Wharton freshmen can no longer concentrate in actuarial science


The Wharton undergraduate program is getting rid of the actuarial science concentration due to a faculty retirement. 

Credit: Pranay Vemulamada

The Wharton School will no longer offer freshmen and incoming students the ability to concentrate in actuarial science. 

Wharton sophomores, juniors, and seniors concentrating in the discipline will be able to continue their studies. It remains uncertain if the actuarial mathematics minor, which is offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, will still be available to students.

Penn made no formal announcement of the change. Freshmen who planned on studying actuarial science at Penn voiced frustration at the decision and the school’s lack of a statement.

Janet Conway, a senior director in the Wharton’s Dean’s Office, said the school has not yet determined whether the concentration will be offered again in future years.

“Due to an upcoming faculty retirement, we are actively working on solutions for the future of the Actuarial Science concentration offered through the Wharton School, and the Statistics component of the Minor in Actuarial Mathematics offered through SAS,” Conway wrote in an email to the DP. “We will do whatever it takes for students currently enrolled in these programs to complete their studies as expected.” 

Wharton officials could not respond to follow-up questions about whether the concentration will be offered again after a new faculty member is hired.

Credit: Zach Sheldon

Actuarial science involves compiling and analyzing statistics to calculate risks in insurance and finance. The profession applies mathematics to model uncertainty and evaluates the probability and financial consequences of future events.

Wharton freshman Julian Zambrano, who specifically came to Penn to study actuarial science, said he first noticed the change last week when he saw that the Wharton homepage no longer listed actuarial science as one of the concentrations. 

On the actuarial science webpage, it stated that “this concentration may only be declared by students in the Classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022 who have already completed STAT 451 and will have STAT 453 completed by the end of spring 2020.”

Zambrano said the school did not send out an announcement informing students of the change. 

“I felt like I was a little left in the dark,” Zambrano said. “It seemed like not everyone was sure about what was happening and then one day, we just happened to check the website, and then the concentration was gone. I would have liked a little more transparency.” 

When Zambrano contacted Wharton for more information, officials said STAT 451 will be offered in fall 2020. However, it is unclear if the school will continue to offer STAT 452 and 453, which are required courses if students want to concentrate in actuarial science. While STAT 451 and 452 cover the fundamental of actuarial science, STAT 453 teaches actuarial statistics.

The actuarial science concentration required three statistics courses (STAT 451, 452, and 453) as well as another elective. According to PennInTouch, STAT 452 will be offered next semester, but STAT 451 and STAT 453 were not listed as options. Currently, four of the six electives are also available next semester.  

As a result, current freshmen and future incoming students may not be able to declare the concentration.  

Wharton freshman Ana Romo said she was caught off-guard when she realized actuarial science was not a concentration anymore. Romo said she was confused because she applied to concentrate in actuarial science, but can now no longer complete it.

Wharton freshman Bhavini Varsani, who was planning to concentrate in actuarial science, said the school should have been more transparent and informed students of the change. 

“At the end of the day, I still want to do actuarial science, so if they don’t offer the course, we will probably have to self-study for the exams,” Varsani said, referring to the external exams needed to be recognized as a professional. “It’s not really going to affect my career. It’s just going to affect how difficult it will be for me to pass the exams.” 

Varsani, who applied to Penn specifically to study actuarial science, said she might switch to concentrate in business analytics or statistics. 

“The main issue is that we still don’t even know with 100% certainty which classes are cancelled, [and] in terms of the concentration, how we can still pursue that if we still want to,” Wharton freshman Tiffany Chyke-Okpuzor said. “It’s very frustrating especially when advance registration is here and you are trying to plan for the future.” 

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