‘Financing College: Where’s the Money?’: The campus connection

Attending a Penn State campus close to home has its financial advantages

Penn State’s new series, “Financing College: Where’s the Money?” will examine ways to pay for higher education using loans, grants, scholarships, employment, tax credits, Penn State programs and other techniques.

Credit: Patrick Mansell

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — It’s no secret that Penn State includes a network of campuses throughout the state of Pennsylvania, but incoming students may not be fully aware of all the financial benefits attending a campus other than University Park may afford.

Location, location, location

Location is a selling point often used when talking about real estate, but the vicinity of a campus to a student’s home also can be a major benefit when it comes time to choose where to enroll for college. With the combined costs of housing and meal plans ranging from almost $10,000 to more than $15,000 a year, commuting to a nearby campus can mean big savings off the overall cost associated with a college education.

Choosing a Penn State campus near home to begin college gives students the option of finishing a degree at that campus or using Penn State’s 2+2 plan to finish their degree at University Park or another campus.

"Penn State does an amazing job of providing access by allowing students to start at a local campus at a reduced rate of tuition. That student can then move within the University to pursue their passion to finish at whichever campus location they desire which meets their needs via our 2+2 Plan."  

— Clark V. Brigger, executive director for undergraduate admissions at Penn State

Penn State campus locations
Credit: Penn State

In addition to saving money on housing by living at home, students who attend a Penn State undergraduate campus other than University Park receive a discounted rate on tuition. This lower rate allows students to reap that savings for the number of years they remain at that campus, whether it is one, two or three years, or through graduation. Students will need to research what degrees are offered at each campus to make a determination on whether a degree can be finished at their initial campus or whether a transfer is necessary for the chosen curriculum.

"Penn State does an amazing job of providing access by allowing students to start at a local campus at a reduced rate of tuition,” said Clark V. Brigger, executive director for undergraduate admissions at Penn State. “That student can then move within the University to pursue their passion to finish at whichever campus location they desire which meets their needs via our 2+2 Plan."  

In 2016, Penn State continued its ongoing efforts to maintain access and affordability and did not increase tuition costs for resident students at eight of the 19 undergraduate Commonwealth Campuses, including Beaver, DuBois, Fayette, Greater Allegheny, Mont Alto, New Kensington, Shenango and Wilkes-Barre.

One program under Penn State President Eric Barron’s initiative to promote an affordable and accessible education is the Pathway to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS) program, which allows selected students at many campuses the opportunity to get a head start on their first or second years of college by taking summer classes. PaSSS, an important element in Barron’s program known as Plan4, provided up to $3,000 in scholarship money and an additional $400 book stipend to those students in 2016.

The nine campuses that offered PaSSS in 2016 were: Altoona, Beaver, Berks, Brandywine, Fayette, Hazleton, Schuylkill, Shenango and York.

In addition to University-wide initiatives, each Penn State campus has different scholarships and programs designed to help students afford college.

Below are examples of programs and scholarships at specific campuses:

  • Abington: Awarded more than $2.6 million in scholarships in 2016-17 from a combination of alumni and donor gifts, campus and University sources. More than 60 endowed scholarships are awarded each year. Students in the general engineering major will receive a special engineering scholarship ranging from $5,000 to $6,000 in their junior and senior years.
  • Altoona: Funding from 86 endowed scholarships and awards provides over $850,000, and privately-endowed and University-funded assistance provides an additional $350,000, annually to students. Juniors and seniors enrolled in a Penn State Altoona major have the opportunity to apply for a scholarship though the Penn State Altoona Majors Scholarship program; annually, approximately 125 students receive awards through this program. Seniors enrolled in the Sheetz Fellows Program receive a $10,000 scholarship and funding for study-abroad. Funding from all institutional and private sources totals over 5.6 million.
  • Beaver: All students are automatically considered for scholarship opportunities, and last year students received more than $1 million in scholarship awards from a combination of alumni and donor gifts, and campus- and University-funded awards.
  • Behrend: Awarded $2 million in endowment aid to students in 2015-16, plus $600,000 in additional University-funded assistance. Creative writing scholarships assists an average of 11 students, study abroad endowment awards $50,000 annually.
  • Berks: Awards 42 endowed scholarships from donor gifts and two scholarships provided by the campus’ alumni groups. In addition, first-year students offered admission are automatically considered for one of two merit-based awards — the chancellor's scholarship and the academic excellence scholarship.
  • Brandywine: Scholarships are available for first-year, transfer and upper-division students. Awards are also available for adult and part-time students. Cooper Honors students receive renewable awards ranging from $2,500-$7,000 per year. Two endowments help students from Chester, Pennsylvania, complete a bachelor's degree debt-free. 
  • DuBois: Awards more than $400,000 in scholarships annually. 
  • Fayette: Offers nearly $500,000 in campus scholarships to new and returning students. Typical scholarships average $2,500 per year in addition to any other University merit- or need-based aid awarded.
  • Great Valley: In an effort to make graduate programs more affordable, Penn State Great Valley offers merit-based scholarships for both part-time and full-time students.
  • Harrisburg: In the 2015-16 academic year, 575 students received University scholarships totaling more than $1.1 million and 1,417 students received institutional scholarships totaling more than $3.5 million.
  • Hazleton: In the 2016-17 academic year, more than $1.3 million in scholarships and awards from campus donors and University sources was presented to students. Area high-school students can earn credits at 50 percent off tuition through dual enrollment.  
  • Lehigh Valley: Among the 18 scholarships with active funds, 57 students were awarded a total amount of more than $80,000 for the 2016-17 academic year. This same minimum amount will be awarded for the 2017-18 academic year for qualified students.
  • Mont Alto: In 2016-17, the campus awarded more than $511,000 in scholarships to 338 students.
  • New Kensington: Believed to be the first of its kind at any Penn State campus, the ASPIRE program educates students on the importance of making healthy financial decisions. Students earn $1,000 for a bachelor’s degree or $500 for an associate. Overall, more than $850,000 in scholarships are awarded; undergraduate awards average $2,000. Additionally, the alumni society awards $6,000.
  • Schuylkill: Offers more than $700,000 in scholarship money; the dual enrollment program offers scholarships to cover 50 percent of tuition for high school juniors and seniors; and a $2,000 lifetime award is available to first-time adult learners, ages 24 and over.
  • Shenango: In addition to other scholarship opportunities, incoming high school students with a 3.0 or higher grade point average (GPA) receive $3,000 per year, every year, for as long as they maintain at least a 2.5 GPA. More than $600,000 in scholarships are awarded annually.
  • Wilkes-Barre: For 2016-17, the campus awarded $566,000, in 50 scholarships, to 230 students.
  • Worthington Scranton: Awarded more than 170 scholarships totaling more than $350,000. The campus has also established a Student Hardship Fund that provides financial help to students experiencing extraordinary and sometimes unexpected hardships that affect their ability to cover the costs of their education.
  • York: Forty-five different scholarship fund sources totaled more than $415,000 for the 2016-17 year. In addition to these scholarships, students are also eligible for additional University-wide scholarships.

For more information on applying to any Penn State campus or additional information on financial aid, go online to http://admissions.psu.edu/pennstate/campuses/ to select a preferred location.