Commonwealth Campuses, World Campus deliver on promise of access, affordability

July 17, 2015

MONACA, Pa. — In a report to Penn State's Board of Trustees on July 17, held at Penn State Beaver campus, Provost Nicholas P. Jones discussed Penn State’s position as "one university, geographically distributed" and cited the Commonwealth Campuses and online World Campus as key elements "that enable success for so many who wish to pursue an affordable and easily accessible education."

Penn State's unique multi-campus structure includes 24 locations. The first few Commonwealth Campuses were established in the mid-1930s as undergraduate centers, to bring Penn State closer to those who could not afford to leave home. The structure evolved over time to serve the University's land-grant mission to provide quality higher education to all those who are qualified and want to receive it.

"Commonwealth Campuses meet many students’ needs by offering a key starting point," said Jones, who also serves as the University’s executive vice president. “About 85 percent of all Commonwealth Campus students are from Pennsylvania, and come to us from more than 800 high schools statewide."

About 60 percent of Penn State students begin their experiences at a Commonwealth Campus, he noted. Annually, more than 5,000 students transition among the campuses, and nearly 2,500 students transfer to Commonwealth Campuses from other Pennsylvania-based colleges and universities. He pointed to the University's "2+2" enrollment model, a successful program in which some students spend their first two years at one campus and transition to another for their remaining two years. However, many students who start out at a given campus location stay there to finish their degrees, Jones said.

Jones clarified that Penn State is not considered a "system," which is common for multi-campus universities in the United States. Rather, in contrast to other such systems, which may operate with substantial autonomy and curricular independence, "Penn State truly functions as 'one university, geographically distributed' not only in concept, but also in practice," he said.

"Penn State as a multi-campus entity informs everything we say and do. The University Park campus is the largest and serves as the administrative hub, but is not defined as the 'main' campus. Ultimately, our Commonwealth Campuses are strong, serving more than 31,000 students who are vital to our integrated University structure. “

"As you know, we have one University President; one Board of Trustees; one University Faculty Senate; one set of policies and procedures for faculty, staff and students," he added. "Penn State’s budget planning and implementation processes are entirely centralized under the direction of the executive vice president and provost and the senior vice president for Finance and Business/treasurer, and supported by the University Budget Office.

"On the student side, much of our course content is consistent across campuses, including the World Campus, and you are a Penn State graduate no matter how, when, or where you achieved your degree," he said.

Jones also noted that the Penn State World Campus now enrolls more than 15,000 people annually, from all 50 U.S. states, three U.S. territories and 80 countries. World Campus options particularly appeal to adult students, who may face unique challenges as they juggle school, work and families to further their personal and professional goals.

“The World Campus value proposition is geared toward what learners want: a ‘real’ Penn State degree, convenience and flexibility, extraordinary student support, an exceptional learning experience, and a connection to the Penn State family — a true worldwide network,” Jones said.

With approximately 100,000 students, and applications for enrollment increasing every year, the University "clearly is a growing and thriving institution of higher learning and research," said Jones. "We still have much room for improvement and growth, however — so while we can be excited about the great things we are accomplishing, we cannot rest. There is still a lot of work to be done."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 20, 2015