Western Pennsylvania Road Trip: Indiana University of Pennsylvania

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You're about to spend four years of your life on a college campus; you need to make sure it feels right. So hit the road—we did! We took three typical road trips: East Coast, West Coast, and in between. By the way, college visits don't have to mean hours on the interstate. Use our Directory to locate schools near you and walk through the gates. You may find what you're looking for.

The Keystone State is blessed with a huge choice of colleges. The Philadelphia region rivals the Boston area as a home for top-notch schools; dead center, Penn State is the pride of the public higher education system. But western Pennsylvania offers an equally impressive variety of colleges. We visited four: two urban campuses in Pittsburgh and two in more rural settings.

When it came time to pick a college, Craig Faish knew where he wanted to go. Just a 40-minute drive from his home in Ebensburg, Indiana University of Pennsylvania had that school-next-door appeal. "It just felt right," says Faish, a senior. "It was close to home but far enough away that I could become my own person."

Choosing among IUP's seven schools and colleges, Faish enrolled in the criminology department, one of IUP's strongest. He even signed up to work as a dispatcher for the campus police, collecting reports, running license plate numbers, and responding to burglar alarms.

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Founded in 1875 and located just over an hour northeast of Pittsburgh (the school takes its name from the surrounding county), IUP is like many schools that enjoy access to the amenities of a small town. The most beautiful place on campus is the Oak Grove, with its intersecting paths, grassy lawns, and tall trees; in the springtime, students flock there with picnics, blankets, and friends. "It's the place to be," says Donovan Daniel, a junior. Off campus, undergrads say Wal-Mart and the Giant Eagle supermarket meet most basic needs, and the string of bars along Philadelphia Street is a popular destination for late-night schmoozing. Most students keep cars, and 69 percent commute, though that number is declining.

"The HUB" (short for the Hadley Union Building) features a food court and a popular fitness center with two advanced golf simulators that demand real clubs and swings. Each machine can accommodate four players at once, and users choose between 52 golf courses from around the world.

The HUB had $17 million worth of renovations done in 2002, and more renovations are on the way: Five new suite-style residence buildings accommodating around 1,800 students will be ready for new students this fall, and by 2010, there will be a total of 12 new buildings. That's more than 3,800 new beds.

President Tony Atwater's plan is optimistic: Enrollment projections released by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education show an emerging decline in college-age residents in western Pennsylvania that is expected to reach double digits by the year 2015— perhaps challenging the school's slogan, "Beyond Expectations."

More About Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Plus factor: School has just renovated its music facilities and bought 82 new Steinways.
Undergrad enrollment, '07: 11,724
Est. annual cost, '07-'08: in state: $12,018; out of state: $19,784

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