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Name Brand, RA, State School Degree - Penn State World
#1
Hey all! I posted asking for some advice over on the TECEP forum, and was advised y'all might be interested in what I was up to as well.

Penn State, a relatively well rated state school, has a somewhat unique campus system they call "One Penn State." Essentially, whether you attend at the main campis in State College, PA (University Park) or any of the branch campuses, you get the exact same degree with the exact same courses (obviously not every major is offered at every campus, but the point stands) This applies to the "World Campus," meaning you can get a very well respected degree online. The vast majority of classes (if not all) are asynchronous - they have deadlines, but they're spread out through the semester and outside of some group projects nothing requires any specific time availability. The only exception I've found has been some final exams only being open for a day or two, but emailing the professor with an exigent circumstance has always worked when necessary.

You have to go through the same transfer credit process for WC as any campus - same degree, remember - but you can look up equivalencies for already reviewed courses online. CLEPS/DSSTs are also available.

Here's what I had to say for anyone interested:

 I went because it was the best online program I could find that conferred a "name brand" degree. ASU Online was the only other really good option I found (and I sometimes wish I'd gone there; they match Tuition Assistance, more majors, accelerated courses, etc.) Purdue is a name brand school, but Purdue Global is its own degree. PSU confers the same degrees regardless of campus (has to do with how they structure their branch campuses in PA) and is a slightly better rated school. Plus, if you have a military-related justification, you can drop classes at any point in the semester for a refund and not have it effect your GPA - huge deal for me.

The classes are hard compared to any of the online-type schools, even ASU and blow something like Purdue global or UMPI out of the water (other people at my unit attend both)especially in upper division. Lots of writing, and proctoring/group work can be difficult. The BS in political science is really hard, I swapped over to the BA despite the Spanish hurdle. The BS in poly sci requires PLSC 308 and 309, which are only offered in the fall and spring semesters respectively and are basically applied data/research courses, and then you need nine credits of a poly sci data/methodology course, which have 308/309 as pre-reqs and are quite hard. There's transfer credit that works for 308, but very little for 309 and they've never accepted any for the methodology courses.

This is because of how PSU handles transfer credit. They accept pretty much anything for courses, with the exception of some of those remedial courses on SOPHIA. The issue is that you need to submit a syllabus if it's never been evaluated, and it needs to match something like 80% of a course PSU (not PSU world, but anything in the entire catalog) offers. If it does, you get transfer credit for that exact course, and if it works for your major you're set. Otherwise, you get misc credit in the program area. That covers elective requirements, and maybe lower level courses for a minor or something like that, but they're largely useless. The residency requirement is only like 30 credits, but you're not going to be able to transfer in 90 credits that perfectly meet your degree requirements with any of the more difficult majors. 

Especially in upper level courses, I'd say at least half of the other people in my class are from UP (the main campus) and the other half is 50/50 branch campuses and WC. That's clearly part of why it's so hard - definitely expected to be easier than UP but sometimes you need to remind a Professor that they, say, can't only open the final for one day because you're in the middle of the Pacific at the moment. But when you do, they tend to be pretty accommodating, and if they're not the advising and military benefits people are amazing. With the exception of the chair of the plsc department, everyone I've interacted with has been great and accommodating, but man they're protective of that BS in poly sci. The only way to do it in less than three semesters would be to transfer in PLSC 308, take 309 the spring, then an overload of methodology courses the next fall.

No proctoring in most of my classes, but it's political science, pretty much everything is papers, and research, with a few open book quizzes and the like. Anything that I've needed proctored where I didn't have honorlock (no webcams on work computers) they've been OK with sending to my Education Services Officer and letting him proctor, but if honorlock works for you you'll be fine; that's mostly in the (extremely challenging but very highly rated nationally) IST and computer science type programs.

They used to cap tuition, but now if you take over 19 credits you pay extra. They waive a lot of the tuition for military, but it's not enough to match TA. Financial aid has been great though - Pell grant, TA, the military grant in aid, a scholarship I applied for, and merit based departmental grants have left me with tuition mostly paid for, and occasionally some extra.

Sent your SOPHIA transcript with parchment, getting them to look the courses up with the Credly transcript without course number is a pain. Definitely engage with your advisor and "transfer specialist," you can get things changed if you push it. You only have one semester to submit syllabi before they'll award general credit.

Tl;dr, name brand degree (again, same diploma as UP and mostly UP students) from a name brand school, but you put in the work for it, and have to jump through the same hoops another PSU student would have to. Advising, the financial aid office, the military affairs and pre-law advising people, and the amazing professors help a lot.


  1. I'm in the BA of political science program but started in the BS in poly sci program. Will probably get a minor in History. The BS is a huge pain and more of a research/data analytics course than anything, and the BA requires the 12th credit level of foreign language. The foreign language courses are difficult, and they only offer Spanish, French, and I think Italian online - no latin, sign language, or the like.

  2. How many courses are you taking per term? Five or six, but all upper division, and with work that's really all I can handle. Workload really depends on courses.

  3. How many hours a week do you spend studying? 0. I'm really into political science lol; outside of maybe an hour of reading/course/week max, I haven't had to study at all.

  4. How many papers and/or exams must you do per course?  Paper length? For a 400 level course, you'll probably have two or three 5-6 page big research papers, an 8 page final paper, and then a weekly or biweekly type paper/assignment/journal/etc. Then there's usually a weekly discussion board and other misc. stuff.
    Quizzes tend to be every couple of weeks with some classes having a midterm and final, but those are mostly in the lower division courses.

  5. How are the quality of the courses? Very high, genuinely I think better than any other online program out there. It's not flashy, but it really feels like a Canvas based course at your average state school, which, being honest, is better than you're going to get at a lot of the schools talked about here. That can mean they're a lot of work, and they almost universally have a lot of reading, but it's great. Except intro to musical theatre, that class was amazing but all lectures, quizzes, and reading score.
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#2
Thanks for this great in depth report. I'm sure somebody will be helped by it. 
#semperparatus
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#3
(12-28-2023, 04:11 PM)PreLawCoastie Wrote: []

This is very similar to my husband's experience at Penn State (BS Econ, minors in EBF & Geography). I think your review covered most things and the same points you made about BA vs BS Poli Sci also apply to Econ.

Some things I would add - because the degree is from Penn State, not a separate subsidiary, World Campus students can take classes from other campuses the same as students registered at the other campuses can. If the class is online, or if you are in or near PA to attend any in person sessions, you can take e.g. University Park courses. You still pay the World Campus price. You can also add minors not technically offered via WC as long as you have transfer credit, or can get it (including via SDC, CLEPS, DSST etc.).

My husband took quite a few main campus courses online for UL classes because he wanted a certain specialization not offered via WC.

How much Pell Grant you get depends on income (and thus rank), but anyone sort of E5 and below it works out free for USAF as long as you take sufficient classes a semester (full time course load in winter and spring means extra Pell for summer). Mileage may vary with other branches since different branches do Tuition Assistance differently. 

After the Grant in Aid and TA, my husband's balance was 100-ish per credit. Taking full time courses gave him just over 3k a semester in Pell which covered the outstanding balance, and built a pot to cover the summer courses after TA ran out. All in all, he graduated a couple grand in pocket.
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#4
Out of curiosity, does the diploma say "Penn State Global" or is it the same diploma as the on-campus students? Same question about the transcripts.
BA - History, Arizona State University
MS - Organizational Leadership, Johns Hopkins University (in progress)
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#5
(01-15-2024, 07:45 AM)ArielB74 Wrote: Out of curiosity, does the diploma say "Penn State Global" or is it the same diploma as the on-campus students?  Same question about the transcripts.

No, that's the main point. There's no difference between a degree at any PSU campus, including the world campus. A PSU degree is a PSU degree.

Looking at my unofficial transcript it doesn't say. Perhaps it might on the official transcript, but I don't think it matters all that much.
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#6
I was looking at a few of their grad programs until I saw the tuition. Holy cow. It's over $1,000 per credit for the grad programs. That's pricey for an online degree. I hope undergrad tuition is more realistic.
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#7
Just like many other things, the more well known the brand, the more expensive it becomes... I usually shoot for something my budget can handle, I don't have much in terms of money in the bank for my educational journey, oh wells... Sticking to the public/state based institutions and if need to, the non-profit private schools that partner with MOOC's such as Coursera, Edx, FutureLearn, Udacity and Upgrad... Some of these programs are from top rank universities, but much much more affordable...
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#8
(02-11-2024, 10:57 PM)bjcheung77 Wrote: Just like many other things, the more well known the brand, the more expensive it becomes... I usually shoot for something my budget can handle, I don't have much in terms of money in the bank for my educational journey, oh wells... Sticking to the public/state based institutions and if need to, the non-profit private schools that partner with MOOC's such as Coursera, Edx, FutureLearn, Udacity and Upgrad... Some of these programs are from top rank universities, but much much more affordable...

For sure, on paper. People here tend to look at the actual cost per credit, which is great for comparing, but by going to a b&m school, you not only get a degree that's easier to sell on a resume (nobody thinks online when they hear Penn State, they think football) you get access to real institutional financial aid. I got several thousand dollars in grants from my college at PSU, on top of my pell grant, military tuition waiver, and military TA benefits. I'll end up breaking even, but if I'd slowed down (to max out the benefits) would have been able to pocket money!

Undergrad is nowhere near $1000/ credit. PSU splits up lower division and upper divison credits. If you take the classes you want to take before your final semester (to maintain lower div status) you can save a bit of money, but it's only about $50 a credit. The upper div cost is $671 a credit, and until this year, capped off at $8200 a semester (which is why I overloaded.) Now, you can take 19 credits in a semester before getting an extra charge, which is just $431 a credit. Not cheap compared to places here, but with the PSU world scholarship (which I got) college merit based aid (also got, not sure how) and pell grants, you shouldn't be out of pocket.

The point of the post, really, was it's totally achievable to get a "normal," state school bachelor's degree online, without crazy debt, and that you can use & abuse transfer credits in the degreeforum style to do it crazy fast. You can basically get rid of all the electives, BA requirements (maybe not foreign language unless you can CLEP it, 12 credits is a big con) and gen-eds, and even without any other transfer credits you should be able to graduate in a little over a year. I think there's real value there compared to something like UMPI for certain career fields - a Finance degree from Penn State might not carry cache, but you could reasonably expect to compete for mid-tier finance jobs. Same goes for their business and CS program.
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#9
This is really helpful! My wife is serious considering starting this program, and we are hoping to transfer all possible elective credits before she begins. Thanks a lot!
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#10
(03-02-2024, 07:56 PM)PreLawCoastie Wrote: For sure, on paper. People here tend to look at the actual cost per credit, which is great for comparing, but by going to a b&m school, you not only get a degree that's easier to sell on a resume (nobody thinks online when they hear Penn State, they think football) you get access to real institutional financial aid. I got several thousand dollars in grants from my college at PSU, on top of my pell grant, military tuition waiver, and military TA benefits. I'll end up breaking even, but if I'd slowed down (to max out the benefits) would have been able to pocket money!

Undergrad is nowhere near $1000/ credit. PSU splits up lower division and upper divison credits. If you take the classes you want to take before your final semester (to maintain lower div status) you can save a bit of money, but it's only about $50 a credit. The upper div cost is $671 a credit, and until this year, capped off at $8200 a semester (which is why I overloaded.) Now, you can take 19 credits in a semester before getting an extra charge, which is just $431 a credit. Not cheap compared to places here, but with the PSU world scholarship (which I got) college merit based aid (also got, not sure how) and pell grants, you shouldn't be out of pocket.

The point of the post, really, was it's totally achievable to get a "normal," state school bachelor's degree online, without crazy debt, and that you can use & abuse transfer credits in the degreeforum style to do it crazy fast. You can basically get rid of all the electives, BA requirements (maybe not foreign language unless you can CLEP it, 12 credits is a big con) and gen-eds, and even without any other transfer credits you should be able to graduate in a little over a year. I think there's real value there compared to something like UMPI for certain career fields - a Finance degree from Penn State might not carry cache, but you could reasonably expect to compete for mid-tier finance jobs. Same goes for their business and CS program.

$8200 is well beyond the budget most people on here have for their bachelor's degree. That $8200 is just one semester and most people would need more than 1 semester. Many of us graduated from colleges where no one would have any idea we completed our degree online unless we told you. Many of us are also older so the degree is a checkbox for us and it's not going to get us huge raises. It's our many years of experiences that gets us jobs and promotions. I would never assume anyone is going to receive a scholarship because most people don't and I never assume people are getting Pell Grants because many don't for a variety of reasons.
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