Updated Tuition Costs and Educational Quality Comparison: Penn State vs the Big Ten

  • Post last modified:May 22, 2023

The new figures are in.

Where does Penn State rank among its Big Ten peers with respect to Tuition Costs and Academic Quality?

Lets take a look at the numbers.

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First, let’s examine Costs:

Big Ten Universities:  Tuition Costs

As one can see from these figures:

Among the 13 State-Related Universities in the Big Ten (the 14 members of the Conference, minus the one private BigTen University – Northwestern), Penn State remains an outlier.

Penn State remains an outlier with regard to High Costs, and Low Financial Aid

(We will see some of the impacts of these issues when we look at Academic Quality a little later on).

Let’s summarize the data from the Table (for those with less than perfect eyesight):

Tuition Charges for In-State Students:

Penn State: $18,436
Big Ten Average: $12,401
Penn State Rank: 13th out of 13 (most expensive)

Need-Based Grants:

Penn State: $1,185 per Student
Big Ten Average: $3,472 per Student
Penn State Rank: 13th out of 13 (lowest Need-Based Aid)

Merit-Based Grants:

Penn State: $453 per Student
Big Ten Average: $693 per Student
Penn State Rank: 9th out of 13

In-State Tuition Costs minus Grant Money per Student:

Penn State: $16,798
Big Ten Average: $8,236
Penn State Rank: 13th out of 13
(And over TWICE AS MUCH as the average Big Ten University)

And over TWICE as much as the average Big Ten University

Student Debt at Graduation:

Penn State: $37,307 per Student
Big Ten Average: $28,618 per student
Penn State Rank: 13th out of 13

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Now, lets take a look at some of the Academic Metrics:

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B10 Admissions 2018

As we can see in the table above, with regard to “Faculty” measurements, PSU comes in right about the middle:

Number of Students per Full-Time Faculty Member:

Penn State: 15.2 Students/Faculty
Big Ten Average: 14.7 Students/Faculty
Penn State Rank: 7th out of 12

Percentage of Faculty with a PhD:

Penn State 72.0%
Big Ten Average: 73.2%
Penn State Rank 6th out of 11

So, PSU is not incurring above normal expenses
to acquire their faculty
(But we all know where all those Dollars ARE going… don’t we?)

On the “plus” side, Penn State’s Graduation Rates are about average as well (actually, just a bit above average):

Five-Year Graduation Rate:

Penn State: 82.%
Big Ten Average: 77.8%
Penn State Rank: 4th out of 12

But now, the tricky part:

Penn State’s continuing plummet with regard to incoming Academic Quality….
Which – as we have discussed before – is largely due to the out-of-control tuition costs impacting the ability to enroll prospective students.

Average SAT Score – Enrolled Freshmen:

Penn State: 1247
Big Ten Average: 1316
Penn State Rank: 9th out of 12
(Actually, 10th out of 14 – if we include Iowa and Northwestern,
who’s data was not included in the Data Base)

As one might expect, given the financial situation, Penn State’s ability to bring in high academic quality, relative to its peers, continues to plummet.

We talked about that last year, and wrote about it here:


Now, once again, Penn State is mired in 10th place among its peers (ahead of only Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, and Michigan State).

Unfortunately, the news is even grimmer than that.

Rather than becoming more competitive with its peers… Penn State continues to slip:

Relative to those 4 Universities:

Indiana:   Last year, PSU was 19 points ahead…. this year, 1 point
Nebraska:   Last year, 39 points…. this year 9 points
Michigan State:   Last year, 60 points…. this year 43 points

(Iowa’s scores for this year are not yet in the Data Base)

So, even the few Universities Penn State has been leading, are now drawing even – and trending to move higher.

These issues – of Costs and Academic Quality – as we have discussed before, are utterly connected.

And – as we have also discussed – any successful actions moving forward MUST address the root causes of Penn State’s out-of-control Administrative Bloat and Expenses.

The sooner those efforts begin, the more likely it is we can achieve some level of success.

The longer we wait?  I think we know what happens then.

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