Admissions and Financial Aid
August 7, 2001
Scheduled for discussion at Council on September
I. Executive Summary
The University Council Committee on Admissions
and Financial Aid (heretofore referred to as CAFA) was given three
Charge 1: Examine financial aid
packages and their effectiveness as a recruiting tool, and (consulting
with the Committee on Pluralism as necessary) their role in the
recruitment and retention of minorities.
Charge 2: Explore the possibility
of extending need-blind admissions to applicants who do not come
from North America. Follow the progress of the undergraduate financial
aid endowment in order to maintain need-blind admissions.
Charge 3: Work with the Committee
on Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics in their review of the
status of student-athlete admissions.
At the meeting of the University Council committee
chairs we were given an additional charge:
Charge 4: Evaluate the Universitys
Admissions Web site (www.upenn.edu/admissions/undergrad/).
The committee passed the following motions,
which will be elaborated upon below:
Motion 1: The Provost should appoint
an ad-hoc committee to evaluate the resources, faculty availability,
performance and effectiveness of the pre-freshman program, advising,
and tutorial services. The evaluation should be done with a focus
on students who are specially admitted. The need to expand these
programs and the resources that this might require should also be
Motion 2: The Administration
should make available data on admissions to CAFA with the support
of the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis. The database
should be updated yearly with information on GPA, graduation status,
admissions information from a students application (e.g.,
PI, SAT scores, and RIC), financial status, demographics, and indicators
for specially admitted students. CAFA should not present these data
without the consent of the Administration.
Motion 3: The Committee on Admissions
and Financial Aid (CAFA) calls on the University to declare its
commitment to the goal of admitting qualified students from around
the world on a need-blind basis (Global Need-Blind Admissions, or
GNBA) and to move toward attainment of this goal with deliberate
speed, recognizing the significant financial and other resource
implications of implementing a GNBA policy. Further, CAFA calls
on the University to demonstrate its commitment to making measurable
progress toward this goal by recruiting, admitting, and providing
financial aid to support an additional 12 (twelve) students in the
2002 Admissions cycle (Class of 2006). These students, an incremental
addition to what would otherwise be the size of the Class of 2006,
shall be recruited from countries other than the U.S., Canada and
Mexico. Priority should be given to applicants from regions that
are currently the most underrepresented in the Penn undergraduate
student body: Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. CAFA should
follow the Universitys progress toward GNBA and make periodic
recommendations regarding further increases in the number of aided
international students. Finally, efforts to target endowment for
aided foreign students should be maintained and enhanced.
Committee Membership: Abba Krieger (chair),
Evis Cama, Terry Conn, Sue Kauffman DePuyt, Dennis DeTurck, David
Freiman, Robert Giegengack, Cindy Gold (spring semester only), Paul
Gulesserian, Daniel Hammer, Julia Kim (fall semester only), Carol
Ladden, Lucia Leone (fall semester only) Kathleen McCauley, Kristen
Miller, Sharon Pepe, Arnold Rosoff, William Schilling, Patti Scullin,
Warren Seider, Willis Stetson, Diana Swartz. John Vohs, Terri White
and guest Bernard Lentz.
The three charges are aimed at sub-populations
with the goal of achieving diversity:
Charge 2foreign students (non-North
Penn does not merely accept the strongest
students academically. Geographic diversity and other considerations
are taken into account. This is, of course, the admissions policy
at all elite universities. Diversity requires balancing the strength
of individual applicants with the overall strength of the "community"
of students in each class. Penn has currently reached an "equilibrium"
in making such decisions that is implicitly accepted. In its deliberations
the committee felt that tampering with the process would not be
in the best interest of the Penn community as a whole, but rather
would serve, in a counterproductive way, individual interests of
isolated subgroups. The committees decisions and discussions
were cast with this tenet in mind.
Throughout our deliberations we were faced
with constraints, the most salient of which were the assumptions
that the size of the student body is fixed, and the resources for
financial aid will not change dramatically, at least in the short
run. For example, committee members were favorably disposed to increasing
the number of aided foreign students, particularly since the pool
of such students is excellent. But, if we increase the number of
aided foreign students, then that would require a reduction in the
number of other students. Also, if we increase the amount expended
on aid to foreign students, then the amount available for North
American students would have to be reduced commensurately.
It is important to note that Penn is a popular
school.This is reflected in an increase in the number of applicants
(there has been an increase of about 50% over the decade of the
1990s), and the quality of these applications. Since the student
body at Penn has become academically stronger, this makes it even
more difficult for some students to thrive without strong academic
It is also interesting to note that the three
charges, noted above, proved to be very topical. In our consideration
of the first charge, the issue arose as to whether SAT scores are
a good measure of performance for these students. Genaro Padilla,
vice chancellor for undergraduate affairs at Berkeley, received
a fair amount of press when he announced that Berkeley is considering
doing away with SAT scores as a requirement for admission (Brand,
William, The Oakland Tribune, June 19, 2001). Yales
decision to extend need-blind admissions to foreign students received
favorable press in the New York Times (Arenson, Karen, November
15, 2000). The book, A Game of Life (Shulman and Bowen, 2001),
focuses directly on the advantages and disadvantages of intercollegiate
sports in elite institutions, and the diversity that student-athletes
bring to these universities.
The committee relied heavily on the expertise
of the dean of admissions, Willis Stetson, the director of financial
aid, William Schilling, and the head of the Office of Institutional
Research and Analysis, Bernard Lentz. The committee is indebted
to them. We would not have been able to function without their assistance.
The committee also owes a debt of gratitude to Kim Hoover, who provided
wonderful administrative support.
It would have been unwieldy to tackle all of
these issues in full committee meetings. Subcommittees were formed.
The first subcommittee that focused on charge 1 was co-chaired by
Robert Giegengack and Terry White. Arnold Rosoff chaired the subcommittee
on foreign students. Warren Seider, who was a member both of CAFA
and the Committee on Athletics and Recreation, chaired the third
subcommittee. It was through these subcommittees that ideas and
recommendations were formed and filtered up to the whole committee.
IV. Discussion of Charge 1
In order to place this charge in a framework,
the "admissions" process broadly defined, can be divided
into four phases:
1. application pool;
2. admitted students from the application
3. matriculated students from those students
who were admitted;
4. retention of students who matriculated.
The charge of looking at the relationship between
financial aid and minority students falls into the third phaseincrease
the yield (i.e., the number of students who matriculate from those
who are accepted).
There were limited data available. Interestingly
the one-year snapshot that we looked at showed that yield for minorities
was lower than the yield for non-minorities. But this outcome is
easily misinterpreted. What is happening is that our competition
for minority students tends to be stronger than our competition
for non-minority students. Interestingly, however, our yield for
minorities is higher than our yield for non-minorities, once an
adjustment is made for the competing institution. For example, of
the minority students that Penn admitted, a greater fraction were
accepted by Harvard, Yale and Princeton as well, as compared to
the corresponding number in the non-minority pool. But Penn did
better, in head-to-head competition with Harvard, Yale and Princeton
for minority students, than it did for non-minority students.
The committee then refocused its charge to
phase 1, namely considering whether the pool of minorities from
which we select could be increased. We heard about programs that
identify minority students who score relatively high on the SATs.
Much effort is expended to encourage these students to apply to
Penn. Therefore, if the minority pool is to be dramatically increased,
this would entail targeting minority students whose applications
are weaker as measured by conventional means (SAT scores). The committee
felt uncomfortable in engaging in an experiment to admit such students.
We felt that it might be unfair to the student, as he or she might
find it difficult to be academically successful at Penn. This concern
was heightened by the realization that academic support in terms
of pre-freshman programs, tutoring, and advising was being stretched
to its limit and would not be able to deal with the potential increase
in need. This discussion results in motion 1 above.
The retention of minority students (i.e., phase
4) is probably the most important. The Committee on Pluralism dealt
with this issue.
V. Discussion of Charge 2
We talked with Elisabeth OConnell and
others from the admissions office who are responsible for admissions
of foreign students, Joanne Hanna and others from the development
office and individuals in the office of international programs.
We also had a lengthy discussion with Professor Jamshed Ghandhi,
who is in charge of the Huntsman Program. A more detailed report
of our findings appears as Appendix A.
We have a reasonable presence of foreign students
on Penns campus. But these students tend to be disproportionately
from the Far East and other areas where there are people of means.
We admit approximately 40 students with financial aid. This is a
small fraction of the close to 500 foreign students that Penn admits.
Only about half of the aided foreign students who are admitted matriculate.
The committee realizes that it would be impossible
at the present time to adopt a need-blind policy for foreign students.
However, we also appreciate the benefits of increasing the presence
of foreign students, particularly from areas of the world in which
there is an under-representation. Most notably, Eastern Europe has
a very talented pool of potential students who would not be able
to afford private college education in the States. It would be costly
to replace financially aided foreign students with foreign students
who do not need financial aid. That led to the recommendation of
the committee listed as motion 3 above. The feeling is that this
would increase the number of students modestly; in steady state,
once implemented over the next four yours, this would result in
an increase of 40-50 students.
VI. Discussion of Charge 3
In order to respond to Charge 3, a joint subcommittee
of members of CAFA and the Athletic and Recreations Committee was
established. Warren Seider agreed to chair this subcommittee. This
effort is a continuation of last years effort (see Almanac,
September 12, 2000).
Interestingly, as in Charge 1, there was focus
on advising and tutoring that was available principally to athletes
who were specially admitted.
The committee focused on gathering information,
so that next years committee could make more informed policy
decisions. The details of their findings appear as Appendix B.
VII. Other Considerations
Deputy Provost Peter Conn supported our efforts
by making data on admissions and financial aid available to the
committee. We share the concern of the administration that these
data are potentially sensitive. Appropriately there was an agreement
that these data could be used by our committee, principally the
chair, so that we could be better informed. We also appreciate the
sensitive nature of the data, and as a result, the need to keep
this information confidential.
Also, Bernard Lentz, the Director of the Office
of Institutional Research and Analysis attended the meetings of
our committee. Hence, the capability of answering questions using
objective data is present. But it takes a fair amount of time to
assemble the appropriate data that would shed light on the charges
presented to CAFA.
The second motion was made and passed unanimously
to assure that the committee is not delayed while the appropriate
data are compiled. This would enable the committee to work in a
more timely fashion.
We also visited the Web site. This Web site
was recently updated and improved. Thanks to this effort, we all
agreed that the Penns admission Web site is among the best
that we have reviewed.
The Penn Summer Waiver Program was initiated
in the Summer of 2000. This ensures that students who are on financial
aid are not disadvantaged in terms of the opportunities that are
available to other students. Specifically, Penn waives the required
summer contribution for students who are engaged in a qualified
program, for example, work for a non-profit organization. This program
is under the direction of William Schilling. Our committee reviewed
the way in which the program worked last summer and endorsed minor
modifications that were made by Mr. Schilling.
Report of the Subcommittee on Financial Aid
for non-North-American (NNA) Students
of the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid
I. The Importance of International Student Financial
Aid to Penns Standing as a Global University
The University of Pennsylvania proudly proclaims
itself a global institution of higher learning, and it largely
lives up to this claim. However, a significant limitation to Penns
being fully "global" lies in the fact the University still
considers an international applicants need for Student Financial
Aid (SFA) in making the admissions decision. This is in contrast
to the "need-blind" admissions policy Penn follows for
applicants from "North America"defined as the U.S.,
Canada and Mexico. Under "need-blind" admissions, we accept
applicants based on their substantive qualifications (including
a range of criteria, not just raw academic merit); and we make an
implicit commitment that once we admit an applicant we will provide
an SFA "package" adequate to enable him or her to come
In the case of "non-North American"
(NNA) applicants, however, Penn will not admit them unless it appears
reasonably certain that they have, or can obtain, the financial
resources to come. The University rejects a policy of "admit/deny"in
other words, where we admit the student but deny SFA. For the most
part, this seems a sound strategy. Why admit a student and set in
motion a process that may ultimately be frustrating because the
student will not be able to come. However, as addressed below, there
may be some instances where giving a qualified applicant a letter
of acceptance might enable him or her to secure funding elsewhere.
The University of Pennsylvania has a substantial
and rich body of highly qualified international students from around
the world; but because of our SFA limitations, the composition of
that body is skewed. It comes principally from Canada and Mexico
and the higher economic tiers of NNA nations and largely excludes
students from the poorest nationsespecially those in Eastern
Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.
There are numerous exceptionally well-qualified
and highly desirable NNA applicants to whom we dont offer
admission because they cannot reasonably be expected to come without
SFA and we cant afford to provide it. In the year 2000 admissions
cycle, for example, the Admissions Office reports that there were
2,429 international applicants, of whom over 1,000 were NNA applicants.
However, there were only enough SFA resources to support some 40
of these applicants.1 Penn admitted 443 international students,
both aided and non-aided; of these, 240 matriculated. SFA packages
were offered to 40 students with documented need; of these, 20 matriculated.
As a further illustration, Professor Jamshed
Ghandhi, Director of the Huntsman International Studies and Business
(ISB) Program, visited with the committee and told of brilliant,
talented NNA students who would have greatly enhanced the Penn student
body but who were not offered admission because of their financial
need status. On occasion, Professor Ghandhi has been able to secure
special external funding for particular students. The committee
heard other accounts of such ad hoc approaches to SFA for
NNA students. On a regular and predictable basis, however, the funds
are simply not available to support matriculation of these students,
despite their clear merit and the substantial contribution they
would make to Penns international diversity.
Within the past academic year, some of our
more prominent peer competitorsnotably Harvard, Princeton,
Yale, and MIThave moved to a "global need-blind"
admissions (GNBA) policy, gaining much positive media attention
thereby. These institutions can afford to do this because their
SFA funds, especially endowment funds, are substantial, dwarfing
ours. Because of the commendable efforts of our Admissions Office
and the inherent attractions of a Penn education, the University
is doing well in terms of attracting the best NNA international
students. However, while at present we may not lag too visibly behind
the above-named peer institutions, as American higher education
continues its shift toward a global enterprise, Penn will not long
be able to claim first-tier status unless it can achieve and maintain
parity with the front-runners in terms of SFA.
The Committee feels strongly that the University
needs to formulate and implement a strategy that will assure our
competitive status in the future with regard to attracting and supporting
the very best international students from around the globe without
regard to their financial ability. Only by ultimately treating applicants
from all around the world on an equal basis, will Penn be able to
truly become a global university. Toward this end, the Committee
recommends the following action steps, which are discussed and supported
more fully in the Analysis section follows.
II. Action Steps Summarized
urges the University to move as rapidly as it can toward a global
need-blind admissions (GNBA) policy, but it also recognizes the
substantial difficulties of moving fully to GNBA in the near term.
The financial and other costs, impossible to assess confidently
for a number of reasons, will undoubtedly be very substantial. Consequently,
the Committee recommends a 4-step approach toward the ultimate goal.
The University should:
1.Declare its goal of moving to a policy of
Global Need-Blind Admissions (GNBA) as expeditiously as possible
given financial and other resource constraints.
2.Begin immediately to focus attention and
efforts on the fund-raising activities necessary to fund attainment
of this goal.
3.Demonstrate commitment to the GNBA goal and
to making progress toward its attainment by currently increasing
the recruitment and support of needy NNA students. The Committee
recommends increasing by 12 the number of NNA students enrolled
in the class entering in 2002 and continuing this level of increase
through 2005a total of 48 new NNA students overall over the
next four years.
a. The number 12 is an approximate number which
seems "about right" to the Committee but is subject to
modification in the first and succeeding years based on the size
and quality of the applicant pool and the financial and other resource
constraints faced by the University.
b. The Committee assumes that in the first
year, the NNA students enrolled hereunder will be additional
students, increasing class size beyond what it would otherwise be.
Whether this should be the case in subsequent years is an important
policy question that the University should address, in consultation
c. The Committee recommends that the additional
students admitted under this proposal be drawn primarily from the
three regions most underrepresented in Penns student body:
Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean nations.
4.Pledge to review progress toward the GNBA
goal annually and, in support of such review, to develop measures
of the financial and other resource implications of increasing recruitment
and support of NNA students.
III. Supporting Analysis
A. Admissions Office Operations
Early in its inquiry, the subcommittee looked
into how the Admissions Office handles NNA applicants of questionable
financial ability. Our thought was that perhaps there were ways
the admissions process could be more effective in finding support
for these students, or enabling them to find support for themselves.
Specifically, we heard from some people that
NNA applicants of limited means were hurt by the Universitys
"no admit/deny" policy because it precluded an opportunity
for enterprising students to take their letter of admission from
Penn and "shop it around" to try to find funding from
government agencies, foundations, corporations, and relatives. Upon
looking into this point, the committee found that the issue is more
complex than it seems at first. For one thing, the admissions timetable
is a major constraint. Once the admissions decision is made, there
is not enough time to allow an admitted NNA student to secure funding
within the time period the student has to commit to coming to Penn.
Further, the admissions cycle cant be easily modified to provide
more flexibility at either endi.e., either announcing admissions
decisions by an earlier date for needy NNA applicants or allowing
these students a longer time after being accepted before they must
commit to Penn. The admissions timetable is not set solely by this
university; rather, it is constrained by agreements with other Ivy
League institutions. While the Committee would encourage the University
to look for ways to increase flexibility to address the above problem,
it recognizes that this does not offer a current solution.
Skipping the further details of our analysis,
the Committee concluded that the Admissions Office is doing an excellent
job, working within its resource constraints, to maximize the number
of qualified international students we bring to Penn. Admissions
is on the alert, we were told, to identify funding sources in foreign
nations that might help to fund applicants from those nations. When
a promising but needy applicant is identified, Admissions tries
to help him or her tap into any known funding sources. The committee
is satisfied that this part of the process is being handled adequately
and has no input in this regard, other than to acknowledge the good
work of those in Admissions, led by Elisabeth OConnell, who
deal with international student recruitment and admissions. Acknowledgement
is also due the staff of the Office of International Programs (OIP),
who work closely with students after they are admitted to assist
them in obtaining visas and taking care of other details necessary
to get them to campus and help assure their successful integration
into the Penn community.
Other than encouraging Admissions and OIP to
continue doing what they have been and to be alert for ways to refine
the process, the Committee has no recommendations in this area.
B. Additional Funding for International
After concluding that the recruitment and admissions
processes are being handled well, the committee further concluded
that the obvious solution is, indeed, the correct one: increasing
the access of needy NNA applicants to a Penn education is best addressed
by coming up with more funds to support them.
Reallocating Current Funds: One possibility,
of course, is to reallocate currently available SFA funds from other
uses to the support of needy NNA students. The Office of Student
Financial Services has some discretion to make such internal allocation
decisions and has used that power to make modest increments in SFA
support for NNA students over the past year. The Committee recognizes
the strong support of Bill Schilling and the Office of Student Financial
Aid in maximizing the resources available for the support of NNA
students. Without some specific University policy direction in this
regard, however, it is unrealistic to expect much more help from
Another obvious possibility is to reallocate
other University funds to NNA-SFA needs. This would require a University-level
policy decision; and the Committee will later herein recommend adopting
such a policy. It is recognized, however, that the University has
countless important and pressing needs and that, at any given point
in time, budget allocation is a zero-sum game. As important as the
Committee believes the subject of its charge to be, it recognizes
that financial aid for international students must be seen in the
larger perspective of the Universitys priorities.
Seeking new funding: The obvious
answerobvious in terms of its desirability but not necessarily
in terms of feasibilityis to find new sources of funding for
SFA. The Committee is aware of the Universitys ongoing fund-raising
initiatives to support student financial aid. The Development Office
(through Joanne Hanna, who visited with the Committee) reports that
approximately $131 million has been pledged already in the Universitys
$200 million campaign to increase funds for student financial aid.
The campaign seeks to obtain as much of this as possible in endowment
funds. The Development Office is receptive to the idea of a targeted
sub-initiativei.e., a program within the above campaignfocused
on building financial support for needy NNA students.
The Committee believes such an effort should
be undertaken, with emphasis on seeking funds that would not likely
be available to the University for other purposes. To some extent,
any new fund-raising initiative risks intruding upon other development
activities. However, it may be possible to identify individual or
corporate donors, or funding agencies, both governmental and private,
that might be interested only NNA students who are in need of financial
aid. These would be the ideal sources of support to be tapped through
the initiative we are proposing.
Area-specific support: Within
this group of potential funding sources, many may be interested
in supporting students only from their particular geographic region.
The Committee was told, for example, of a Chinese family living
in Hawaii that is very generous but is interested only in supporting
Penn students from Mainland China. Presumably, most foreign sources
of support would tend to fall in this category.
Non-area-specific support: Less
restricted funds are clearly preferable to those more restricted.
Thus, the ideal is find donors willing to support NNA-SFA without
geographic limitation. The Committee suggests that a fund-raising
program be crafted which recognizes the donors tendency to
impose geographic limitations but states clearly the Universitys
goal of developing a global SFA fund free of such restrictions.
Perhaps a donor (individual or organization) could be persuaded
that for every X number of geographically restricted SFA packages
it contributes it should also contribute one unrestricted package.
IV. Proposed Action Plan
A. Long-term strategy
The University should formally recognize the
desirability and importance of ultimately moving to a Global Need-Blind
Admissions policy and commit to this as a goal. However, it is premature
to make a firm commitment at this time to achieving GNBA by a date
certain. We need a thorough inquiry into the likely costs of moving
to GNBAnot just direct monetary costs, but all resource implications.
For example, if class size is held constant, admitting more aided
NNA students will diminish the number of NA students and unaided
non-NNA students. This may have different implications for different
schools and different programs within the University; so, on several
levels, this is a complex and potentially sensitive policy question.
The Committee recommends that CAFA (the Committee on Admissions
and Financial Aid) continue next year, and in succeeding years,
to focus attention on this issue and to call for, gather, and analyze
relevant information as it becomes available.
To assure that the University begins moving
immediately toward the above-stated goal, intermediate targets should
be set. While modest in terms of numbers of NNA students aided,
these targets would be a visible and important signal of the Universitys
commitment to GNBA. This commitment would help to energize the fund-raising
efforts discussed above.
The Committee does not know what numbers of
NNA students should ultimately be recruited and supported. It is
satisfied, however, that increasing the number by approximately
12 students in the next admissions cycle is a reasonable objective.
Thus, the Committee makes the following recommendation.
For next year, an additional 12 NNA students
with financial need should be recruited and supported with SFA.
By "additional," we mean an increase of 12 in the overall
size of the entering class. From discussions with the Admissions
Office and others, the Committee believes an additional 12 students
can be absorbed into the University community without causing significant
resource problems, financial or otherwise. More money for SFA will
be needed, of course; and the Committee requests that additional
University funds be given to the office of Student Financial Services
to support these additional students. To meet diversity goals, the
Committee further recommends that the additional students be sought
primarily from the three regions of the world that are currently
most under-represented in the Penn community: Eastern Europe, Africa,
and the Caribbean.
In following years, the Committee believes
that the number of aided NNA students should be further increased;
but the increments for those years cannot be specified now. The
Committee recommends that CAFA be charged in successive years to
monitor progress toward the overall goal of GNBA and make follow-on
recommendations, as appropriate.
V. Summary and Conclusion
The University should adopt a long-term policy
goal of Global Need-Blind Admissions (GNBA). This goal should be
factored into the Development Offices strategic plans for
fund-raising, and a specific program should be established to build
financial support for Non-North-American (NNA) students with financial
need. In the short term, the University should seek to recruit an
additional 12 exceptionally qualified NNA students with financial
need for admission to the Class of 2006, with emphasis on students
from Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. In subsequent years,
the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid should continue to
monitor progress toward the above goal and to gather information
and make recommendations toward attainment of that goal.
Arnold J. Rosoff (chair); Evis Cama; David
Freiman; Paul Gulesserian; Eric Kaplan (guest); Julia Kim (fall
semester only); Abba Krieger; Bernard Lentz; Kathleen McCauley;
William Schilling; Willis Stetson
Report of the Subcommittee on Student-Athlete Admissions
of the Committees on Recreation and Intercollegiate
and Admissions and Financial Aid
Last year, the Subcommittee on Student-Athlete
Admissions of the CRIA and CAFA examined the admissions process
for student-athletes and prepared a report, which appeared in the
Almanac (April 15, 2000). This report discusses the Academic
Index (AI) computed for each perspective athlete, and the interplay
between the Athletics Department (Assistant Director, Rosemarie
Burnett, and the coaches) and the Admissions Office, as the latter
considers student-athletes for admissions to Penn. Due to a winnowing
of disinterested applicants throughout the process, about 70% of
student-athletes admitted usually matriculate, yielding about 270
student-athletes in the freshman class (about 11.5% of 2,350 freshmen).
Early this academic year, the subcommittee
was presented with graduation-rate data by Barney Lentz (Director
of the Institute for Research and Analysis in the Provosts
Office). Graduation rates were presented for Penn classes that entered
in the six-year period between 1987 and 1992. The data show the
percentage of students that graduated within 4, 5, 6, and 7 years.
Furthermore, in several categories, the number of students having
predictive indexes (PIs) is identified: (1) at or above the mean
PI, (2) one standard deviation below the mean PI, and (2) two standard
deviations below the mean PI. These data are presented for all students,
male students, female students, all athletes, male athletes, and
Differences in the retention and performance
of student-athletes were discernable, but a closer look at the data
was necessary before reaching any conclusions and recommendations.
Consequently, a few members of our subcommittee examined the data
more carefully, and learned about several programs that provide
assistance to student-athletes, prior to matriculating at Penn and
during their undergraduate years. Then, after preparing a comprehensive
report, containing many observations and suggestions for improvements,
they met with the entire subcommittee near the end of the spring
semester. Since insufficient time was available to meet also with
the Director of Athletics, Steve Bilsky, and the Dean of Admissions,
Lee Stetson, as well as the two committees, CRIA and CAFA, the subcommittee
decided to provide this summary of its findings with a few recommendations.
Over the summer and during the fall, the details will be examined
more closely with these parties.
Graduation Rates and Performance of Student-Athletes
On the basis of the most recent data studied,
for students entering in 1991-1993 and graduating within six years
(by 1999), when student-athletes who are "special admits"
are excluded, no substantive differences between athletes and non-athletes
are observed with regard to: (1) predictive indices (PIs), (2) graduation
rates, and (3) grade-point averages (GPAs). However, the small fraction
of male student-athletes who are so-called "special admits"
(hereafter referred to as male special-admit athletes) have
lower predictive indices (PIs), lower graduation rates and take
longer to graduate, and lower grade-point averages (GPAs). This
observation is presented with two important qualifications. First,
while data are not available, selection criteria for student-athletes
have been upgraded and there is considerable reason to expect that
smaller differences exist in more recent entering classes. Second,
the GPA may not be a sufficiently comprehensive indicator of student
performance. In this regard, often students with lower grades play
a leading role in solving problems in their fields, in business,
in politics, and in other endeavors. A related observation is that,
while female special-admit athletes have lower PIs, their graduation
rates are slightly higher than for the entire female population.
Clearly, it is important to assess the performance
of student-athletes at Penn in comparison with those at other four-year
institutions. Unfortunately, the NCAA graduation-rate data applies
only for students on athletic scholarships, thereby excluding all
of the Ivy League schools, who provide substantial financial assistance
for many athletes (in need-blind admissions), but not "athletic
scholarships." However, for the special-admit athletes, data
from the admissions office shows that Penn matriculates a relatively
small fraction in comparison with the other Ivy League schools.
Here, it is necessary to examine closely the definition of a special-admit
Assistance for Student-Athletes
Penn provides considerable opportunity for
support of all students, especially special admits. For the student-athletes,
Rosemarie Burnett is the Academic Coordinator for the Department
of Intercollegiate Athletics. Having served in this role for two
years, she makes herself available to approximately 1000 student-athletes,
working with persons responsible for student services in the four
undergraduate schools. In addition to Rosemarie, student-athletes
receive considerable assistance from the Department of Academic
Support Programs (DASP), headed by Terri White. This office provides
a Pre-freshman Program (PFP-PENNCAP, a four-week extended orientation
program for students during August), Tutoring Services (involving
individual tutors provided for many courses), and Learning Resources
(instruction in academic reading, writing, and studying), designed
for all students, but especially special-admits.
Pre-Freshman Program (PFP)/PENNCAP:
Special-admit athletes are referred to PFP to participate in
this four-week summer academic enrichment program. During the month
of August, 110 students enroll in rigorous courses designed by faculty
in each of the four undergraduate schools. They also receive comprehensive
individualized counseling and academic support services. Each student
is assigned a Peer Counselor and participates in social and cultural
The principal concerns involving the PFP are:
(1) the size of the program, which involves less than half of the
special-admit athletes, and (2) the tendency of the athletes not
to utilize the counseling services during the four years after their
pre-freshman experience. In connection with the former, the availability
of faculty instructors is the limiting factor.
Tutoring Services: All
Penn students are entitled to utilize tutorial services offered
by the DASP Tutoring Office, with PENNCAP students given priority
status in the assignment of tutors. Recognizing the unique needs
of student-athletes due to their demanding schedules, the Tutoring
Services staff has established a program that promotes the successful
scholar-athlete by encouraging him/her to serve as a tutor. They
have also worked out an arrangement with the Athletic Academic Coordinator
to coordinate individual tutorial services through her office. The
Athletic Academic Coordinator identifies scholar-athletes, based
on her intimate knowledge of all athletes, and hires them to work
with student-athletes she believes would benefit from an individual
Here, the principal issues are: (1) improving
coordination between the DRIA and DASP, and (2) arranging for tutors
to be available on demand as needed, especially after mid-terms,
when student-athletes first realize they need help.
Learning Resources: Learning
Resources provides instruction in academic reading, writing and
studying. Their services are offered through individual appointments
and/or workshops. The Learning Resources staff conduct individual
learning assessments and prepare a plan of support for each PENNCAP
student during the Pre-Freshman Program. Based on recommendations
of the PENNCAP Academic Coordinator, they continue to receive services
throughout their undergraduate studies.
Several steps are needed to encourage athletes
to participate, including: (1) extended hours beyond 9-5, and (2)
a workshop series being designed specifically for athletes.
On the basis of data concerning male special-admit
athletes and the assistance provided for student-athletes, the following
recommendations are offered:
1. With the number of applications to Penn
increasing rapidly (from under 10,000 in 1989 to 19,150 in 2001),
the admission rate has declined appreciably. Consequently, it is
reasonable for the university community to question whether 11.5%
athletes in the student body is too high. In this regard, many student-athletes
matriculate with strong academic qualifications (that accompany
strong athletic abilities) and, over the course of their undergraduate
years, perform at a high level academically. It is recommended that
both the advantages and disadvantages of participation in intercollegiate
sports and many aspects of the diversity student-athletes bring
to universities be examined more closely, with a helpful reference
being The Game of Life (Shulman and Bowen, 2001). Note that
because the Ivy League schools do not share data on the percentage
of student athletes, comparisons cannot be made, excepting informal
data shared through contacts.
2. An attempt should be made to measure
the performance of student-athletes during the past five years,
even though complete retention data are not available. There are
reasons to expect that their graduation rates and performance will
be improved because selection criteria for admissions of student-athletes
have been upgraded.
3. Data should be assembled on the performance
of students having comparable predictive indexes. The data should
span the full range of predictive indexes, with emphasis on the
lower end; that is, the special admits. Data for the student-athletes
should be compared with data for non-athletes to determine if there
are significant differences.
4. The position of Academic Coordinator
in the DRIA is very demanding. Rosemarie Burnett serves in two roles:
(1) working with the coaches and the Admissions Office to recruit
and admit the best student-athletes, and (2) working with over 1,000
student-athletes to provide the support services many need to be
successful. It is recommended that the operation of her office be
examined closely, as it is anticipated that her effectiveness can
be increased significantly with additional personnel.
Warren D. Seider; Edward T. Lally; Abba Krieger;
Steve Galetta; Suzanne Kauffman DePuyt; Terri White; Kristen Miller;
Martin Bonilla (guest); Rosemarie Burnett (guest); Barney Lentz
(guest) May 3, 2001
Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 3, September 11,2001