2001-2002 Year-end Committee Reports
and Financial Aid
for discussion at Council on October 2, 2002
Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid has cognizance over matters
of recruitment, admissions and financial aid that concern the University
as a whole and that are not the specific responsibility of individual
faculties. It is also responsible for recommending changes in policy
to University Council. In addition to this overall charge, the Committee
was given three specific charges this year:
the effectiveness of the pre-freshman program as a tool to permit
more aggressive recruitment and retention of talented students
who may be at academic risk.
with the administration to develop a system for sharing admissions
data with the Committee.
the allocation of financial aid funds as it influences the University's
competitive status in enrolling admitted students. Given the increases
in aid offered at some of the Ivy schools,
can the University contemplate increasing financial aid for non-North
DeTurck (chair), Evis Cama, Terry Conn, Suzanne Kauffman
Depuyt, David Freiman, Gregory Guild, Daniel Hammer, Ehud Lavi,
Laurie Grevner, Thomas Kimberly, Justin Mazur, Jessica Merlin, Kristin
Miller, Hilal Nakiboglu, Sharon Pepe, Arnold Rosoff, William Schilling,
Warren Seider (fall only), Willis Stetson, Afnan Tariq, Terri White
and guest Bernard Lentz. A previous Committee recommended that Bernard
Lentz be named an ex officio member of the committee, a recommendation
with which the current Committee concurs.
and Process: The
Committee met several times each semester, and each time received
status reports from Dean Stetson of Admissions and Director Schilling
of SFS. Subsets of the full Committee met to discuss charges 1 and
Committee's deliberations about the explicit Council charges
and other issues that arose during the year occurred within the
following background. Penn is an excellent, popular school. In large
measure it owes its popularity with undergraduate students and with
those who recommend colleges to undergraduate students to the substantial
and highly successful efforts of the Admissions Office. By almost
any empirical measure (SAT scores, average class rank, number of
applications, [except for a slight drop this year, which was not
endemic to Penn], selectivity, yield
), Penn is doing exceptionally
and increasingly well. This is reflected in media publications as
well as the high regard in which we are held by students, prospective
students (visitations by high school underclassmen are substantially
up this year) and their parents.
debates about changes in admissions policy must take into account
the fact the mandate that the size of each undergraduate class remain
constant, and that Penn's resources for financial aid are not
as large as those of institutions with which we are often in direct
competition. Harvard and Princeton continue to make headlines by
offering more and more attractive (i.e., loan-free) financial packages
to aided students, and our Student Financial Services does remarkably
well at keeping us in the game by creative use of its more limited
The Committee relies heavily on the expertise of the Dean of Admissions,
Willis Stetson, the Director of Student Financial Services, William
Schilling, and the head of the Office of Institutional Research
and Analysis, Bernard Lentz. We are indebted to them for their patient
explanations of admissions and financial aid processes, and for
the data they have been able to provide concerning our students.
The committee also gratefully acknowledges the excellent administrative
support provided by Kim Hoover.
Committee's deliberations focused on the following points:
policy: Penn does not simply accept the strongest students academically.
As is the case at all elite universities, our Admissions Office
takes geographic diversity and many other factors into account.
Such factors require balancing the strength of individual applicants
with the overall strength of the "community" of students
in each class. Given the constraint of fixed class size, Penn has
reached a rough (but dynamic) equilibrium that is generally accepted
and respects the prescriptions of the University administration
and faculty (as documented for example in the 1967 "McGill
report" and its subsequent revisions).
discussions with many constituencies (alumni, athletes, college
house staff, deans, engineers, humanists, scientists, Wharton) have
reinforced the notion that tampering with the admissions process
would not be in the best interest of the overall Penn community,
even though it might serve the interests of particular subgroups.
We do encourage, to all reasonable extent, greater participation
in the admissions process by faculty from the four undergraduate
schools. This participation can take the form of sitting in on and
participating in the actual admissions meetings, or by creative
ways of recruiting admitted students with specific academic interests.
need-blind admission of North American students, combined with very
constrained financial resources (compared to Ivy peers) requires
a diligent, creative, and aggressive approach by Student Financial
Services. It is remarkable how well that office determines need
and appropriately mixes grant, loan, and work aid in order to compete
successfully with other institutions (at both the upper and lower
tiers). At this point, it seems that the biggest problem is simply
a lack of sufficient funding for undergraduate financial aid.
year's Committee recommended commitment to the goal of admitting
qualified students from beyond North America on a need-blind basis,
and to demonstrate this commitment by providing financial aid to
twelve additional international students in the class of 2006. No
deliberate action on this motion was taken either by University
Council or by the Admissions Office. However, this year the Admissions
Office has admitted several more (and more needy) international
students, even without such a deliberate mandate. The issue as to
whether to change the policy in favor of more need-blind admission
of non-North American students remains open, although this year's
committee is also favorably inclined toward it.
year's Committee recommended the creation of an admissions
database that would contain information relevant to Committee on
Admissions and Financial Aid and be updated yearly. However, it
has become apparent that what is needed more is updated information
technology equipment and software in the admissions, financial aid
and registrar's offices. The Committee understands that such
upgrades are either in the works or already underway, and we recommend
that important criteria be compatibility of the systems among the
three offices, and the ability to perform real-time searches and
queries on the data to the extent possible.
Pre-Freshman Program can only be the first component of a system
that supports at-risk students throughout their Penn careers. PENNCAP
(administered by Academic Support Programs) and its cousin CAAP
(administered by DRIA) are successful examples of such comprehensive
charge to our committee was vague about the population to whom an
expansion of the system would be directed. Two examples of such
populations come to mind: "special-admit" athletes and
students from underrepresented minorities (especially from the Philadelphia
region). At present, it does not seem feasible to expand the existing
Pre-Freshman Program significantly for either group. The current
Program succeeds beyond academics in that it offers its students
a friendly, gentle introduction to the Penn/Philadelphia environment,
and a chance to "network" with other first-year students
as well as a select group of upperclassmen. This aspect would likely
suffer in a greatly expanded program.
could contemplate a more aggressive and longer-term (one or two
years) Pre-Freshman program that would recruit students from Philadelphia
(especially public school students) to commit to attend Penn, and
for Penn to commit to them provided they successfully complete a
rigorous Penn-preparatory academic program taught by Penn faculty
during their senior (and perhaps junior) year(s) of high school.
VPUL's Upward Bound program is a significant step in this direction,
and we encourage the University to contemplate applying more resources
(and its own faculty) to further this effort.
proportion of students admitted to Penn early decision has been
increasing steadily. Given this, and the media's recent attention
to the issue, we feel that next year's Committee should be charged
to consider, in cooperation with the Admissions Office, what are
appropriate targets for the proportion of the entering class admitted
Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 6, October 1, 2002