Penn State, founded in 1855 as an agricultural college, admitted its first class in 1859. The Pennsylvania legislature designated Penn State as the Commonwealth's sole land-grant institution in 1863, which eventually broadened the University's mission to include teaching, research, and public service in many academic disciplines. Penn State has awarded more than a half-million degrees, and has been Pennsylvania's largest source of baccalaureate degrees at least since the 1930s. Although the University is privately chartered by the Commonwealth, it was from the outset considered an "instrumentality of the state," that is, it carries out many of the functions of a public institution and promotes the general welfare of the citizenry. The Governor and other representatives of the Commonwealth have held seats on Penn State’s Board of Trustees since the University's founding, and the legislature has made regular appropriations in support of the University's mission since 1887.
Today Penn State is one of four "state-related" universities (along with the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, and Lincoln University), institutions that are not state-owned and -operated but that have the character of public universities and receive substantial state appropriations. With its administrative and research hub at the University Park campus, Penn State has 23 additional locations across Pennsylvania. While some of these locations, such as the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, have specialized academic roles, they all adhere to a common overall mission and set of core values and strategic goals.