Pennsylvania has long been a leader in promoting and providing excellence in higher education. The state’s vast higher education system is made up of hundreds of public and private colleges and universities, technical schools, and online colleges. The 14 public universities that make up Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education are a major provider of higher education in the state. The Commonwealth System of Higher Education is another important group of independent, state-related universities that make Pennsylvania higher education so diverse. The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary and Higher Education (OPHE) evaluates degree programs, approves degree-granting colleges, collaborates with the State Board of Education to plan higher education programs and implement statewide initiatives.
Pennsylvania has developed and begun implementing several higher education initiatives for the coming years. One of the major initiatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Education is to improve access to postsecondary education throughout Pennsylvania and help students achieve their college goals. One way to ensure student achievement and college completion is to provide more transferable courses that will apply at many colleges and universities. The Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center (PA TRAC) was created to help students find courses that transfer to participating colleges and universities, therefore saving students’ time and money.
As Pennsylvania continues to stretch its higher education borders, more Pennsylvanians and out-of-state residents will be able to take classes here without ever having to leave home. There are already many Pennsylvania universities that offer online degrees and distance courses to students near and far. Penn State is one of the big state institutions that offer a wide variety of certificate programs and undergraduate and graduate degrees. Here, students can choose from many different academic disciplines, including advertising, nuclear engineering, art education, and weather forecasting. The University of Pittsburgh also has an online campus, where students can take courses and earn accredited online degrees in various subjects. Students can even take free classes at the prestigious Ivy League institution, University of Pennsylvania, through Coursera. Pennsylvania is also home to many big online schools, including DeVry University, Drexel University, University of Phoenix, and Everest Institute.
Pennsylvania boasts a rich cultural heritage, harbors abundant natural resources, and fosters biological innovation through its robust life sciences ecosystem. Its key industries make for a diverse economic landscape. One of its biggest industries is advanced manufacturing, which makes up the largest part of the Gross State Product, the seventh largest manufacturing GDP in the country, and supports 658,000 workers. Another major industry is agribusiness. With 2,300 food processing companies located in the state, including Heinz, Utz, and Hershey’s, Pennsylvania has earned the nickname “Snack Food Capital of the World.”
One of the largest opportunities in the state is the energy industry, specifically the shale gas boom. The Marcellus Gas Industry has supported 140,000 jobs alone and increased the state’s economy by $11.2 billion in 2010, according to Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Other key industries in the state include technology, with more than 205,000 people employed in technology industries in Pennsylvania; tourism, from the state’s historical destinations to charming countryside to outdoor lifestyle ; life sciences, as the state’s home to world-renowned research institutions; and film, with hundreds of productions taking advantage of the state’s diverse landscape since the inception of the Pennsylvania Film Office’s Film Tax Credit program in 2007.
Students looking to take advantage of the long-standing and expanding opportunities in the state may want to consider degrees in business, engineering, biology, chemistry, and hospitality, among others. To get you started, here’s a look at some of the state’s schools providing online degrees: