Penn requires all sophomores to shell out for expensive dining plan – whether they need it or not

The University of Pennsylvania is forcing all rising sophomores to purchase $4,000 dining plans beginning in the fall of 2021.

Students see the policy as an attempt to siphon more money from students.

The University of Pennsylvania is forcing all rising sophomores to purchase $4,000 dining plans beginning fall 2021.

On February 15, Provost Wendell Pritchett sent an email to the class of 2024 claiming that the mandate is an attempt to “build a strong community” on campus. The email also claimed that the policy will serve to alleviate concerns about the potential of food insecurity” among Penn students.

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“Penn is strongly committed to creating memorable and meaningful experiences for the distinctive needs of our second-year students. We want to help students build a unified and supportive community, which includes living and eating together throughout the critical second year,” said Pritchett. “This two-year living and dining initiative, along with the dedicated programs of our new Second Year Experience, will be more important than ever as we return to campus life in the year ahead.”

The plan will cost $3,996 for the full 2021-2022 school year — a figure roughly equivalent to $450 per month. The plan is even required for sophomores who have kitchens in their on-campus housing.

The university’s FAQ about the policy includes the question “I can eat cheaper and better on my own, why do I need a dining plan?” The school’s answer insists that the mandatory dining plans will foster community and increase flexibility for students.

Penn promotes the plan “for a full mean prepared fresh for you each day” by telling students it will help them “when you are just too busy or tired to cook and shop.” 

Campus Reform recently reported that the University of Pennsylvania has experienced financial woes as a result of COVID-19.

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Rising sophomores were not thrilled with the new policy.

“I was pretty shocked by the announcement, and everyone I’ve mentioned it to, from other freshmen to seniors, also thinks it’s a ridiculous idea,” one freshman who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Campus Reform. “A few hours after the email was sent out a classmate told me petitions were already being made.”

“I don’t think anyone is really buying the whole ‘building community’ claim,” he added. “And even if it’s true, the fact that Penn is giving me no choice in the matter really makes them seem disingenuous.”

Within hours of the policy’s announcement, hundreds of Penn students signed a petition to cancel the new policy.

“The University of Pennsylvania, with an endowment of over 13 billion dollars and the highest paid president in the Ivy League, Amy Gutmann, who did not take a pay cut during the entirety of the pandemic, can’t seem to get enough money from the Class of 2024,” read the petition. “They are making a shameless cash grab by requiring the Class of 2024 to sign up for an expensive dining plan, as if an $80,000 annual cost of attendance isn’t enough.”

The petition adds that the “University of Pennsylvania is treating us like fools” for claiming that the policy was created for the purpose of “protecting students from food insecurity and building community.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft