LOAN-FREE AID: Initiated by President Amy Gutmann in 2008, Penn’s no-loan policy enables all dependent undergraduate students eligible for financial aid to receive loan-free aid packages, regardless of family income level. This gives students the chance to receive a high-quality education without being saddled with student debt.
HOW IT WORKS: Financial aid on college campuses often comes in the form of grant aid, a loan, and a workstudy position. Penn’s no-loan policy replaces the loan portion with additional grant aid so students are not required to borrow money to pay for their education.
FAMILY PICTURE: University Director of Financial Aid Joel Carstens says Penn takes a holistic look at each family applying for financial assistance to determine the kind of resources the family has to pay toward the total cost to attend Penn, and the amount of grant assistance the University is able to provide. “Our job is to look very closely at every situation to determine how we can best help each particular family,” he says.
FOR EXAMPLE: Penn tuition costs $45,890 for the 2013-2014 academic year. Say, for instance, a family applies for financial aid, and the University determines that the family has the resources to pay $10,000 per year. Penn will cover the remaining balance with grant assistance and a work-study job. (Students still have the option to take out a non-Penn loan if they so choose.)
NEED-BASED: Carstens says every family that feels they need assistance to afford a Penn education should apply for financial aid, and there is no income or asset cutoff. He says the no-loan policy has resonated most with lower and middle income families who may be deterred by the cost to attend Penn. “While we do have that sticker price, what families who qualify for need-based financial aid actually have to pay is oftentimes much, much less,” he says.
OPENING DOORS: Junior Michael Keramidas, double majoring in economics and political science, is one of the many students who have benefited from Penn’s no-loan policy. From Altoona, Pa., he graduated at the top of his high school class. Had the no-loan policy not existed, he says there was no way he could have attended Penn.
AFFORDABLE EDUCATION: Keramidas, currently studying abroad in Barcelona, says that one of the reasons he decided to apply to Penn was because he knew that if he got in, with the no-loan program, it would be one of his cheapest options. As it turned out, attending Penn cost less than enrolling at Penn State or the University of Pittsburgh.
STATE BY STATE: “For many students, the cost of attending the University of Pennsylvania may be less expensive than a state institution in their home state, and that could be true for students who live in Michigan, or students who live in California, or students who live in Florida, or anywhere in the country,” Carstens says.
INCREASING ACCESS: Keramidas says Penn’s no-loan policy has helped bring about a more diverse student body. “Without the no-loan program, it would be a lot more difficult for people like me to go to an amazing school like Penn,” he says.
DEBT FREE: Keramidas says he is on pace to graduate from Penn without any student loans, “which is really nice.”
Originally published on October 17, 2013