Scott and Elena Shleifer
Penn Priority //

Pivotal Gift for Penn First Plus

The launch of Penn First Plus in 2018 signaled the University’s strong commitment to ensure all students—regardless of financial or family circumstances—can experience the full breadth of a Penn education. Thanks to a pivotal $18 million gift from Scott, W’99, and Elena Shleifer, Penn will increase its support and critical resources for students who are in the first generation of their family to attend college and/or from households of modest or limited income.

Penn First Plus is a comprehensive and multifaceted initiative featuring financial, academic, and programmatic elements, with a dedicated physical space in the heart of campus. That space, in Penn’s iconic College Hall, will now be known as the Shleifer Family Penn First Plus Center.

“I am thrilled and profoundly grateful to Scott and Elena Shleifer for their amazing commitment to support such an important University priority as Penn First Plus,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “As a scholarship recipient myself, I know how significantly student aid changes lives. I also know that tuition support alone is often not enough. This gift will enable our University to foster an ever more welcoming and inclusive learning environment to prepare all Penn students for successful lives.  We are proud to have the Penn First Plus Center bear the Shleifer Family name.”


Dr. Gutmann speaks with students in the Penn Shleifer Family First Plus Center lobby

The Shleifers’ gift is one of the most transformative investments Penn has received for this community of undergraduates. It provides stable funding for the program through endowment. Included in this gift is a $3 million challenge fund to encourage additional endowed support for enhanced financial aid packages for Penn First Plus students. These endowments will fund students to take summer courses, pursue internships, join a research team, engage in service learning, or study abroad. By offering a match of $100,000 to augment gifts of $400,000 from other donors, the Shleifer Challenge will ultimately generate $15 million in endowed support for financial aid for Penn First Plus students.

At the Shleifer Family Penn First Plus Center, students in the Penn First Plus community can access comprehensive resources from across the University. They can also meet with Penn First Plus professional staff and connect with experts in academic support, financial aid, wellness, and career services.

“Our purpose is to ensure that any student, from any background, can make the most of a Penn education,” said Marc Lo, Executive Director of Penn First Plus. “With this phenomenal gift, we expect to deepen our efforts to enhance student academic achievement, create more opportunities for students to find community and a sense of belonging, increase participation in extracurricular experiences, and, of course, provide more relief to the financial pressures of college. We thank the Shleifers for elevating our ability to provide these unique and holistic services for students.”

An important component of the Shleifers’ gift will expand financial aid, which marks the cornerstone of Penn First Plus.  Of Penn’s nearly 10,000 undergraduate students, approximately half receive need-based financial aid.  Ten percent of students are eligible to receive the University’s most generous and comprehensive financial aid packages, covering needs such as laptops, holiday break meals and travel, emergency grants, and funds for summer internships, research, study abroad programs and academic courses.

“Attending Penn had an enormously positive impact on my life. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities this great University opened up to me, and it is my privilege to help provide the same opportunities to other students,” Scott Shleifer said. “Elena and I hope this gift enables many more bright young minds to benefit from a Penn education so they can create the best lives for themselves and their families for generations to come.”

For more information about Penn First Plus and ways to support the initiative, visit


Photo Credit for photo of Scott and Elena Shleifer to Brian Marcus