Commonwealth System of Higher Education

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The Commonwealth System of Higher Education is a statutory designation by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that confers "state-related" status on four universities located within the state. The designation establishes the schools as an "instrumentality of the commonwealth"[1] and provides each university with annual, non-preferred[2] financial appropriations in exchange offering tuition discounts to students who are residents of Pennsylvania and a minority state-representation on each school's board of trustees. Legally, the universities remain separate and private entities, operating under their own charters, governed by independent boards of trustees, and with assets under their own ownership and control, thereby retaining much of the freedom and individuality of private institutions, both administratively and academically.[3] It is the only public-private hybrid system of higher education in the United States that is so constituted, although Cornell University, the University of Delaware, and Rutgers University[4] represent alternative types of public-private university hybrids.[5]

Universities of the Commonwealth System are considered public universities by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching because they offer reduced tuition for citizens of the Commonwealth and therefore are often referred to as "public" universities in publications, by the state, and the schools themselves. Because their annual state allocations that supplement less than 10% of their budgets, universities in the Commonwealth System tend to have higher tuition costs compared to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education which contains 14 state-owned and operated universities. Because of their independence, universities in the Commonwealth System are exempt from Pennsylvania's Open Records law except for a few minor provisions.[6]


Before the creation of the "state-related" legal status in the 1960s, Lincoln University, Temple University, and University of Pittsburgh were fully private universities.[5] Temple and Pitt were granted state-related status by acts of Commonwealth's legislature in 1965 and 1966, respectively. Lincoln University, a historically black university, was designated as a state-related university in 1972.[7]

Although the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) was founded as a private school, it was later designated as the Commonwealth's sole land-grant institution. It was repeatedly defined as a "state-owned university" in numerous official acts and Pennsylvania Attorney General opinions from its creation as a land-grant, then named the Pennsylvania State College, in 1855. It was thus applicable to having its road system and buildings on state campuses constructed using state funding, paying its employees through state-issued checks, and having them eligible to collect state employee retirement system benefits.

Penn State was already treated and referred to as a public state-related university by the Commonwealth, including receiving non-preferred appropriations, when the other three universities were designated as state-related institutions by the legislature. In 1989, Penn State asserted a public status in court for the purpose of not having a private bank branch's operations on its University Park campus subject to local county taxes, while simultaneously asserting private status for the purpose of not having to reveal the salaries of its top administrative employees.[8] With the enabling legislation changing the failing Williamsport (PA) Area Community College to the affiliated "Pennsylvania College of Technology" in 1989, Penn State was reaffirmed as a "state-related" institution.


The following universities (listed with their branch and regional campuses) are members of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education


Lincoln University - University City (Graduate)
Lincoln University - Coatesville

Penn State[edit]


University of Pittsburgh at Bradford (4-year undergraduate and graduate)
University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg (4-year undergraduate)
University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (4-year undergraduate)
University of Pittsburgh at Titusville (2-year undergraduate)


Temple University Ambler (4-year undergraduate and graduate)
Temple University Fort Washington (Graduate)
Temple University Harrisburg (1-year undergraduate and graduate)
Temple University, Japan Campus (4-year undergraduate and graduate)

Rankings of universities[edit]

School U.S. News & World Report, Best Colleges 2015 U.S. News & World Report, Best Business Schools 2020[9] U.S. News & World Report, Best Education Schools 2013[10] U.S. News & World Report, Best Engineering Schools 2012 U.S. News & World Report, Best Fine Arts Schools 2012 U.S. News & World Report, Best Law Schools 2015[11] U.S. News & World Report, Best Library & Information Studies Schools, 2009 U.S. News & World Report, Best Medical Schools, Research & Primary Care 2012 U.S. News & World Report, Best Public Affairs Schools 2012[12] Academic Ranking of World Universities 2014 CMUP, Top American Research Universities 2011 QS World University Rankings 2012 THE World University Rankings 2012
Lincoln University Rank Not Published, Regional Universities (North) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Pennsylvania State University 47th, National Universities (University Park) 33rd (Smeal) 28th 25th 50th 71st (Dickinson) N/A N/A 67th
(Penn State Harrisburg)
58th 29-31 101st 61st
Temple University 115th, National Universities N/A 47th 126th 13th (Tyler) 52nd (Beasley) N/A 47th & 86th N/A 301-400 N/A 500-556 351st
University of Pittsburgh 66th, National Universities (Pittsburgh Campus) 43rd (Katz) 32nd 47th (Swanson) N/A 78th 10th 15th & 18th 33rd 65th 22-24 98th 76th

Endowment and research[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Statutory college, the private-public contractual system of higher education schools and colleges in New York State.


  1. ^ "State-Related Universities". Pennsylvania Department of Education. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  2. ^ Barlow, Kimberly K. (March 17, 2011). "How state budget process works". University Times. 43 (14). Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  3. ^ Alberts, Robert C. (1986). Pitt: The Story of the University of Pittsburgh 1787–1987. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 343. ISBN 0-8229-1150-7.
  4. ^ Dane, Perry; Stein, Allan; Williams, Williams (2014). "Saving Rutgers-Camden". Rutgers Law Journal. 44: 337–412. SSRN 2302826.
  5. ^ a b Deibler, William E. (May 8, 1967). "Discover State-related Universities Found Only in this State; 3 of Them". The Gettysburg Times. Gettysburgh, PA. p. 9. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  6. ^ Schackner, Bill (February 17, 2008). "Pitt, Penn State escape parts of open records law". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  7. ^ "About Lincoln". Lincoln University of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. April 9, 2013.
  8. ^ Roy v. Pennsylvania State University, 568 A.2d 751, 130 Pa.Commw. 468 (1990); Pennsylvania State University v. County of Centre, 615 A.2d 303, 532 Pa. 142 (1992).
  9. ^ "U.S. News & World Report Best Business Schools 2020". US News & World Report.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Best Public Affairs Programs". US News & World Report. 2012. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  13. ^ a b "2011 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments Results" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). January 17, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 29, 2013. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
  14. ^ "Temple endowment exceeds $500 million". Temple University. November 28, 2016.
  15. ^ "What's new on campus". September 1, 2015.
  16. ^ "Rankings by total R&D expenditures". National Science Foundation. Retrieved August 20, 2013.

External links[edit]