HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania is dead last in higher education rankings in a new report from U.S. News and World Report.
“Pennsylvania families, especially those coming from low- and middle-income families, they’re looking to us to provide that affordable high-quality education experience,” said Dave Pidgeon, director of public relations for the Pennsylvania System of Higher Education. “That’s our responsibility that we live with every day here.”
Pidgeon says he actually appreciates the attention to the issue.
“This is a hyper-competitive state when it comes to colleges and universities. There are almost 240 higher education grant issuing institutions,” Pidgeon said.
Pidgeon represents the 14 state universities in that figure, including Shippensburg and Millersville in our area.
“Right now, 72 percent of all graduates from a state system university, they stay in Pennsylvania,” Pidgeon said. “They’re raising their families and they’re starting their careers right here in the commonwealth.”
He says 95 percent of state university graduates are employed within 18 to 24 months or pursuing postgraduate degrees.
“In total, in terms of employment and economic contribution, the 14 universities contribute $6.7 billion into Pennsylvania’s economy,” Pidgeon said.
Those numbers are positive reflections, but according to U.S. News, Pennsylvania is ranked 48th when it comes to tuition and fees and also 48th for having low debt at graduation.
Pidgeon says the cost of school is a big issue they’re cognizant of.
“Public investment is a part of that story, so that is why we are undergoing a system redesign to make sure that the 14 universities are viable and sustainable going further into the 21st century,” Pidgeon said.
He says the system redesign includes streamlining processes and taking a top to bottom approach evaluating performance and sustainability for student success.
The rankings also take into account two- and four-year college graduation rates. Pennsylvania is ranked 39th and 14th respectively.