In 1939, the federal government designated Penn State,Wilson School
the land-grant institution of the Commonwealth, to conduct engineering, science, management and defense training programs in York. Classes met at the William Penn Senior High School. The first graduates, fourteen men, completed the program in the summer of 1941. A polio epidemic in the York area caused classes to be canceled during the fall of 1941, but classes resumed in February 1942
Enrollment swelled during World War II, and classes were held at both William Penn State York Class of 41
Penn and York Junior College through June 1945. By the spring of 1946, several thousand people had completed or were in the process of completing their programs of study. These academic programs were conducted on a part-time basis, requiring five years to earn a diploma in one of several majors.
After the war, returning veterans, in addition to those already in the program, brought new pressure on the University to accelerate the programs. In 1949, a one year, full-time, day technical program offering a diploma to its graduates was instituted. Penn State York dates its official beginning from this time.