University of Pennsylvania and Debt

Hey guys!

I’m applying to a few schools, many of them small liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania. I’m not poor, but my family doesn’t have lots of money if you know what I mean. So I was planning to apply early decision to the University of Pennsylvania because I hear that the financial aid and endowment is really good there (and at all of the ivy leagues, actually). Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just about finance; it’s a beautiful campus, and there is a lot to offer. The financial aspect is just something I really need.

My main concern is, however, if I apply early decision, it’s binding, and if I have to go there, the financial aid might not be the same. Can anybody tell me (either through personal experience or through knowledge) what the total debt is for students AND their families? Tell me everything you know about UPenn, its finances, and its debt to students.


Run the Net Price Calculator available on Penn’s web site using your family’s numbers. What other students received is irrelevant for you. They have excellent financial aid but not necessarily for high income families.

Average loans at Penn are 20K over 4 years, which is unmet need/parents wanting kids to contribute. If that is acceptable for you, apply.

The major reason that someone can turn down ED is due to financial reasons. However, you need to go into it knowing that they might not give full aid.

Whatever aid they do give is grants though, so if you have the means to get a Parent PLUS loan or other private loan, and 20K for four years seems acceptable, you should consider it.

It is odd you’d be interested in small liberal arts colleges and Penn, it does not fit into that category by any means.

Looking at some of your other posts from last spring, your SAT and ACT scores look low for Penn and other highly selective schools. Unfortunately, unless you have some unique hooks (such as being a recruited athlete), an SAT score in the 1800’s is unlikely to be high enough for Penn.

The good news is that there are other schools where you’ll be a good candidate for admission. Since you say that you’re not poor but that your family doesn’t have a lot of money, it sounds like you’ll be looking for merit aid. What is your family’s budget, and what is your EFC (Expected Family Contribution, as calculated by FAFSA or even a college NPC)? Do go over to the Financial Aid forum and ask the knowledgeable parents there for advice on where to apply.

If you want the ability to compare financial aid offers them perhaps it is best not to apply anywhere ED.

And in fact, you can often negotiate your financial aid and merit aid packages if you receive a better offer from a comparable school to the one that is your first choice. Generally, the ‘1st choice’ school will ask you to send them a copy of the financial aid offer letter from the ‘peer school.’ If they can, they may offer to match it, or at least narrow the gap. (This is generally between peer schools. If you have a better offer from a much less selective school, it is less likely that the last choice school will change their offer. They assume you are getting a better package because that’s what the less selective school has to do to attract students of your caliber.)

Bottom line: If aid is important to you, you may want to have the leverage the comes from multiple financial aid offers.