First Impressions: Shippensburg University (PA)
Like most people in other fields, college advisors and school counselors attend workshops to keep up to date. Two weeks ago I attended one at Shippensburg University (aka ‘Ship’) in Central Pennsylvania. With over 5,000 undergraduates and around 1,000 graduate students Ship is the largest undergraduate school within a 40 minute drive of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital city. I had a very nice visit and collected photos to make a Pinterest page.
Like Bloomsburg, which I also visited recently, Ship is one of the 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. (PASSHE). Ship stands out by offering the only undergraduate degrees in engineering in the system as well as one of only two accredited business schools in the Harrisburg metro area. Ship is also one of the few colleges in the country, public or private, to operate its own public elementary school on campus, to support its Elementary and Early Childhood Education programs. Criminal Justice is another signature offering. The university also launched a unique Peace Corps Prep Program last year.
Ship’s direct charges–tuition and fees, room and board–are approximately $25,000 for Pennsylvania residents. New Jersey residents get a phenomenal deal called Raider Rollback. They pay only five percent more for tuition than Pennsylvania residents for up to 15 credits. They continue to receive the discount as long as they remain in good academic standing. Tuition and fees would be just over $14,000, about the same as they would pay to go to a public college in New Jersey!
It’s not hard for a B/B+ student to get into Shippensburg University, even for engineering. The university uses rolling admissions. You will get a decision within two to four weeks after all materials are in. Ship draws its students from Pennsylvania as well as Maryland, New Jersey and West Virginia. Eighty-eight percent of the students who applied to join the freshman class in 2018 were offered admission. The middle 50 percent scored between 980 and 1180 on the SAT, and between 17 and 23 on the ACT. But while Ship has been quite welcoming, the university also lost over a quarter of the freshmen who arrived the year before. The grad rate could be better: only 35 percent of the freshmen who entered in 2012 graduated in four years; half finished in five.
In order to boost retention and grown the transfer population, Ship upgraded its student success programs. Over 400 students in a freshman class of around 1,300 enter on an exploratory track. Nearly half of a class will be the first in their family to go to college. There’s a summer boot-camp and a partnership with Harrisburg Area Community College to help, among other programs. The university also opened a new tutoring center within walking distance of most anything on campus. Ship also encourages the academic stars: Over 450 students participated in the university’s Minds@Work student research conference this past spring. Students won’t see the large courses that they would find at Penn State’s main campus, Temple or Rowan University in New Jersey, other schools that they might also consider for engineering.
Ship has a fairly large alumni community within two hours from campus to support its students. There’s over 12,000 alumni in and around York and Harrisburg registered in Linkedin.com, over 6,900 in and around Philadelphia and more than 4,100 in and around the Baltimore-Washington Corridor. This will become more important as the university grows the engineering programs, which will move into a new building. The engineering programs are among the newest academic offerings; two, Civil Engineering and Computer Engineering, recently received accreditation.
Shippensburg University has fewer students than Bloomsburg, but the campus felt larger as I took my tour. But, believe it or not, this campus with 6,000 students is larger than Temple’s main campus in Philadelphia—which serves 40,000! The Luhrs Center is modern and large enough to host notable acts. REO Speedwagon, Ronnie Millsap, The Alan Parsons Project and Pablo Cruise will play there this coming fall. It’s easy to park and have a car on this campus, and probably necessary. There’s not much to do in downtown Shippensburg for student focused entertainment or shopping. The suite-style housing options are very nice, though off-campus living will be cheaper.
Ship is also one of the smaller public schools that competes in scholarship varsity sports. The athletic department has won the Dixon Trophy for all sports more than any Pennsylvania State System school. The university plays 20 sports, 19 at the Division II level; wrestling is Division I. The women’s field hockey team is one of the best in the country in Division II, they have been four-time national champions since 2013. The men’s and women’s track team has won the Outdoor Conference Championship versus the other PASSHE schools for 11 consecutive years.
This community will also support a winning football program. According to the NCAA Ship ranked 20th in home attendance among all schools in Division II in 2013 and 29th in 2014 and 2015. Only Slippery Rock has done better among PASSHE schools since then—and that campus has 3,000 more students! Ship alumnus John Kuhn, a fullback who won Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers, was the commencement speaker this spring.
Shippensburg University offers many things that parents and students want from a college: reasonable costs, nice facilities, many academic options, even athletic tradition. The engineering programs might be the newest offerings, but they also represent the university’s potential to attract a stronger student body in the future.
Report Card: Shippensburg University
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: C/C
- Freshmen Retention: C
- Costs: A
- Curriculum: A
- Community: B
- Comforts: A
- Connections: A (Central PA/Philadelphia/Baltimore-Washington Corridor)/C (elsewhere)
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