First Impressions: California University of Pennsylvania

California University of Pennsylvania is one of 14 public universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, this school is trying to improve the geographic diversity of its student body through its academic programs, experiential learning (internships and co-ops) and residence life.

With around 5,500 undergraduates, over 3,800 living on or near campus, California University can be a less intimidating experience than a much larger state university. I took a visit to this school to attend a Pennsylvania State System meeting with admissions officers from all 14 schools, then spent time on campus, touring and speaking with the admissions team. I gathered enough information to make my First Impressions and collected photos to make a Pinterest page.

While it was founded as a teacher’s college, California University has standout programs in Applied Engineering Technology, Criminal Justice , Environmental Studies, Geography, Sports Management and Technology Education and Management, among others. This school offers over 100 undergraduate degree programs, a huge variety for a school of its size, as well as many opportunities for minors and certificates. It also offers some of the nicest residence halls that you will find on a college campus as well as living-learning and honors communities. Direct charges, including tuition and fees, room and board, are just over $20,000 for a Pennsylvania resident, and just under $25,000 for a non-resident.

It’s hard not to like a school that tries to deliver a lot of “bang for the buck,” especially in Pennsylvania where the larger state universities, including Penn State-University Park, the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University charge around $18,000 for tuition and fees alone. But while California University has tried to build a stronger campus community, there is very little for students to do immediately off campus. This is one of the few colleges that I have visited where I felt that a car was a must-have for any student. Even with a car and insurance, the total cost of attendance would be less that it would be at Pitt or Temple, where you are quite likely to do without one.

California University is a good public option for any student who is familiar with Pittsburgh, but does not want to go to college in the city, as long as they can quickly an academic program that they like. Students who commit to the Four-Year Plan and take it seriously can graduate not only with their degree, but also an impressive resume through internships or co-ops. An impressive 87 percent of those who have made the commitment were amply rewarded.

Report Card: California University of Pennsylvania

  • Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: C/C
  • Freshman Retention: C
  • Costs: A
  • Curriculum: A
  • Community: B
  • Comforts: A
  • Connections: B (Pittsburgh area)/C (Elsewhere)

Check out my First Impressions of California University of Pennsylvania!

Check out my California University of Pennsylvania Pinterest Page!

Need help in considering schools and building your college list? Contact me at stuart@educatedquest.com or call me at 609-406-0062.