While some universities can't attract enough students these days, Pennsylvania State University is flush - a little too flush.
With hundreds more freshmen than expected accepting admission offers at the main campus in State College this year, the university for the first time is offering a special financial deal to some incoming freshmen:
Attend one of the 18 other undergraduate campuses spread throughout the state for the first year, and receive $10,000 off tuition for in-state students, $15,000 for out-of-state students.
Stay at one of the campuses with available housing - Beaver, Greater Allegheny, Hazleton, or Mont Alto - and an additional $5,000 will come off the bill.
"So for Pennsylvania residents, that could be $15,000 in savings in one year," a little more than half the cost of attendance at the University Park campus, said Clark Brigger, executive director of undergraduate admissions.
The savings are due to lower tuition rates at the other campuses, and scholarships the university is offering. The other campuses that students can attend include Abington, Altoona, Berks, Brandywine, DuBois, Erie, Fayette, Lehigh Valley, New Kensington, Schuylkill, Shenango, Wilkes-Barre, Worthington Scranton, and York. In cases where housing is not offered or is not available, students would have to live off campus.
The move comes as the university expects a record 8,600 freshmen at University Park this fall - 600 more than last year. Nearly a third of students offered admission accepted by the May 1 deadline, up from 30 percent the year before.
"It's definitely better than the alternative," Brigger said. "It's a better problem to have."
He wasn't sure what triggered the boost, but noted that a similar bulge occurred in 2006 and 1996. The university at that time was able to accommodate the increase by converting lounges and other existing spaces into living areas.
This year, the university also is converting available space into supplemental living areas at a reduced room rate. Other efforts include asking local students if they want to commute, and upperclassmen scheduled to live on campus if they want to move off.
But, Brigger said, there's still a need to find a way to divert at least some incoming freshmen.
"We'd like to move somewhere between 400 to 500," he said.
As of Wednesday, about three days after the offer went out to students via email, 98 students had agreed to attend one of the other campuses.
Joanny Rodriguez, 17, of Charlotte, N.C., is one of them.
"This is what is going to make it possible for me to go to Penn State," she said of the offer.
She feared she wouldn't have had enough money for her first year and might have had to go to a college in her home state.
The decision was hard.
"I literally cried a lot. I really wanted to be at University Park," she said. "But it's a lot of money. As long as I end up at University Park somehow, that's what really matters to me."
Students are guaranteed the right to move to main campus in their sophomore year.
Rodriguez said she will attend the Altoona campus, less than an hour from State College. She plans to visit State College on weekends and take Air Force ROTC there.
Emily Heilbrunn, 18, of Baltimore, who was to be Rodriguez's roommate in the fall, also got the offer. But she isn't taking it.
"I just really love University Park, and I'm blessed enough to be able to afford all four years there," she said.
When Cindy Whitley and her daughter, Lauren, looked at the math together - $15,000 in savings would amount to $150 a month for 10 years in loan payments - her daughter decided to go for it.
"Then it was real to her. She understood," said Whitley, who lives in Norristown and works in the financial aid office at Montgomery County Community College.
Her daughter will attend the Mont Alto campus.
Penn State extended the offer to about 2,800 freshmen last week, roughly a third of the freshmen scheduled to attend, targeting those who had the greatest amount of money to pay toward their education. Students have until Wednesday to respond.
Depending on the response, the offer may go to 3,000 more students next Thursday, Brigger said. Students admitted into programs only offered at University Park are not eligible.
"We didn't want to offer it to everybody off the bat and have a thousand people sign up," Brigger said.
The offer is being extended on a first-come, first-served basis.
In the previous years, total undergraduate enrollment at University Park has remained at about 40,000, and with the efforts in place, Brigger said, the number should remain about the same.