Report: Few Penn Students Come From Low-Income Areas

"We’re not even a top 10 percent school," says one sociologist. "We’re a 1 percent school.”

Photo: iStock/f11photo

Photo: iStock/f11photo

A recent study from Brandeis University found that undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania are lacking in socioeconomic diversity.

Researchers randomly surveyed 1,113 undergraduates at the university and found that more than 70 percent of students surveyed came from a ZIP code where the median household income was in the top two quintiles in the United States.

The report did not find a single student in the selection pool who came from a ZIP code where the median household income was in the lowest quintile, and only five percent of undergraduates surveyed came from a ZIP code in the second-lowest quintile.

Penn, which is a comparatively racially diverse university, has raised its tuition costs by about 3.9 percent each year for the last six years. Announcements of the financial aid budget increases at the university typically accompany tuition hikes. Penn’s financial aid has grown by a third since 2008, university president Amy Gutmann reportedly said this past February, just as news of another tuition hike broke.

About 17 percent of Penn freshman in 2013 received Pell Grants, or awards given to low-income students, according to the Inquirer. That’s on par with selective colleges around the country, but that percentage has remained fairly static at selective schools in the nation since 2000, according to a report from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Richad Gelles, a sociologist and former dean of Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice, told the Daily Pennsylvanian that any school that places such an emphasis on standardized test scores is likely to attract wealthier students who have the resources to prepare for them. Still, despite its loan-free program debuted in 2007, Penn students take out more loans than any other Ivy League university, according to a 2015 report from the federal government.

“Penn is reflecting what’s going on in society, which is concerning, and that is a have and have-not society,” Gelles told the DP. “That we are — we’re not even a top 10 percent school, we’re a 1 percent school.”

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