Open Doors Scholarship Program

Penn State has a long history and a proud tradition of opening the door to higher education for students from every economic background. Our University was founded to serve the children of farmers and laborers, and as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s land-grant institution, we remain committed to access and affordability. Rising costs and declining state support for higher education have resulted in tuition increases across the nation, and the burden has been especially hard to bear for those students—undergraduates who are among the first in their families to attend college or who come from low-income households and underrepresented populations—for whom a Penn State degree represents the greatest opportunity to change their economic destiny. Ultimately, only 50 percent of students from the poorest households graduate within six years.

To address the financial, academic, and personal challenges that our undergraduates face in earning their degrees, the University has created a range of programs that can help them to succeed. Alumni and friends can help to sustain these programs and meet the urgent needs of students through their endowed gifts.

While donors may take up to five years to fulfill their pledges, the Open Doors Scholarship Program shifts funds from the University into new endowments immediately, so that students can begin benefiting from a gift in the semester after the scholarship is established, and your commitment will help undergraduates both right away and far into the future.

Questions about funding a scholarship?

David J. Lieb

Senior Associate Vice President

Office of University Development


Questions about applying for a scholarship?

Office of Student Aid


The Open Doors Programs

For many students, the greatest tuition increase of all becomes the need to extend their education over five years or more, as they balance full-time jobs with full-time course loads, struggle to make the transition to Penn State and between our campuses, and try to find their place in our academic community. The following programs have been designed to keep students on track to their degrees. The Open Doors Matching Program is designed to create scholarships that support all of the programs. Donors may restrict their scholarship to a specific college or campus and indicate a preference for one of the programs. In awarding scholarships, the University will give priority to students with the highest level of financial need—presently defined as those whose families can cover only 25 percent or less of their educational costs.

Pathway to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS):

Launched in 2015, this program helps entering students to make the transition to Penn State in the summer before their first year, learning skills, establishing connections, and earning credits that will help them to graduate on time. Those who successfully complete the first session can return for a second summer.

Student Transitional Experiences Program (STEP):

Designed to help undergraduates who will be completing their degrees at University Park after spending their first two years at one of Penn State’s other campuses, STEP offers a combination of scholarship support, special courses, mentoring, and other opportunities for students to become immediately engaged in their new academic community.


Students enrolled at specific Pennsylvania high schools serving low-income areas or those enrolled in the federal free lunch program, regardless of high school, can earn micro-scholarships toward their Penn State education by meeting goals that will lay a strong foundation for their future studies, such as “A” level work in their classes, perfect attendance, and participation in testing such as the PSAT.

Complete Penn State:

This structured program provides counseling and support to students who are identified as at risk of not graduating due to unexpected hardship, such as a parent’s illness or job loss. Students in this program are eligible for scholarships to assist them in completing their degree. In order to qualify for the program, students must have a minimum GPA of 2.0, be within 30 credits of earning their degree, and demonstrate unmet financial need as they enter their final two semesters.

Smart Track to Success:

World Campus students face many of the same challenges as traditional students in their transition to higher education, as well as experiences specific to distance learners. The Smart Track to Success program offers scholarship support, a two-semester course on academic and life skills, mentoring from peers and faculty, and assistance in becoming an engaged member of the World Campus community.