The Commonwealth System of Higher Education is a statutory designation by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that confers "state-related" status on four universities located within the state. The designation establishes the schools as an "instrumentality of the commonwealth"  and provides each university with annual, non-preferred  financial appropriations in exchange offering tuition discounts to students who are residents of Pennsylvania and a minority state-representation on each school's board of trustees. Legally, however, the universities remain separate and private entities, operating under their own charters, governed by independent boards of trustees, and with its assets under their own ownership and control, thereby retaining much of the freedom and individuality of private institutions, both administratively and academically.  It is the only public-private hybrid system of higher education in the United States that is so construed, although Cornell University, the University of Delaware, and Rutgers University  represent alternative types of public-private university hybrids. 
Universities of the Commonwealth System are considered public universities by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching because they offer reduced tuition for citizens of the Commonwealth and therefore are often referred to as "public" universities in publications, by the state, and the schools themselves. Because their annual state allocations that supplement less than 10% of their budgets, universities in the Commonwealth System tend to have higher tuition costs compared to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education which contains 14 state-owned and operated universities. Because of their independence, universities in the Commonwealth System are exempt from Pennsylvania's Open Records law except for a few minor provisions. 
Before the creation of the "state-related" legal status in the 1960s, Lincoln University, Temple University, and University of Pittsburgh were fully private universities.  Temple and Pitt were granted state-related status by acts of Commonwealth's legislature in 1965 and 1966, respectively. Lincoln University, a historically black university, was designated as a state-related university in 1972. 
Although the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) was founded as a private school, it was later designated as the Commonwealth's sole land-grant institution. It was repeatedly defined as a "state-owned university" in numerous official acts and Pennsylvania Attorney General opinions from its creation as a land-grant, then named the Pennsylvania State College, in 1855. It was thus applicable to having its road system and buildings on state campuses constructed using state funding, paying its employees through state-issued checks, and having them eligible to collect state employee retirement system benefits.
Penn State was already treated and referred to as a public state-related university by the Commonwealth, including receiving non-preferred appropriations, when the other three universities were designated as state-related institutions by the legislature. In 1989, Penn State asserted a public status in court for the purpose of not having a private bank branch's operations on its University Park campus subject to local county taxes, while simultaneously asserting private status for the purpose of not having to reveal the salaries of its top administrative employees.  With the enabling legislation changing the failing Williamsport (PA) Area Community College to the affiliated "Pennsylvania College of Technology" in 1989, Penn State was reaffirmed as a "state-related" institution.
The following universities (listed with their branch and regional campuses) are members of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education
- Lincoln University, Lincoln University, PA
- Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
- University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
- Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
|School||U.S. News & World Report, Best Colleges 2015||U.S. News & World Report, Best Business Schools 2012||U.S. News & World Report, Best Education Schools 2013 ||U.S. News & World Report, Best Engineering Schools 2012||U.S. News & World Report, Best Fine Arts Schools 2012||U.S. News & World Report, Best Law Schools 2015 ||U.S. News & World Report, Best Library & Information Studies Schools, 2009||U.S. News & World Report, Best Medical Schools, Research & Primary Care 2012||U.S. News & World Report, Best Public Affairs Schools 2012 ||Academic Ranking of World Universities 2014||CMUP, Top American Research Universities 2011||QS World University Rankings 2012||THE World University Rankings 2012|
|Lincoln University||Rank Not Published, Regional Universities (North)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Pennsylvania State University||47th, National Universities (University Park)||44th ( Smeal)||28th||25th||50th||71st ( Dickinson)||N/A||N/A||67th
( Penn State Harrisburg)
|Temple University||115th, National Universities||52nd ( Fox)||47th||126th||13th ( Tyler)||52nd ( Beasley)||N/A||47th & 86th||N/A||301-400||N/A||500-556||351st|
|University of Pittsburgh||66th, National Universities (Pittsburgh Campus)||68th ( Katz)||32nd||47th ( Swanson)||N/A||78th||10th||15th & 18th||33rd||65th||22-24||98th||76th|
Research and Development Expenditures (FY 2011) 
- Statutory college, the private-public contractual system of higher education schools and colleges in New York State.
- "State-Related Universities". Pennsylvania Department of Education. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
- Barlow, Kimberly K. (March 17, 2011). "How state budget process works". University Times. 43 (14). Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- Alberts, Robert C. (1986). Pitt: The Story of the University of Pittsburgh 1787–1987. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 343. ISBN 0-8229-1150-7.
- Dane, Perry; Stein, Allan; Williams, Williams (2014). "Saving Rutgers-Camden". Rutgers Law Journal. 44: 337–412. SSRN 2302826.
- Schackner, Bill (February 17, 2008). "Pitt, Penn State escape parts of open records law". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- "About Lincoln". Lincoln University of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. April 9, 2013.
- Roy v. Pennsylvania State University, 568 A.2d 751, 130 Pa.Commw. 468 (1990); Pennsylvania State University v. County of Centre, 615 A.2d 303, 532 Pa. 142 (1992).
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title ( link)
- "Best Public Affairs Programs". US News & World Report. 2012. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- "2011 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments Results" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). January 17, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 29, 2013. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
- "Temple endowment exceeds $500 million". Temple University. November 28, 2016.
- "What's new on campus". philly.com. September 1, 2015.
- "Rankings by total R&D expenditures". National Science Foundation. Retrieved August 20, 2013.