Pennsylvania has a rich history – from the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the Battle of Gettysburg and Valley Forge – but it’s focused on the future when it comes to higher education.
Students at the state’s top-notch colleges and universities have access to a wide variety of online learning opportunities, as well as a host of grants and scholarships to help make programs more affordable.
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Indeed, Pennsylvania is forging ahead to become a national leader in postsecondary education.
Overview of Higher Education in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania there are 220 degree-granting institutions, according to a 2018-2019 report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The breakdown is as follows: 63 public schools, 116 non-profit private schools, and 41 for-profit private schools.
The state has a long list of remarkable institutions, including Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, the first university in the US and the country’s first medical school; UPenn’s top ranked Seven Sisters school Bryn Mawr College; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the first art school in the US; Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (now part of University of the Sciences in Philadelphia), the first pharmacy school in the US; and many others.
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To attend one of Pennsylvania’s 4-year public institutions, residents will pay a steep $14,812, according to Collegeboard.org’s 2016-2017 report. Out of state students will pay around $28,527. Both are thousands of dollars above the national average.
About Online Colleges in Pennsylvania
A 2018 report by the NCES found that 10.1% of postsecondary students in Pennsylvania were enrolled in online college courses exclusively, and another 15% of students were participating in a hybrid of online and on-campus courses. In Pennsylvania, there are two notable resources for online education.
First, Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education’s site connects students with the online courses and programs available at its 14 member universities. Altogether, the State System universities offer more than 2300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas. Students may search by keyword, university, delivery format or degree level to find the program or course they’re interested in.
Second, the Pennsylvania Distance Learning Association (PADLA) provides a networking platform for online education professionals, instructors and students at all levels. PADLA is a regional chapter (serving Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey) of a national organization dedicated to the free exchange of ideas and information among the distance learning community.
Without question, the state’s most successful online program is Penn State’s, which is recognized among the US News and World Reports’ Top 10 Online Bachelor’s Programs. Penn State’s World Campus offers more than 150 accredited graduate degrees, undergraduate degrees, certificates and minors.
Their most popular programs include Registered Nursing, Business/Commerce, Psychology, Information Studies and Criminal Justice, but there are many more available. Online students receive the same degree or certificate as traditional students, and are taught by the same faculty.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Pennsylvania
If you’re interested in attending a college or university in Pennsylvania, the first thing you will need to do is complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
This will give you access to federal, state and private financial aid. You should complete the FAFSA as early as possible. It will be available to you on October 1st of the year before you plan to attend college, and many of the funds are distributed on a first come, first served basis.
The FAFSA application itself is fairly straight-forward. You will input financial information for yourself and your parents (unless you’re considered “independent” by FAFSA’s standards), and then that data will be used to determine how much and what type of aid you qualify for.
Students in Pennsylvania also have access to one of the nation’s leading student aid organizations, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). PHEAA serves millions of students and thousands of schools through its loan guaranty, loan servicing, financial aid processing, outreach and other student aid programs.
Some of the financial aid programs available to Pennsylvanians include:
- Postsecondary Education Gratuity Program (PEGP) – For high school seniors whose parent died while performing duties as Pennsylvania police officers, firefighters, rescue or ambulance squad members, correctional facility employees, or National Guard members after 1/1/1976, or as sheriffs, deputy sheriffs and certain other individuals on active duty military who have died on duty since 9/11/2001; Covers tuition, room and board, books and fees
- Grant for Veterans – For veterans of any military branch; Up to $2700
- Grant for POW/MIA Dependents – For dependents of members of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces who have been declared a prisoner of war or missing in action; Up to $1200
- Grant for National Guard Members – For members of the Pennsylvania National Guard; amount varies
- Pennsylvania State Grants – For students with financial need; Offered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency
- Kids Chance of Pennsylvania – For students ages 16-25 with financial need due to the death or severe injury of a parent at work
Many of Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities offer financial aid programs of their own, both need-based and merit-based. To find out more about these opportunities, check with the financial aid office at the school(s) you’re considering.
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Private scholarships are another helpful source for financial assistance. Here are a few available to Pennsylvanians:
|Scholarship Name||Scholarship amount|
|Clarkston Scholars Program||$10,000|
|Pennsylvania House of Representatives Scholarship||Varies|
|The Hellenic University Club Undergraduate Scholarships||Varies|
|The Sue Wiseman Scholarship||$1000|
That’s just a sampling! You can find many more scholarship opportunities through search sites like Fastweb.com. Simply enter some basic demographic information and you will be matched with dozens of scholarships.
List of Online Colleges in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is packed with impressive schools, most with robust online programs. And students have access to generous financial aid programs to help ease the financial burden.
This northeastern state is focused on providing excellent higher education opportunities, which makes it an excellent place to earn your degree!