04/21/2014 04:36 pm ET Updated Apr 21, 2014

Not Enough: When $20 Is Too Much To Ask For A College Student

It adds up. It’s hard to reduce each person’s unique college experience to three words, but from a strictly factual standpoint, these are perfect. Being at Penn is expensive, period. Forget tuition, rent, books—between seminars and problem sets, there are coffees to drink, Chipotle burritos to eat, weekends to be spent out, clubs and Greek organizations to join. Imagine, for a minute, that someone could show you the amount of money you’ve spent here. Would you want to know? For some students, there’s no choice but to know. They arrive at Penn and find out, sooner or later, that they can’t keep up with the cost of living and never will.

Sure, the education itself has become more accessible. Penn, buoyed by its billions, has used financial aid to bring in talented students of middle– and working–class backgrounds who couldn’t afford an elite education otherwise. That generous financial aid, though, often stops at tuition—you might get rent and meals if your package allows for them. And beyond even the biggest awards, life goes on outside the dining hall and the college house. What then?

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