks, who is also a FGLI student, said she is enjoying her dorm experience as she did not want to live off-campus this year, she said that she was frustrated by the Second-Year Experience's requirement that sophomores purchase a dining plan.
Sophomores had the opportunity to choose from a new second-year dining plan, with approximately 10 swipes per week, and the two existing first-year plans.
Penn administrators previously said that the change is intended to build community around shared meals and alleviate concerns about food insecurity on campus. Members of the Class of 2024 previously told The Daily Pennsylvanian that they felt blindsided by the new requirement, calling it a “blatant cash grab.”
Macks said that although the dining plans available to sophomores are cheaper than the ones for first years, she wasn’t aware of the extra expenses when applying to Penn and communicating with Student Registration and Financial Services. She added that the required dining plan has amounted to “a lot of money wasted,” since it can be cheaper to buy groceries and cook.
“I like living on campus, [but] I don’t think it should be required because I know a lot of people who had other plans,” Macks said.