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Overview of Pennsylvania's Higher Education & Career Education

Pennsylvania is home to almost 250 colleges and universities. See rankings of the best and most affordable schools in Pennsylvania to determine which schools might be right for you.

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Most Program Variety

Students who attend schools that offer a spectrum of programs are more likely to be exposed to different disciplines as part of their studies. Across the state, a significant number of schools offer less than 100 programs each. The 3 Pennsylvania schools below offer students the most variety of undergraduate and graduate programs from which students can choose.

1 - Pennsylvania State University - Main Campus

Located in University Park, this public university offers students the most options with its 217 programs. Undergraduate students typically major in business, engineering and communications, according to a 2011 study by U.S. News & World Report. The school is the 13th top public school and 46th best national university, U.S. News found. In addition, many of the undergraduate engineering programs are top 10 rated for schools that have a doctorate as the highest degree, according to the report. At the graduate level, the earth sciences program is 6th best while the education school is rated 28th, U.S. News & World Report found.

2 - Temple University

Students can also consider this public Philadelphia school since it has 208 programs from which to choose. In 2011, it was common for undergraduate students to major in business, communications, visual and performing arts, education and social sciences while graduate students can learn about education, engineering and law, according to U.S. News & World Report. The school ranks as the 60th top public school with specific undergraduate programs in insurance and international business ranking 6th and 9th best, respectively, U.S. News reported. The school's graduate program in fine arts is 13th best while the law school is rated 56th, according to U.S. News & World Report. The online graduate business program is ranked 28th best, the report found.

3 - University of Pennsylvania

This private Philadelphia school offers 205 programs, which results in bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees. Undergraduate programs cover finance, political science and history and graduate programs include business and engineering, according to U.S. News & World Report. The undergraduate program in business is number one in the country while the school as a whole is ranked the 8th best national university, according to U.S. News. Many of the graduate programs are top 10 rated. For example, the graduate program in nursing is number one while the graduate business school is 3rd best, the report found.

Lowest Net Price

The average net price for a college or university is determined by subtracting the amount of government or institutional financial aid a student receives from the total cost of attendance. The figures for these 3 traditional Pennsylvania schools are based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the 2011-2012 academic year. The net price for traditional Pennsylvania schools ranges from more than $2,000 annually to nearly $36,000 a year.

1 - Pennsylvania Highlands Community College

Located in Johnstown, this school offers students the most affordable option with its net price of $2,493. During the 2012-13 school year, in-district students paid $4,420 in tuition and fees while in-state students paid $7,580, according to NCES. Students from outside the state were charged $10,510 in tuition and fees for the same period, NCES reported. For the 2011-12 school year, 90% of full-time beginning students received financial aid to help cover school expenses, NCES found. During that same period, an undergraduate student received, on average, $5,634 in grant or scholarship aid, according to NCES.

2 - Westmoreland County Community College

Another option is this Youngwood school, which has a net price of $2,558. Students who live within the school's district paid $3,330 in tuition and fees during the 2012-13 school year, NCES found. Pennsylvania residents paid $6,210 while out-of-state students paid $8,910 in tuition and fees during the same period, NCES reported. The majority of full-time beginning students, about 83%, received financial aid during the 2011-12 school year, according to NCES. On average, an undergraduate student was awarded $2,841 in grant or scholarship aid, NCES reported.

3 - Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology

With a net price of $3,084, students can also consider this Lancaster school. For the 2012-13 school year, students paid $7,030 in tuition and fees, according to NCES. During the 2011-12 school year, 86% of full-time beginning students were given financial aid, NCES reported. During the same period, an undergraduate student received an average of $10,196 in grant or scholarship aid, NCES found.

Highest Graduation Rate

The overall graduation rate for a school includes the number of students who completed their studies in 150% of 'normal time' (for example, four years would be the 'normal time' for a bachelor's program). Based on NCES figures for full-time students, the following traditional 4-year Pennsylvania schools had minimum graduation rates of 96% in 2011.

1 - Somerset County Technology Center

This Somerset school has the highest overall graduation rate of 100% based on students who enrolled during the 2008-09 school year. The graduation rate is also 100% for male and female students who enrolled in 2008-09 and graduated within normal time, NCES found. As for the retention rate, 8% of first-time full-time students who enrolled in fall 2010 returned the following year to continue their studies, according to NCES.

2 - Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center

Located in Johnstown, students can also consider this school, which has an overall graduation rate of 98% for students who started in fall 2008-09. The school has extremely high retention rates. According to NCES, 98% of first-time full-time students and 100% of first-time part-time students who enrolled in fall 2010 returned in fall 2011 to work on their studies.

3 - University of Pennsylvania

This school rounds out the list with its overall graduation rate of 96% based on students who enrolled in fall 2005. NCES found that 97% of first-time full-time students who enrolled in fall 2010 returned the next year to continue work on their bachelor's degrees. As for first-time part-time students, 83% of students returned in fall 2011 to continue their studies, according to NCES.

Lowest Student-Faculty Ratio

Some students look for schools that have low student-faculty ratios because it can offer a small campus feeling. The 3 traditional Pennsylvania schools below have student-faculty ratios of 4:1 or less. Other schools in the state have ratios that go well beyond 40:1.

1 - Somerset County Technology Center

With a student population of almost 100, this school has the lowest student-faculty ratio of 2:1. The school relies more on full-time faculty to provide instruction to students. According to NCES figures from fall 2012, there are 23 full-time faculty and 6 part-time faculty on staff.

2 - Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center

Located in Altoona, this school maintains a student-faculty ratio of 4:1 for its nearly 300 students. Much like Somerset County Technology Center, there are more full-time faculty than part-time faculty. The school has 40 full-time faculty and 14 part-time faculty, NCES figures from fall 2012 found.

3 - Schuylkill Technology Center

Another option is this Frackville school, which has a student-faculty ratio of 4:1 for its more than 100 students. According to fall 2012 NCES figures, the center only hires full-time faculty to work with students. There's a total of 32 full-time faculty at this center, NCES reported.

Pennsylvania Schools At A Glance

School Name Location School Type Degrees Offered Area Ranking
Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center Altoona <2-year, public <1-year and 1- to <2-year certificates Second Lowest Student-Faculty Ratio
Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center Johnstown <2-year, public <1-year, and 1- to <2-year certificates Second Highest Graduation Rate
Pennsylvania Highlands Community College Johnstown 2-year, public <1-year, 1- to <2-year certificates; associate degrees Lowest Net Price
Pennsylvania State University - Main Campus University Park 4-year, public <1-year, 1- to <2-year certificates; associate, bachelor's, master's and doctor's degrees; postbaccalaureate certificates Most Program Variety
Schuylkill Technology Center Frackville <2-year, public <1-year, 1- to <2-year certificates Third Lowest Student-Faculty Ratio
Somerset County Technology Center Somerset 2-year, public <1-year, 1- to <2-year and 2- to <4-year certificates Highest Graduation Rate,
Lowest Student-Faculty Ratio
Temple University Philadelphia 4-year, public <1-year, 1- to <2-year and 2- to <4-year certificates; associate, bachelor's, master's and doctor's degrees; postbaccalaureate and post-master's certificates Second Most Program Variety
Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology Lancaster 2-year, public 1- to <2-year certificates; associate degrees Third Lowest Net Price
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia 4-year, private; not-for-profit <1-year, 1- to <2-year and 2- to <4-year certificates; associate, bachelor's, master's and doctor's degrees; postbaccalaureate and post-master's certificates Third Most Program Variety,
Third Highest Graduation Rate
Westmoreland County Community College Youngwood 2-year, public <1- year and 1- to <2-year certificates; associate degrees Second Lowest Net Price
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