Given that there are over 40,000 students at Penn State, it is no surprise that parking is difficult. The current situation, however, is absolutely not acceptable. If your child is a freshman, they are not allowed to park on campus, period. This makes it very difficult if you ever need to come home due to an emergency, or if you do not want to have your parents drive to PSU every semester break. While Penn State does have a transportation network that will allow them to go to most any major city and/or an airport, this costs money, takes forever, and does not offer the same amount of space as a car. After Freshman year, if you do not opt to live in a dormitory, you can expect to pay hundreds of dollars every semester to park in a convenient location (if available), or have to pay a slightly smaller sum to park somewhere incredibly inconvenient. If you move off campus, this situation gets even worse. You will have to park at Beaver stadium, and either walk potentially miles to get to class, or wait on the bus system. Penn State does have several parking garages, but they refuse to let students use these during class time. If you are like me and have classes mostly on the west side of campus, you can expect to arrive at the beaver stadium parking lot up to an hour before school starts each morning. The time that is wasted in transit is incredible for me. Around 2 or so hours every day going to and from class, and even more if I go home in the day before returning for an event later that night.
2. Bus System
The CATA bus system is quite unreliable and slow. The buses at beaver stadium that I need to use to get to West Campus seem to never be there when I get to the bus stop, and the Green Link feels like it takes forever to actually leave once it arrives. On top of these issues, the buses are often filled to capacity when they do arrive at certain stops, especially if the weather is less than ideal. Once you do get on the bus, the bus takes what feels like forever to go around campus, especially as awkward anti-social people refuse to sit next to others. This can take up to 5 minutes as the bus driver attempts to keep the bus at maximum capacity, and potentially repeats itself at each additional bus stop if only a few leave. While this primarily applies to the on campus bus’s, the off campus bus system also has its fair share of problems. Where I live, the bus only comes out once every hour, forcing me to rely on a poorly maintained CATA bus app for my phone. Since my bus stop lacks any lighting, I often have to wave my phone at the bus driver at night to get his attention if the stop has nobody else. To top it all off, the off campus bus system is also fairly expensive at almost $2.00 a trip. While there are monthly bus passes that you can buy, these can get very expensive as well.
This is the system that students use when managing important things like enrollment and finances. Penn state spent over $66 million on this new system last year, and it so far proved to be full of bugs. The system took days for me to use well enough to find when I could schedule a course, leading me to missing out on some important dates. Many students have complained about this new system, as it offers very little over the previous system and has so many bugs. The old system, while not the best, at least wasn’t down nearly as much as lionpath is, and was easier to navigate as well as significantly more aesthetic.
Speaking of expensive, the tuition at Penn State is also quite high. How high you may ask? According to the Pittsburg Post Gazzette, Penn State is the second most expensive state school in the country. You can expect to pay well over $10,000 a semester if you are an in-state resident, and double that if you are from out of state. Combine this with the fact that freshmen are required to live on campus (with relatively few exceptions), and you can see the prices climb even higher. While the rooms themselves may not be too expensive, you are also required to buy a meal plan, which includes a $1355 payment fixed cost before you even add usable funds. Unlike other schools, the meal plans here do not give you a certain amount of meals, they are used just like cash, and thus can easily be wasted. Meal points also do expire at the end of spring semester, so the school will effectively take your money if you do not use it. To add insult to injury, Penn State also makes you pay for a gym membership if you wish to use the gyms on campus. While they are actually very nice, having to pay money on top of the astronomical tuition to use a facility that most universities include in their lower tuition is greedy.
5. Greek Life
If you hope to join a fraternity or sorority, consider not going to Penn State. This year, a student died at a specific fraternity at Penn State due in part to his own actions as well as others around him. After the unfortunate incident Penn State began targeting the whole Greek system. As of 3/31/2017, there will be no fall recruitment for fraternities or sororities, they will only be allowed 10 socials a semester, and they will not even be able to serve liquor at their own parties. It is clear that Penn State has been planning this for a while, as they did not even give the IFC or PHC any say in the matter. Within the next 5 years I predict that Penn State will either eliminate Greek life entirely or neuter them to the point that they are but shells of what they used to be. People will flee fraternities and drink at completely unsupervised house parties, increasing the sexual assaults and problem drinking that they attribute to the fraternities.
6. Research Professors
Coming from the college of IST (information sciences and technologies) I have had a very inconsistent experience with the professors here. I have had some professors who inspired me to come to class everyday (Colonial Graham comes to mind), however more often than not they were unsatisfactory. These professors did not feel like they actually enjoyed teaching, instead that it was a chore forced upon them. In the college of IST, I have had many of these. Researchers who were convinced to take up the lead in teaching a class when a previous professor left, only to do a terrible job. For the tuition money that I pay to Penn State, I should be having professors that know how to teach, even high school teachers have a teaching degree. These professors often just read off of notes or PowerPoints provided by previous faculty members. These are the professors that have to curve grades because everybody does terribly in their classes as a result of them teaching poorly.
7. Foreign Professors
Speaking of the college of IST and research professors, foreign professors also play a part in making the Penn State learning experience so very, very difficult. While I have no problem with non-native English speakers so long as they can get their point across, what I have experienced here is anything but coherent. I have had multiple Chinese professors in the college of IST give incredibly boring lectures in broken English. At some points, I have gotten equations wrong because their writing skills were absolutely atrocious. This could be mitigated if they had teaching or learning assistants who could help translate this incomprehensible garbage into quality notes for a quality degree, but they don’t. The reason that the TA’s and LA’s don’t is because they are also foreign, making communication very difficult for me as an American student. Often what happens is that the material for the class is dumbed to the extent that anybody who actually tries gets an A, leading me to feel like my degree is worth less than I am paying.
8. Leftist Atmosphere
If you go for even a 5 minute visit to Penn State, it will be immediately obvious how much of a liberal echo chamber this school is. We have 5 different types of recycling bins (which are most likely all disposed of in the same location), a student union for every minority group imaginable, and more hipsters per capita than San Francisco. While not all majors are equally as effected, there are an incredible amount of leftist ideologue professors. I had one professor who is teaching a completely a-political course waste a whole day of class talking about the Trump immigration executive orders. This has nothing to do with my coursework and creates a hostile learning environment where I am afraid to speak out because I am a conservative. It is even more apparent that this is a university wide atmosphere when you look at the student regulations. Students are not allowed to even have alcohol in their dorms if they are over 21, and forget about protecting yourself with your god given right to bear arms. To the campus, you are better off hurt or raped then having you be able to defend yourself with a gun.
9. Terrible Representation
The only thing worse than the liberal atmosphere is the terrible student government that we have here. They use our student funds for the most frustrating of things like thousands of dollars for massage chairs or more leftist propaganda to tell you about how terrible it is that you are not a transqueer feminist vegan. Instead of working on ways to lower our outlandishly high tuition (which should be the goal of any government), they are instead proposing ways that we increase our tuition, by fees such as a mental health fee.
Penn State is a university in the middle of nowhere. Apart from the college town, there is not much to do or interesting things to see for most students. We are hours away from the nearest large city, and many of the bars here are overpriced. If you want to see anything interesting, you have to travel outside of here to do it.