A country with too many campuses

Many Pennsylvania colleges have been sounding the alarm about their future for years.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, commonly known as Passhe, recently consolidated six of its campuses into two after more than a decade of enrollment and financial pressures. Pennsylvania State University’s deficit last academic year was more than $150 million. And Muhlenberg College’s credit rating was downgraded last year as analysts worried about “hypercompetitive student market conditions and weak regional demographics” limiting the institution’s earnings.

While some of the factors affecting the Keystone State’s institutions — such as declining enrollment, anemic state investment and declining high school graduation rates — are common elsewhere, Pennsylvania’s strength is also clearly at play: the state has many colleges. compared to traditional age student numbers.

A Chronicle An analysis of Pennsylvania’s higher education landscape reveals that 149 four-year public, four-year private and two-year institutions served undergraduate students in 2020. For every college, there are 7,570 Pennsylvanians ages 18-24.

By comparison, the two states that share Pennsylvania’s border are less populated. Ohio had 8,882 18-24 year olds in 2020 for each of the state’s 120 colleges. Of New York’s 228 colleges, 7,655 were of traditional college age.

“We’re in a state with a very large private higher education sector, so the competition for students is fierce and the number of Pennsylvanians is shrinking,” said Joni Finney, former director of the university’s Institute for Higher Education Studies. from Pennsylvania.

More than 60 percent of institutions chronicle’s analysis includes four-year, private, not-for-profit colleges. Of that group, more than 72 percent are from in-state for at least half of their freshman year. About three institutions 10, in chronicle’s sample, are four-year public colleges. The rest are community colleges. (For-profit, two-year private, and graduate-only colleges were excluded from the analysis).

Two-thirds of Pennsylvania counties are home to at least one college. The first three counties are among the most populous in the state by the number of colleges. There are 16 agencies in Philadelphia County; Montgomery County, adjacent to Philadelphia, has 12; and Pittsburgh-dominated Allegheny County has 11.

Learn more about Pennsylvania’s overcrowded college landscape below:

Lee Gardner contributed to this report.

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