Students moving into Quad
Photo credit: University Archives

The process of moving in to the Penn dorms around 1940—when this picture was taken—was a lot different than it is today.

First off, students back then weren’t lugging computers, microwaves and other equipment into dorm rooms to help make college life easier.

The cost of a Penn education was much different, too. According to records from the University Archives, tuition for an undergraduate Penn education—which included the College, College of Liberal Arts for Women, School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Wharton School—was just $400, plus a general fee of $20. Room and Board ran $520, and textbooks cost an additional $45.

Prices have increased, of course—though, today, and for the first time in Penn history, all undergraduates who are eligible for financial aid will receive grants rather than loans in their aid packages. Today’s undergraduates are more diverse: Ten percent of the students in the class of 2013 are the first in their families to attend college. They are a talented bunch, too: Based on SAT scores, GPA and class rank, the class is the most gifted in the University’s history.

For more information on historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives web site at

Originally published on September 3, 2009