Penn State’s World Campus a Leader in the Online Education Movement

Compiled by Jamar Ramos
March 26, 2013

For-profit online education isn’t the only place where students can find quality distance learning courses and programs. Pennsylvania State University’s World Campus is growing. It debuted in 1998 with 41 students, and this year almost 12,000 students are enrolled in the virtual campus. The number of students pursuing an education through the World Campus has continually increased, while brick-and-mortar campuses have seen enrollment decrease.

In 2012, the World Campus awarded 640 undergraduate and 468 graduate degrees, in addition to the students that graduated from the school’s physical campus. These growing numbers show that online degree programs can work in conjunction with traditional campus learning. Wayne Smutz, associate vice president for outreach and executive director at the World Campus, says that, “I don't think it's ever going to wipe out all the brick-and-mortar operations, but we've been growing at 20 percent a year for the last five years.”

This steady growth may not continue, but as of now it has made World Campus the second-largest Penn State campus. This is possible because 63 percent of its students come from outside the state of Pennsylvania. The school lets online students pay in-state tuition, even if they reside out of state.

Penn State’s World Campus fails in one major aspect, however: luring in students ages 18-22. The online school reports that 97 percent of their students are adult learners. This doesn’t have to be a detriment, though. It can be a way to market courseware better, informing students about the necessary maturity and time management skills needed for online education. It can also help keep retention rates high for these schools, because younger learners will be less likely to sign up for an online program and drop it when it becomes too difficult.

Colleges and universities are trying to find ways to monetize online education, and Penn State’s World Campus may be a good place to start.


“Penn State, WVU, Robert Morris among schools realizing potential of online education,” triblive.com, March 23, 2013, Debra Erdley