From the President and Provost: Creating Office of Penn First Plus

As part of our ongoing commitment to ensuring that all Penn students have access to the tools and supports they need to thrive during their study at Penn, we are pleased to preview a series of initiatives designed to further enhance the success of our growing community of first generation and low income students.

Since 2004, increased access to the transformative power of a Penn education has been one of our University’s highest priorities. In 2007, we were proud to become the largest school in the U.S. to pioneer all-grant financial aid. By 2017, 45 percent of Penn undergraduate students received financial aid, with an average award of $47,046. Our undergraduate financial aid budget for FY19 is slated at $237 million, an increase of more than 180 percent since 2005. And during this same period, the number of first generation students attending Penn has increased from 1 in 20 students to 1 in 8 students in the class that entered last fall.

 Over the past few years, to support our first generation and low income students, we have seen the founding of the Penn First student organization and the opening of the First Generation Low Income Program in the Greenfield Intercultural Center. This year, to further support our first generation and low income students, a group of faculty and campus leaders has been assessing new ideas and best practices in this area, doing extensive research and consulting widely with students and staff across the University. As a result of their efforts, we will take the following steps.

 We will create an Office of Penn First Plus Students, providing expanded programs and financial support for our First Plus undergraduates. The Penn First Plus Office will offer a central, supportive home at Penn where undergraduate students can form a vibrant community, learn more about resources and connect with faculty and alumni. Leading this office, a new Executive Director for Penn First Plus Students will further enrich the educational success and campus life of our undergraduates. The Executive Director will implement new programs, strengthen connections to faculty and alumni and provide a central hub and strategic vision to sustain these efforts. Two Faculty Directors, one from a humanities/social science discipline and one from a STEM discipline, will further our students’ academic development. Designated First Plus liaisons in each undergraduate school will also work closely with our undergraduates to understand their specific needs and goals. We look forward to sharing more details about Penn First Plus in the fall semester.

 We are grateful to the many members of the Penn community who over the past six months shared their perspectives and ideas. Penn First Plus is the latest step in our comprehensive efforts toward an ever-better, more inclusive and vibrantly diverse academic community. The very highest priority of this University has been and continues to be the success and well-being of all Penn students.

—Amy Gutmann, President
—Wendell Pritchett, Provost