UPENN: LOWER TUITION FOR FALL '20

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Dear Dr. Gutmann, Deans, and members of the Board of Trustees,

We are saddened to hear of the update that the University sent last week regarding the revision to fall semester plans.While we understand the necessity and importance of this decision due to the current pandemic,, for both the health of our student population as well as the local Philadelphia community, the lack of transparent communication during these times has been disheartening and discouraging.  

As elected officials of the student body, our role is to look out for the interests and wellbeing of every student, and we are extremely frustrated that the University expects students to pay the same amount of tuition as in the 2019-2020 school year. We understand the deficits that the University must endure as a result of these changes, with a $47M deficit in the Spring and $91M projected for 2021, but students should not bear the cost burdens. 

While we appreciate the incremental 10% decrease in General Fees, we’re still paying for on-campus resources that we can no longer access in Fall 2020. We are forced to pay technology fees of $870 for computer labs and technological services, clinical fees of $608 for on campus wellness services, and general fees of $5,136 - 10% = $4,622 for student activities, rec and fitness, and career services. None of these resources will be utilized to the same extent as prior years by students in the upcoming year. Simply put, students are  paying $57,256 for a suboptimal college semester.

Penn should also acknowledge that tuition costs and fees are not the only expenses that Penn students have faced in the preparation of returning to campus. Many students have purchased non-refundable plane tickets, signed lease agreements based on the previously published plans that Penn students would be allowed to return to campus, and   paid tuition in anticipation for the hybrid Fall semester. 

Additionally, the decision to switch plans occurred 20 days before the supposed return to school. All of the potential on-campus activities and amenities that were promised, including  regular COVID tests and the open campus facilities, are no longer available. The response from Penn has also been notably delayed  compared to our Ivy League peers, a contradictory response when  Penn has always promised to be a leader in the response. 

Penn is the last university among the Ivy League schools to make a conclusion surrounding the Fall 2020 semester. It is frustrating to watch other universities take swift, decisive action to benefit students during the crisis while Penn students are scrambling and left in limbo. 

We urge the University to not take the easy way out, i.e cancelling and leaving students to figure things out on their own two weeks before campus. As our founder Benjamin Franklin said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” Now is the opportunity for Penn to right its wrongs. As students, this is what we urge the University to do for next steps: 

1. Refund a greater portion of the tuition (at least $4,046 to refund our technology fees, clinical fees, and half of our general fees).

2. Support students by subsidizing  nonrefundable airline tickets. 
Provide grants to students living off campus who are now stuck in leases by:
       a. Subsidizing wifi 
       b. Providing financial assistance with rent 
       c. Ensuring food and housing for students living on or off-campus have COVID

Please sign this petition and share with parents, students, alumni and faculty, to support us in fixing the University’s actions. 

- Class Board 2021 -