I last visited West Virginia University in the summer of 2012. I had intended to return this spring or fall. But obviously our COVID reality makes it impossible The pandemic has taken away most of the campus experience for the fall. Most of the classes will be online or hybrid (online and in-person).. So I updated my West Virginia University (WVU) Pinterest page, and did a virtual interview with George Zimmerman, the university’s Executive Director for Admissions and Recruitment.
I wanted to do an update on WVU because the school is quite popular with students in Central New Jersey as well as Pennsylvania. WVU has ranked first among Pennsylvanians who venture out of state. The university missed being in the top 25 for New Jersey residents by one student when I looked at NJ.com and WVU’s data for 2017. Back then 258 Garden State residents were enrolled at WVU. In 2010 there were 386. That number would have placed WVU ninth.
Those who take advantage of the university’s academic opportunities will find many strengths. For example:
- Honors College admissions are more achievable than they would be at other large state schools, including Rutgers, Penn State and Pitt. High school seniors with a GPA of 3.7 or higher and a 1230+ SAT/26+ ACT are invited to apply for admission. It’s best to get into the Honors College right from high school. You need a 3.7 to transfer from within WVU or another school.Over the past 20 years the Honors College has grown from 600 to 2,600 students, just over 12 percent of the undergraduate student body
- There are engineering specialties that are difficult to find at other schools such as Aerospace Engineering, Mining Engineering and Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering. WVU also offers cooperative education to help engineering students build a strong resume.
- The Forensic and Investigative Science programs might be some of the best that you will find anywhere.
- A faculty-instructed, student-run on-campus advertising and public relations firm, the Martin Hall Agency, offers students the opportunity to design campaigns for West Virginia businesses
I also learned a few interesting nuggets about WVU in addition to the information George shared with me.
WVU can be a great value for the money for a very good to excellent student.
WVU managed to keep resident tuition and fees below $9,000 this past year. They’re below $9,100 for the coming academic year. That’s about half of the charges that Penn State-University Park assesses on Pennsylvanians. The base rate is $25,700 for non-residents, but the scholarships are quite generous. There are six levels of scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $16,000 per year. A New Jersey resident who can get into Rutgers-New Brunswick or a Pennsylvania resident who can get into Penn State-University Park can pay less tuition and fees to be a non-resident student at WVU. It takes only a 2.75 to renew the award.
This is very much a “spirit and sports” school, not only for football, but also for basketball.
Since 1998, WVU’s Men’s Basketball team has made eight appearances in the Sweet 16. They have also made two appearances in the Elite Eight and one in the Final Four. In 2007 they won the NIT. The women have made nine appearances in the NCAA Tournament since then, and won the Big 12 tournament twice. During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s three Mountaineer men–‘Hot Rod’ Hundley, Jerry West and Rod Thorn–were the first (Hundley) and second (West and Thorn) players taken in their draft classes. West led the Mountaineers to the 1959 NCAA Championship game, losing to Cal-Berkeley by only one point. In 1960 he was part of one of the best U.S. Olympic men’s basketball teams in sports history. All three men were later inducted into the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame: Hundley as a broadcaster, West as a player, and Thorn as an executive.
Interestingly, West Virginia is the smallest state to play in one of the Power 5 football conferences. Milan Puskar Stadium is not the largest football venue. It has a capacity of only 60,000 seats. Yet the Mountaineers were among the nation’s top 30 in home attendance in 2018 and 2019. The football Mountaineers are very well liked on Facebook. They have 328,000 likes, a lot more than past rivals like Maryland (88,000) or Pitt (172,000).
The WVU alumni network is quite extensive in the major Mid-Atlantic cities as well as Charlotte and Atlanta.
These were the counts that I found for WVU alumni registered in LinkedIn.com:
- 33,500 Pittsburgh
- 13,700 DC
- 7,600 NYC
- 4,700 Philadelphia
- 3,900 Baltimore
- 2,400 Charlotte
- 2,000 Atlanta
You will have no problem finding an alumni club or a watch party in any of these cities.
The university’s president is well ‘liked’ on Facebook.
Gordon Gee returned to WVU as president after serving as president of four other schools. He left WVU in 1985 to lead the University of Colorado-Boulder. He also served as president of Brown, Vanderbilt and Ohio State (twice). The first time he was appointed president of WVU he was 37 and one of the youngest college presidents in the country. Since returning to WVU in 2014 Gee is one of the oldest. He has 38,000 ‘likes’ on his Facebook page.
WVU has a very supportive parent’s association.
The Mountaineer Parents Club has more than 20,000 members as well as over 16,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook. The parent-run club arranges events, transportation and scholarships for WVU students and their families. This might be the model for parent’s groups at a fairly large (21,000 undergraduate) school.
WVU is the only school or any size that owns its own monorail
The university’s Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system PRT was featured in the Visitor’s Center when I was there. Each monorail car, traveling one at a time, seats eight, accommodates 15 sitting and standing. The five-station, 69 car monorail is being replaced by 35 to 40 conventional buses for the fall semester. Around 83 million people have traveled the PRT since 1975. But the PRT will be out of service in the fall, replaced by buses.
Morgantown is a true college town
Morgantown is a more isolated, and probably more sports and recreation-oriented college town than New Brunswick, New Jersey or Newark, Delaware, among others. But it is also a less expensive place to live. You can find off-campus housing near campus for less than $400/month. WVU is also a place where new students should try to find circles of friends quickly. Nearly 80 percent of the undergraduate student body lives off campus, not counting those who live in a fraternity or sorority house. The WVU campus and the town are built up on hills. If you don’t like hills, you might find this campus difficult to navigate on foot or bike.
WVU has ranked high as a “party school” on different sites, including the Princeton Review and Niche. But so have other large public universities with higher profiles and more selective admissions. Not only will new students need to find their groups quickly. They will also need to get over the party life quickly. WVU gets zonked for lower freshman retention rates than the Pennsylvania flagship universities (Penn State, Pitt and Temple) or Rutgers. The university loses just over a fifth of a freshman class each year. However, WVU also offers motivated students more academic and social opportunities than they could possible find the time to explore over four years. Be smart and you will enjoy them.
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