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Credit: Lilian Liu

Penn announced a 4% rise in the cost of attendance and an increase in the number of students who will be eligible for full financial aid.

At a University Board of Trustees meeting on March 2, administrators announced that undergraduate tuition and charges will total $84,600 for the 2023-2024 academic year, up from this year's $81,340. The 4% increase represents a return to pre-pandemic rates — following a 2.9% increase last year and 2.8% the year prior — and marks the second year that total undergraduate costs exceed $80,000. The tuition rise was announced alongside an additional increase to the undergraduate financial aid budget.

“This increase helps to offset the impact of high levels of inflation, especially for compensation, and is accompanied by an approved undergraduate financial aid budget of $286 million, a 12% increase from 2022-2023 projected financial aid spending," the University wrote in an announcement.

For the 2023-2024 academic year, the eligibility threshold for financial aid packages that fully cover all undergraduate costs will be raised to $75,000, up from the previous income limit of $65,500. Students whose families make $75,000 or less annually will not have to pay for tuition, fees, housing, and dining. They will also be eligible for grants and work-study funds.

Last year, the financial budget rose by 11.1% to $288 million — the largest financial aid expansion in the past decade. The expansion of eligibility means that approximately 200 previously ineligible students can now receive this type of package, a large addition to the 1,067 students currently benefiting from the program, administrators said at the meeting.

“This expansion of Penn’s undergraduate financial aid program will make the path to Penn possible for hundreds of additional students each year,” Penn President Liz Magill told Penn Today

The cost of tuition, housing, dining, and student support services for undergraduates will all rise for the 2023-2024 academic year, marking an increase of over $10,000 in costs in the past five years. 

The full undergraduate bill includes $58,620 for tuition, up from the previous year's $56,212. University housing will rise from $11,754 to $12,166, and dining will rise from $6,134 to $6,330. Undergraduate fees, which cover the cost of student support services, technology services, and wellness services, will increase from $7,240 to $7,484.

The presentation given to the Board of Trustees cited inflationary pressures, labor market dynamics, tuition growth rate pressures, spikes in utilities costs, and financial market volatility as some of the reasons for the increased costs.

Penn is one of many universities with the largest increase in cost of attendance nationally after the pandemic, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported. Starting in 2020-2021 and through the 2022-2023 academic year, undergraduate fees have been partially used to cover COVID-19 public health measures such as contact tracing and testing. 

Approximately 45% of undergraduates currently receive financial aid grants, averaging about $62,000 in funding and covering approximately 73% of the total cost of attendance. Additionally, the proportion of aid funded by Penn's endowment is projected to increase from 21% to 25%. With the new changes, 4,388 undergraduates are forecasted to receive need-based grant aid this year, administrators said.

Pell recipients as a percentage of traditional undergraduates has also increased to a new high of 17.3%, the University reported during the meeting. 

Administrators also announced the 2023 fiscal year’s total tuition and fees revenue amounted to $1.733 billion, the majority of which comes from graduate and professional tuition. Traditional undergraduate tuition accounts for $543 million, along with $109 million from room and board, $101 million from the general fee, and $194 million from other fees. 

Compared to peer institutions, Penn’s increase is in line with the growing trend of inflationary costs. The emerging pattern of increases in the cost of attendance among private elite universities is an increase of 4% or more, Forbes reported,  including a 3.9% hike at Yale University and a 4.8% hike at Brown University.

Yale’s total undergraduate cost will rise to $83,880 alongside a financial aid increase. Stanford stands out with a 7% increase in undergraduate tuition and charges, which marks the largest among peer universities announced so far. 

Stanford undergraduates from families with income threshold below $100,000 will be covered completely under the new program, rising from the $75,000 threshold the previous year. Similarly, Princeton University announced in September that most families with an income of $100,000 or less will receive aid covering tuition, room, and board.