Update: Temple University (PA)
It had been seven years since I spent a day on the Temple University campus in Center City Philadelphia. But an invitation to a counselors event brought me back this week. I’m glad that I accepted. I saw many changes on campus. This will be a longer post than usual, but I’ve got more to write. I encourage you to read on!
Temple has done a great deal to improve the curb appeal and user-friendliness of its campus. The recently opened Charles Library (pictured above), the College of Science and Technology building and the quarters of the Fox School of Business are state-of the-art for a city school. So are the Student Center and the newer residence halls. The university has also restored its older retail strip along the Liacouras Walk, across from the new library. These are not the only renovations or new construction on campus, but the ones that I saw the most. I’ve updated my Temple University Pinterest page, so you can see more.
What Makes Temple University Special?
Temple is somewhat unique among large urban universities. It’s public, residential and has a true campus setting, versus a cluster of buildings spread over several city blocks. Within Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh is a similar school. But Pitt is more selective, with 10,000 fewer undergraduates.
The most similar schools in terms of student body size and academic offerings outside of Pennsylvania are UCLA, University of Washington-Seattle and the University of Cincinnati. Other urban universities that are cross-shopped often against Temple: Boston University, Drexel, George Washington University and NYU. Applicants also give close consideration to their home state university as well as schools such as Syracuse that are strong in similar programs.
What does it take to get in?
Unlike all of the schools above, excluding Cincinnati, Temple University is not exceptionally selective. Overall, just under 60 percent of the students who applied to be in the class of 2023 were offered admission. Their average GPA was a 3.5. Their average SAT score was a 1250 and the average ACT Composite was a 27.
Admissions to the programs in architecture and the visual arts, which require a portfolio; music, which requires an audition; and Nursing and Pharmacy will be quite competitive. Temple will offer a second-choice options for students who are not admissible to Business (Pre-Business in University Studies) and Nursing (Public Health), among others. The university will also offer second-chance options for enrolled students interested in the Honors College or wish to change majors.
Admissions to Temple University, unlike those to the schools previously listed, are test optional for all majors, even programs in Engineering, Nursing and Pharmacy. About a fifth of all applicants do not submit scores. However, those who want to apply test optional must answer four 150 word essay questions in addition to submitting their transcripts and fulling other requirements such as auditions or portfolios. Those who apply test optional are considered for admission to the Honors College as well as merit scholarships.
What does it take to stay and Fly in Four?
Temple University has made significant progress in helping its students navigate a large school, thanks in part to an ambitious initiative called Fly In Four. New Owls may sign an agreement upon arriving as freshmen that they will do what they can to make progress towards graduating on time. In return, the university increased its academic advising resources, upgrading technology as well to help students monitor their progress towards their degrees. The university administration also added sections of classes, offered need-based grants and to cover tuition and fees to take required courses in an extra semester. The exceptions: students who chose programs that require more than four years such as Architecture or Pharmacy, failed courses, or made dramatic changes in their major.
Fly in Four has helped freshmen retention, which has touched 90 percent in recent years. Fifteen years before Fly in Four the freshman retention rate was only 81 percent. When I first visited Temple seven years ago, less than 40 percent of the freshmen graduated in four years. Most recently, 56 percent of the students who arrived in 2015 had finished in four years, some even less, using credits earned in high school. This was the second class to pledge to Fly In Four. The first had a 55 percent four-year graduation rate. But the freshman class that arrived this fall was smaller than the one that arrived the year before, because more of the continuing students stuck around to graduate. As the graduation rate rises, Temple might become a more competitive place for a prospective freshman or transfer student.
What are some other things to like about Temple University?
There are many career-related reasons to choose Temple. Few schools offer stronger connections to a big city business and cultural community, especially in the health care industry. Temple has over 110,000 alumni registered in LinkedIn who reside in or near Philadelphia. Alumni communities in and around New York City and the Baltimore-Washington Corridor are quite large, too. Temple also has interesting study abroad opportunities in Israel, London, Rome and Tokyo, among other places, as well as an opportunity to study away for film and media in Los Angeles.
Anyone considering Temple should also consider the opportunities that are available within Philadelphia. The campus is served by SEPTA rail and subway services, available to students at a discount. There is more to do in Philadelphia than students could possibly find time to do in four years. Students can also purchase discount tickets to concerts, plays and more that happen on and off campus as well as Phillies games. Tickets to Temple athletic events are no charge.
In at least one case, it may be worth the students time to check out the home team. Temple’s Owls play football at Lincoln Financial Field, aka ‘The Linc’, home to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. Comparing Temple to Pitt, Temple has had the more successful football program for the past four seasons. Temple has gone 35-16, winning two of four bowl games while going through four coaching changes. Pitt has gone 28-24 under the same coach, losing all four bowl games. One might argue that Temple faces a lower level of competition. But three of Temple’s American Athletic Conference rivals (Cincinnati, Memphis and Southern Methodist) ranked in the top 25 in this week’s polls versus only two in the Atlantic Coast Conference (Clemson and Virginia Tech).
While Temple football does not draw fans like a Big Ten power, unless Penn State or Notre Dame come to town, the campus life thrives well. There’s more mingling among students of different ancestries and orientations at this school than I have seen at Drexel, NYU, Pitt and other flagship state universities I have visited. Greek life exists at Temple. But it is less important to campus social life than it is at more suburban schools like Maryland or Penn State.
The school has not only clubs and organizations; it also has its own “start-up incubator” in the student center. The Blackstone LaunchPad has helped Temple students to start over 900 ventures since 2015, some that blossom into businesses that go off campus. Between the traditional route—find nine friends and submit a form to student government—and the LaunchPad it is easier for Temple students to create their own opportunities than it would be at other schools.
What does Temple University cost?
Being urban and public, serving the sixth-most populous city in the US with over 1.5 million people, it is fair to state that Temple University has obligations towards affordability and accessibility. But in-state tuition and fees vary by program and school from $16,000 to just over $20,000, among the highest in the country for a public school. Non-resident tuition and fees range between $29,000 and $38,000. The Fox School of Business is on the high end of the charges for residents and non-residents alike. The cost issues are not unique to Temple. The main campuses at Penn State and Pitt are also on the high end compared to other flagship state universities across the country.
Comparing Temple to Pitt, the charges for residents are about the same. For non-residents, Temple will be the less expensive school. Temple offers scholarships to residents and non-residents that help to lower the cost, all the way to full tuition and fees. Those who receive, and accept, the largest award may also apply for a one-time summer stipend to study abroad, conduct independent research or accept an unpaid internship. A student who might be in the upper half to upper third of the admitted pool at Pitt, for example, can qualify for a merit-based award that will make Temple the most attractive option. But Temple, on average, met only 65 percent of need for the freshmen in the class of 2021, according to the most recent data available.
Temple has been hurt in the past by the perceptions of North Philadelphia as well as urban universities. Temple has its fair share of commuters, including just over a fifth of the freshmen. But that’s also true of other schools that have good access to public transportation. Temple provides enough housing for the students who ask to live on campus. It’s also easy to find privately owned apartments targeted to the student market within five minutes walking distance. You might pay over $800/month for rent and utilities. But you will never need a car to get around the city or leave it behind.
However, North Philadelphia shows its gritty side as you get further from campus in any direction. Temple helps, providing escorts and shuttles. But I don’t recommend walking further north to Temple’s Medical Center or south towards Center City on your own.
It’s hard for a school as large as Temple to be all things to every student. But I feel that Temple gives its students a fairer chance to succeed than all but one large state school (Purdue) that I have visited since I started this site.
Students will still see large classes in the early years of their education, unless they are in a program such as Nursing that is deliberately kept small. But I have to respect a school that has put more of an effort into academic advising and technology to help students make and monitor progress towards their degrees.
I also felt that students who chose Temple to take advantage of city life would get as much from the experience as their peers at schools such as Boston University or NYU for a much lower price, with the bonus of a competitive football team and some nice entertainment venues on campus. Philadelphia is no less a college town than Boston or New York, and it is more affordable to live there.
The mark of a good school is that it helps guide the students it attracts to their degree and a rewarding life after college. Temple has gotten better at both since I first visited. But I would like to see the school offer more merit-based and need-based aid. While it is trying to attract a more global student body, Temple is still Philadelphia’s City University.
Report Card: Temple University
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: B+/B+
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: B
- Community: B+
- Curriculum: A
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: A
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