How to Get University of Pennsylvania Financial Aid and Loans

 June 8, 2020
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As one of the Ivy League’s eight institutions, the University of Pennsylvania (also known as UPenn or just Penn) is one of the most prestigious and well-respected schools in the nation. According to The Princeton Review, it’s also one of the top universities when it comes to career placement. But that reputation comes with a high price tag, and Penn financial aid might go a long way in managing the costs of attending.

Read on for a list of financial options available if you plan on attending the University of Pennsylvania.

Cost of attending University of Pennsylvania
Tuition and fees $60,042
Room and board $16,784
Total cost (2020-21) $76,826
Average financial aid package for incoming freshmen (2017) $51,470
Approximate net cost (after aid) $25,356
Median debt after graduation $16,020 – $23,875
Sources: University of Pennsylvania, College Scorecard

7 steps to paying for University of Pennsylvania

Here are some of the best ways to pay for your education at Penn.


Despite its high costs, there are many ways to pay for the University of Pennsylvania, including grants, scholarships, federal loans, work-study programs and private loans.

If you want to attend the University of Pennsylvania but need help paying for it, your first step to getting financial aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The FAFSA is a snapshot of your family’s income and size, as well as how many family members are in college. It’s what the government and schools use to determine how much you can afford to pay for your education. Most grant, loan and scholarship programs require you to submit the FAFSA each year.

Grants for University of Pennsylvania students

Thankfully, the University of Pennsylvania financial aid program includes grants. Unlike student loans, which have to be repaid, whereas grants you almost never have to pay back.

The school’s policy is that financial aid awards will be in the form of grants and work-study jobs, rather than student loans. The university has committed to meet 100% of all students’ demonstrated financial need without the use of loans for up to eight semesters of undergraduate study.

To be eligible for school grants, you must complete the FAFSA, continue to make satisfactory academic progress each year and not be in default on a federal loan. For institutional grants, you must also complete the College Scholarship Service Profile and the Penn Financial Aid Supplement, and submit the required federal income tax return information.

The University of Pennsylvania issues “Penn Grants” to students from general school funds. The amount you’re awarded is dependent on your need.

Besides the Penn Grant, there are other state and federal grants available, including the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.

Scholarships for University of Pennsylvania students

Like grants, scholarships usually don’t need to be repaid. Plus, you can combine multiple scholarships and grants to offset your education costs, reducing the need for student loans.

The University of Pennsylvania offers the following scholarships:

  • University-named scholarships: Some alumni and school connections give financial gifts to the university for use as scholarships. All named scholarships are need-based, so they require you to complete the FAFSA to qualify.
  • Maguire Scholarship: Each year, the school selects up to five students in each incoming class to provide financial support that other aid didn’t cover.
  • Mayor’s Scholarship: The Mayor’s Scholarship is awarded to outstanding students who are residents of Philadelphia and who went to high school in Philadelphia or its neighboring counties. If the student has a continued demonstrable financial need, the award can be renewed each year.

If you don’t qualify for any of these scholarships, it’s important to know many organizations and private companies offer thousands of scholarships. You can search for scholarship opportunities on sites like Fastweb and

Federal and school work-study programs

If grants and scholarships aren’t enough to cover your total cost of attendance, a way to fill the gap is to take part in a federal or school work-study program.

In a work-study program, you’re awarded a set number of hours of paid employment, which you can use to offset your school expenses.

At the University of Pennsylvania, there is both a federal work-study program and a school program. The Penn Work-Study program is available for those who still have a financial need after receiving grants, scholarships and federal subsidized student loans.

For more information about the work-study program and how to participate, contact the school’s Office of Student Employment.

Federal student loans

If you’ve exhausted your grant and scholarship options and still need help paying for school, federal student loans should be your first stop. Federal student loans tend to have lower interest rates and more generous repayment benefits than private loans.

Federal loans also offer unique perks, such as:

  • Income driven-repayment (IDR) plans: If you can’t afford your payments after graduation, you might be able to switch from a Standard Repayment Plan to an IDR plan. Under IDR, the loan servicer extends your repayment term to 20 to 25 years and caps your monthly payments at a percentage of your discretionary income. Depending on your income, loan balance and family size, you could qualify for a payment as low as $0. Private student loans aren’t eligible for IDR plans.
  • Loan forgiveness: If you have federal loans and work for a qualifying nonprofit or government agency, you could be eligible for loan forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The remaining balance of your loans is wiped away after you make 120 monthly payments. Payments made under an IDR plan count as qualifying payments, so the savings can be significant.
  • Forbearance and deferment: If you can’t afford your payments or are facing financial hardship, you can enter your loans into deferment or forbearance. That means you can postpone making payments without becoming delinquent on your loans. Private lenders don’t typically offer forbearance or deferment, but some do under special circumstances.

As an added benefit, the rates on federal loans are fixed for the length of the loan, so you don’t have to worry about your rate skyrocketing.

There are several different federal loans available.

Federal student loans
Loan type Meant for Interest rate Origination fee Annual loan limit
Direct Subsidized Undergraduate students with a financial need 4.53% 1.059% $3,500 – $5,500, depending on what year of school you’re in and whether you’re a dependent student
Direct Unsubsidized Undergraduate and graduate students 4.53% for undergraduate students; 6.08% for graduate students 1.059% $5,500 – $20,500, depending on what year of school you’re in and whether you’re a dependent student
Direct PLUS Graduate students or parents of undergraduate students 7.08% 4.236% Total cost of attendance
Information accurate as of May 28, 2020
Source: Federal Student Aid

University of Pennsylvania loans and payment options

Beyond scholarships and grants, the University of Pennsylvania offers several other financing options:

  • Student Aid Loan: For undergraduate students who have extra financial need, the Student Aid Loan can help them cover the remaining cost after financial aid. With a 6.00% interest rate and a nine-month grace period, it’s a much better option than private loans. However, the school does note that there are limits on this type of loan, “based on available funding and student financial need.”
  • Tuition Prepayment Plan: If you can afford to pay for all four years of college at once, you could save money with the school’s Tuition Prepayment Plan. When you pay upfront, you lock in the current rates for tuition and fees, avoiding future increases.

Use these options first before pursuing private student loans to reduce your debt burden.

Private student loans

If you still need help covering the cost of your education, private student loans can be a useful tool.

Although they usually have higher interest rates and fewer perks than federal loans, they can help you complete your degree. But it’s wise to take out federal loans first before applying for private loans.

Unlike federal government loans, private loans are offered by banks and financial institutions. Each lender will have its own eligibility requirements, interest rates and repayment terms.

Before applying for a loan, it’s a good idea to compare offers from several private student loan lenders to ensure you get your best rate and terms.

The bottom line: Paying for University of Pennsylvania

Although the University of Pennsylvania is an expensive school, there are many financing options available that can make it more affordable.

Grants, scholarships, payment plans and work-study programs can reduce your costs, minimizing how much debt you take on or even eliminating the need for any debt.

If you do need to borrow money to pay for school, make sure you understand the difference between federal and private loans and compare offers to get your best rates.

Christina Majaski contributed to this report.

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