Is Penn State an Ivy League School?

Nope! Penn State is Pennsylvania's biggest public university, while the University of Pennsylvania is the historic private university and member of the Ivy League.
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Evan Castillo is an associate writer on BestColleges News and wrote for the Daily Tar Heel during his time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He's covered topics ranging from climate change to general higher education news, and he is...
Published on July 6, 2023
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  • The Pennsylvania State University was established in 1855, offered its first graduate-level degree in 1922, and established its college of medicine in 1967.
  • According to The Atlantic, the University of Pennsylvania once sold official shirts saying "Not Penn State."
  • Penn State is tied for 31st in the U.S. News & World Report's 2022-2023 "Top Public Schools" rankings.

The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) have long been confused with one another.

But Penn is a private Ivy League that has graduated former President Donald Trump and entrepreneur Elon Musk, and Penn State is the state's largest public and only land-grant university.

The Ivy League and its students haven't always reacted fondly to the confusion. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, the University of Pennsylvania's official bookstore sold "Not Penn State" T-shirts.

Annie Gray, a 2014 Penn State graduate, said she vaguely remembers seeing those shirts.

"I haven't noticed the confusion much in academic circles or the job market. However, when talking to people outside the Northeast in a casual setting, I sometimes have to distinguish them," Gray said.

"Penn State is also considered a 'Public Ivy,' so perhaps that adds to some of the confusion."

According to Penn State, 1 in 4 first-generation college students and 73% of all undergraduates receive financial aid.

The Pennsylvania State University, established in 1855, is the state's only public land-grant institution. The university was meant to scientifically and classically educate students in agriculture and mechanical arts to promote liberal and practical education in all pursuits and professions.

The university offered its first graduate-level degree in 1922. It established its college of medicine and teaching hospital in 1967, named after Milton S. Hershey, creator of Hershey's chocolate.


Penn State is tied at 31st on the U.S. News & World Report's 2022-2023 "Top Public Schools" rankings and tied at 77th among "National Universities."

QS World University Rankings ranked the university at No. 93 internationally and No. 9 for U.S. public universities.

Times Higher Education ranked Penn State No. 119 in its World University Rankings 2022.