Best Colleges in Maryland

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If you’ve decided to go to college in Maryland, you have to make a decision between two-year colleges and four-year schools. With over fifty institutions to pick from, you have to weigh the college’s cost of tuition, reputation, major or trade specializations, grants, financial aid and scholarship offers. Fortunately, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Maryland, including the top four-year and two-year schools.

According to the higher education commission, Maryland ranks fourth among the most highly educated states. Naturally you’re going to want to get into the best four-year college possible. Many private schools get a reputation for being the most prestigious in the nation, but unfortunately are often the most expensive. For example, John Hopkins University ranks as the best college in Maryland and tenth in the nation, but the tuition comes to over $45,000 a year. Even if you have the grades to get into a school like JHU, most people can’t afford the tuition and will be plagued with student loan debt after graduation.

The good news is that public four-year colleges in the state are affordable and have good reputations as well. Maryland’s public four-year colleges have tuition costs that roughly fall under $10,000. For example, University of Maryland–College Park has a 95% retention rate and a 84% graduation rate, with a tuition of just under $10,000. Their graduation rate ranks higher than almost all Maryland’s private schools. Below you will find a mix of excellent public and private four-year schools in Maryland, ranked according to our proprietary formula.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1Johns Hopkins University 5/593.08%Baltimore, MD

As America’s first research university, John Hopkins is a good fit for students driven to excel in academics and explore research opportunities as a career. The university caters to more than 21,000 undergraduate and graduate students and has nine different schools on campus. A total of 36 Hopkins researchers have earned a Nobel Prize, and both faculty and students are involved in more than 240 of the nation’s top programs.

John Hopkins ranks among the nation’s leaders in Fulbright grant recipients, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The university spent more than $353 million on research, educational, and related activities overseas in 2015 alone.

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2University of Maryland – College Park 2/584.75%College Park, MD

The University of Maryland is recognized for its learning communities, such as the CIVICS Living & Learning Programs, first-year experience programs, service learning opportunities, and undergraduate research projects.

This is a public research university located approximately four miles from Washington, D.C. Since the campus is so close to the nation’s capital, it participates in research projects with the Federal government and some faculty members research funding from government agencies. The Terrapins represent Maryland in National College Athletic Association Division I competitions.

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3St Mary’s College of Maryland 3/581.44%St. Mary's City, MD

St. Mary’s College of Maryland is a public honors college and enjoys a unique status in higher education, earning top rankings as a liberal arts education by U.S. News & World Report.

The school offers the small-college experience found at private colleges and boasts rigorous academic standards, small class sizes, and access to modern resources. Students are encouraged to participate in campus activities and athletic events, since social life is an important element of the St. Mary’s educational experience.

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4Loyola University Maryland 5/581.89%Baltimore, MD

As one of the few Maryland colleges catering specifically to Catholic students, Loyola University promotes the education and spiritual traditions of the Society of Jesus, and encourages students to learn and lead with these principles in today’s changing world.

The university is comprised of the School of Education, Selling School of Business Management, and Loyola College. Students can explore programs in more than 40 academic fields as well as study abroad programs in countries including Thailand and Australia. Students can compete in the Patriot League and participate in community service programs or the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program to round out their educational experience.

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5Towson University 2/568.25%Towson, MD

Towson University offers an enriching educational experience steeped in 150 years of tradition. It is the second-largest school in the University System of Maryland and offers 64 undergraduate programs, 46 master’s programs, and four doctoral degree programs.

The school was ranked 15th in the public regional universities category by U.S. News & World Report in 2015 and is also well known for its affordability. The athletics department is home to 19 NCAA Division I athletic teams, which include 13 women’s sports and six men’s sports.

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6Salisbury University 2/566.19%Salisbury, MD

A member of the University System of Maryland, Salisbury’s scenic campus sits on the historic Eastern shore. The school offers 58 graduate and undergraduate programs, as well as three post baccalaureate certificates and two doctoral programs.

Popular majors are psychology, elementary education, and kinesiology and exercise science. Salisbury has been recognized by several of the nation’s leading finance publications for its affordability. The school’s nursing program is among the most competitive in the country, accepting only 65 students per year. Greek life is an important part of the student culture at the university, and includes a coed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.

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7Goucher College 5/563.89%Baltimore, MD

Ranked one of the top 10 most innovative colleges in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Goucher offers a wealth of opportunities for learning in an intimate environment.

The liberal arts college boasts a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and all undergraduate students study abroad so that they can be fully prepared to work in a global economy. The school caters to 1,480 undergraduate students and 1,200 graduate students with 33 undergraduate majors, 4+1 master’s programs, and one pre-med program. Students are encouraged to participate in student clubs, athletic teams, and the Goucher Student Government.

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8McDaniel College 5/567.84%Westminster, MD

McDaniel is a private college offering a personalized educational experience with comprehensive undergraduate and graduate programs and a student-centered community. It was the first coed college south of the Mason-Dixon line upon being founded in 1867, and has since grown to become a leading educational institution with distinct programs in deaf education, human services management, and gerontology.

Around 80% of the 1,600 undergraduates at the school live on campus, and many choose to study abroad to round out their educational experience. Students are also encouraged to participate in service projects, clubs, and athletics programs.

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9Washington College 5/573.73%Chestertown, MD

Boasting a small student-to-faculty ratio, distinctive campus groups, and a rigorous academic program, Washington College is one of Maryland’s most historic colleges. It was the first college chartered in the new nation upon being founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington.

The school caters to 1,450 undergraduate students from 35 states and more than 40 countries. Students gain valuable experience through hands-on learning opportunities with student groups like Model UN, and through community service activities.

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10Bowie State University 2/532.68%Bowie, MD

One of Maryland’s historically black colleges, Bowie State University now represents a diverse student population and is one of the 10 oldest colleges in the country. The school offers affordable educational opportunities for students, with 22 undergraduate majors and 38 master’s, doctoral, and advanced certification programs.

The majority of the programs are focused on STEM and business disciplines, and the campus boats advanced research and teaching facilities, including a FlexPod and a satellite operations control center. This school is a member institution of the University System of Maryland and has a continuing commitment to African American students.

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11University of Baltimore 2/542.94%Baltimore, MD

Located in the heart of Baltimore, UBalt offers an array of programs in liberal arts and sciences, public affairs, business, and law. The university encourages scholarship, research, and creative activity by providing innovative educational opportunities that connect students to the community and prepare them for a rewarding career in their chosen field.

Students are encouraged to participate in one of the 90 student-run organizations, competitive sports teams, and community engagement activities. The dedicated Bob Parsons Veterans Center on campus connects military and veteran students to university resources.

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12University of Maryland – Baltimore County 3/561.09%Baltimore, MD

As one of the few honors universities in Maryland, UMBC encourages greatness and excellence among its students with an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to learning. The campus was the first in Maryland to have a university research park, and prepares academically talented students with a strong liberal arts education.

At the graduate level, the university emphasizes science, engineering, information technology, human services, and public policy studies. UMBC is a member of the University System of Maryland and has been ranked in the category of Research Universities with high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation.

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13Notre Dame of Maryland University 5/558.1%Baltimore, MD

Notre Dame of Maryland was established by the School Sisters of Notre Dame and is one of the few colleges in the state to be rooted in Catholic traditions. The liberal arts college is dedicated to service and encourages students to participate in community activities while promoting social responsibility.

Once the only women’s college in Maryland, the school now caters to nearly 3,000 men and women enrolled in degree and certificate programs at the College of Adult Undergraduate Studies. The school welcomes students of all faiths. A total of 34 alumnae have been named among the local Daily Record’s Top 100 Women in Maryland.

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14Washington Adventist University 4/539.8%Takoma Park, MD

WAU is the only higher education institution in Maryland owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The school offers a Christian-based liberal arts program at both the undergraduate and graduate level, as well as a professional studies program for eligible students.

The school’s Office of Ministry offers more than 32 majors, and students enjoy smaller classes, study abroad opportunities, internships, and pre-professional programs. The school’s music performance groups perform at Carnegie Hall and other venues around the world. The WAU Honors Program offers opportunities for gifted and talented students, and The Betty Howard Center provides resources for students who want to make the most of their educational experience.

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15Mount St Mary’s University 5/564.39%Emmitsburg, MD

Mount St. Mary’s University caters to students with a God-centered approach and is supported by 200 years of tradition. The private coed college was established in the early 19th century and enrolls more than 2,300 students.

Students can pursue dozens of undergraduate and graduate degree options from the school’s College of Liberal Arts, School of Education and Human Services, School of Natural Science & Mathematics, or the Richard J. Bolte, Sr. School of Business. Almost half the classes have fewer than 20 students, which means students have easy access to faculty and can learn in smaller groups. MSMU was ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges in 2016 for the 6th year in a row, and is one of two Maryland colleges recognized as a College of Distinction.

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16Frostburg State University 2/548.54%Frostburg, MD

Catering to more than 5,700 students, Frostburg boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1. Students here enjoy mentorship opportunities with faculty and can choose from 44 different undergraduate majors and 17 graduate programs. The school also offers a doctorate in educational leadership.

The university offers a study abroad program and online learning opportunities for students who need a more flexible schedule. The school’s athletics team, the FSU Bobcats, represent the school in the Capital Athletic Conference and NCAA Division III.

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17University of Maryland Eastern Shore 2/536.71%Princess Anne, MD

The University of Maryland Eastern Shore offers a range of programs through four key schools, catering to more than 4,200 students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree program. UMES is a technology-focused school, and its top five degree programs include criminal justice, biology, exercise science, human ecology, and sociology.

Many programs at this school are tailored for students pursuing research studies, and the campus is home to several dedicated research centers and units to serve them. Students are encouraged to participate in experiential events and activities, such as the Aviation Simulation Lab, a Spring Luncheon Series offered by the Hotel Restaurant Management department, and various activities at the Textile Testing Laboratory.

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18Stevenson University 4/562.78%Stevenson, MD

Stevenson University is the third-largest independent university in the state of Maryland. It caters to more than 4,100 students pursuing an undergraduate, master’s, or adult undergraduate degree and is home to seven dedicated schools.

Approximately 93% of graduates found a job or continued their education within six months of graduating from Stevenson, and the school is fully invested in job placement activities. Students are encouraged to join more than 50 student clubs and organizations, social activities, and participate in one of 27 Division III athletic teams. The school’s founding campus in Greenspring Valley is located 12 miles from Baltimore; the Owing Mills Campus is six miles away and includes 13 residential buildings.

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19Morgan State University 2/532.1%Baltimore, MD

One of the few colleges in Maryland to serve as a founding member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), Morgan State is a coeducational institution that has been designated as Maryland’s Public Urban University. It is historically a black educational institution but is open to students of all backgrounds.

The school enrolls approximately 7,700 students and offers baccalaureate, master’s, and doctorate programs. This university awards more bachelor’s degrees to African American students than any other campus in Maryland and places a strong emphasis on arts and sciences at the undergraduate level. The school also offers accredited online programs for degree-seeking students and individual online courses.

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20Capitol College 4/541.03%Laurel, MD

One of the only schools in Maryland to offer a job guarantee after graduation, Capitol College is dedicated to educating students interested in engineering, computer science, information technology, and business programs. It offers 13 bachelor’s degrees, three associate degrees, and nine undergraduate certificate programs to best prepare students for the real world.

The smaller class sizes allow students to work directly with professors and programs are designed with state-of-the-art lab components and hands-on application opportunities. The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security has designated this school a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.

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21Hood College 5/570.78%Frederick, MD

Providing research and experiential learning opportunities, Hood College is one of the top schools in Maryland for students interested in an integrated liberal arts education and access to advanced technology centers and resources. The school serves more than 2,360 students, has invested heavily in its state-of-the-art $20 million research facility, and features technology-enhanced “smart” classrooms.

Students can participate in more than 60 clubs and organizations, 17 honor societies, and can attend special events such as the renowned Messiah concert. Hood’s Blazer athletic teams compete in the NCAA Division III Middle Atlantic Conferences and the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference.

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22Coppin State University 2/517.54%Baltimore, MD

This liberal arts school is classified as one of Maryland’s HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). The fully accredited school offers 53 undergraduate majors and nine graduate degree programs to its 4,000 enrolled students.

Coppin was selected for the prestigious EDUCAUSE Award for Innovation in Network Technology in 2005, the first time a school in Maryland received the award. It has also been identified as a technology innovator. The school is steeped in 110 years of history and students are encouraged to participate in arts and cultural activities, Greek life, and intramural or competitive sports.

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23University of Maryland – University College 2/58.33%Adelphi, MD

UMUC offers more than 90 online degrees, certifications, and specializations in in-demand fields. It is a member institution of the University System of Maryland and provides affordable degree programs for students of all ages.

Military and veteran education benefits are available, and eligible students are encouraged to apply for scholarships. Students who want to complete a degree while working or taking care of a family can take advantage of the flexible online program formats with rolling admissions and multiple start dates. UMUC has received five Online Learning Consortium awards and serves as a global institution; it enrolled more students than any other four-year public university in the US during the 2014 school year.

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At a two-year college in Maryland, you can earn an associate degree, a certificate for a specific skill or trade or eventually transfer to a four-year college. Having an associate or bachelor’s degree can dramatically improve your chances of employment. According to Maryland’s Economic and Labor Market Analysis for 2013, 6% of the state’s educated citizens hold an associate degree and 20% hold a bachelor’s or higher.

Those with an associate or bachelor’s degree make up 23% and 27% of the workforce in Maryland, respectively. In deciding what two year college to go to, it is important to learn which yield the highest employment and transfer rates upon graduation. Many two-year colleges have transfer agreements with four-year colleges, giving you a better chance to get in if you follow the conditions. Staying away from colleges with low retention rates should factor into your decision.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1Frederick Community College 2/523.13%Frederick, MD

More than 16,000 students attend Frederick CC, taking courses in more than 85 degree and certificate programs, as well as continuing education and workforce development courses. In addition to offering online and web-based course formats, FCC provides students with the flexibility to take courses during the evening or on weekends. The school is a leader in job preparation and helps students reach the job market in just one to three years, depending on their course of study. FCC offers short-term training programs in business management, trades, and several healthcare fields.

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2Carroll Community College 1/526.68%Westminster, MD

Carroll CC offers professional development and certificate programs, along with associate degrees and personal enrichment classes, to more than 12,000 students each year. To make the most of their experience at Carroll, students are encouraged to participate in student activities and programs, including concerts, theatrical productions, lectures, and multicultural programs. Non-credit online offerings are available through the Ed2Go learning platform, allowing students to take distance courses from the comfort of their home or office.

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3Hagerstown Community College 1/524.89%Hagerstown, MD

Hagerstown caters to all types of students, including transfers, international students, and veterans using their military benefits. The college has eight divisions, including business, health science, physical education, and technology. It also offers a comprehensive truck driver training program. Non-degree seeking students can enroll to improve their career skills, maintain a professional license, or just to take a couple of classes.

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4Harford Community College 1/521.63%Bel Air, MD

Since 1957, Harford Community College has offered affordable degree and certificate programs, and a high quality education. The school sits on 350 acres near Bel Air and offers associate degree programs, courses for university transfer, and career training programs. More than 9,000 credit students and 11,000 non-credit students enrolled in 2015. Students can choose pursue more than 70 degree and certificate programs. Prospective students are encouraged to attend an open house and take a virtual campus tour to learn more about the school, campus amenities, and course offerings.

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5Anne Arundel Community College 2/516.49%Arnold, MD

Anne Arundel has served the community for more than 50 years, and the school offers 225 programs and more than 3,500 courses. AACC celebrates diversity, and one-third of its student population are minority students. The school has transfer agreements with several accredited four-year schools throughout Maryland, helping associate degree holders transition seamlessly to their next college.

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6Prince George’s Community College 2/55.93%Largo, MD

Prince George’s College is one of the largest two-year schools in Maryland. It was recently named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Two-Year Education 2010-2015 by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The college serves more than 13,000 students from more than 100 countries around the globe. Transfer students are welcome; students will also find opportunities to complete certificate programs and meet licensure requirements in several fields.

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7Howard Community College 2/515.1%Columbia, MD

More than 10,000 students attend Howard CC, where they find affordable programs and a comprehensive educational experience. The school serves as a primary hub in Howard County and provides two-year degree and certificate programs for some of today’s in-demand careers. In addition to campus-based programs, Howard offers flexible scheduling and learning options in its online and hybrid classes. Students attending classes on campus will enjoy a vibrant arts and cultural scene, and have easy access to dedicated faculty members and support staff.

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8Montgomery College 2/514.2%Rockville, MD

Montgomery College is an open access community college in Montgomery County. The school has three campuses, located in Rockville, Germantown, and Takoma Park/Silver Spring. MC serves more than 25,000 students a year, and provides more than 100 academic programs. Prospective transfer students eager to pursue a four-year degree can transfer seamlessly to other universities in the state; the college also offers a number of professional education programs. Students can take advantage of tutoring help in reading, writing, language, and mathematics as needed; they can also take test prep courses both on campus and online.

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9Allegany College of Maryland 2/522.31%Cumberland, MD

Students looking for a high quality and affordable education can turn to Allegany for a variety of program offerings and flexible scheduling options. One of the smaller community colleges in the state, this tight-knit campus features small class sizes and a 14:1 student:teacher ratio. Allegany has six academic divisions and also provides distance education programs with web-enhanced hybrid courses and online classes offered entirely online.

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10Cecil College 2/521.35%North East, MD

Cecil College is an open admission community college serving residents of Cecil County with more than 100 degree and certificate programs. The school was founded in 1968 and serves thousands of students. Working adults who want to earn an undergraduate degree while working full time can enroll in the Accelerated Studies for the Adult Professional (ASAP) program, which provides some flexibility with both online and classroom-based learning options. Students are encouraged to apply for Cecil College Foundation fund scholarships.

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11Garrett College 2/523.31%McHenry, MD

Garrett College’s main campus is located in McHenry, and the school has earned a reputation among outdoorsmen for its adventure sports and natural resources and wildlife technology programs. It is located near Deep Creek Lake and Adventure Sports International, providing students with easy access to outdoor classroom sites and recreational areas.

A low student-to-faculty ratio and small class sizes ensures students that they can enjoy a more individualized and personalized learning experience than they would at many other schools. Distance learning programs are available for those interested in studying online or in a hybrid program. All students are encouraged to apply for financial aid and for the Garrett Foundation Scholarships awarded each year.

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12Wor-Wic Community College 2/515.05%Salisbury, MD

Wor-Wic serves residents of Worcester, Wicomico, and Somerset counties. Students can choose from a number of affordable postsecondary educational opportunities and take courses that directly prepare them for a four-year school. Continuing education and workforce development departments design custom training programs for major employers in the area, including Salisbury University, B&G Foods, and PolyOne. The Wor-Wic Community College Foundation promotes the activities and programs of the school by providing scholarship opportunities, professional development programs, and resources for students.

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13College of Southern Maryland 2/512.68%La Plata, MD

Students attending one of the four campuses of the College of Southern Maryland have access to high-quality programs and a wealth of resources to complement their educational experience. This is an open-admissions community college dedicated to providing a variety of academic programs and personal growth opportunities. Transfer programs and career training modules are available, as well as online learning opportunities for those who need a more flexible schedule. In 2013, the Prince Frederick Campus dedicated its first building to meet LEED-Certified standards, demonstrating Southern Maryland’s commitment to renewable energy.

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14Chesapeake College 1/517.91%Wye Mills, MD

Maryland’s first regional community college, Chesapeake College offers more than 70 degrees, along with certificate and career training programs. The school serves more than 9,100 students in 2015, more than 2,000 of whom were full-time students. The school offers a diverse range of programs in both career and professional studies, and in liberal arts and sciences. Students may also apply to the school’s honors program.

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15The Community College of Baltimore County 2/56.92%Baltimore, MD

The Community College of Baltimore County serves more than 65,000 students a year. Students can take classes from more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs. The school also partners with Maryland businesses to provide customized employee training programs, making it a premier learning and educational hub in the community. Online learning formats for both credit and noncredit courses are available, and those who want to increase their earning potential or improve their job skills can complete professional development programs.

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16Baltimore City Community College 1/54.39%Baltimore, MD

BCC is one of the leading state-sponsored urban community colleges in Maryland that caters to degree-seeking students with high quality education programs and continuing education opportunities. Students interested in completing a degree or certificate program, or in transferring to a four-year college, can choose from 29 associate degree and 16 certificate programs. Many courses are offered online, which provide some schedule flexibility. The BCC Panthers athletics department features a full-service athletic training room and opportunities for students who wish to participate in sports competitions and tournaments throughout the year.

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If you’re thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in Maryland, continuing reading to learn more about living in the Old Line State.

Maryland is the eighth smallest state in the U.S., but is rich with landscape and history. It is considered the first state to adopt religious freedom. One of the most highly educated states in the U.S., it has the best median household income. On the coastal regions, it can be very humid and hot in the summer, and the winters are mild compared to the harsher winters in Western Maryland. Part of the eastern side of Maryland borders the Delmarva Peninsula, where agriculture and fishing contribute to the economy. Maryland is also home to a host of famous attractions: Fort McHenry, the National Aquarium and the Walter Art Museum.

Regional Spotlight: Eastern Shore

Major Cities:

      Ocean City, St. Michaels, Oxford

Attractions: NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Cost of Living: Ocean City’s Areavibes Cost of Living

Popular Schools: UMD – Eastern Shore, Washington College, Salisbury University

Regional Spotlight: Central

  • Major Cities: Baltimore, Annapolis, Bethesda
  • Attractions: Fort McHenry, The National Aquarium, The Walter Art Museum
  • Cost of Living: Baltimore’s Numbeo Çost of Living
  • Popular Schools: John Hopkins, Loyola College, Annapolis U.S. Naval Academy

Regional Spotlight: Western

  • Major Cities: Oakland, Cumberland
  • Attractions: Appalachian Mountains
  • Cost of Living: Cumberland’s Areavibes Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: Frostburg State University, Garrett College, Allegany College of Maryland


If you have decided to pursue your higher education in Maryland, then considering applying for state residency can save you significant amounts on public tuition. The Maryland Board of Regents has established strict criteria for establishing yourself as a resident. There are four primary requirements to qualify for in-state tuition that must be demonstrated for a period of at least twelve consecutive months;

  • Make Maryland their permanent home
  • Abandon their former home state
  • Reside in Maryland indefinitely
  • Reside in Maryland primarily for a purpose other than that of receiving an education

For more details, please see the Board of Regents’ official policy statement.

Additional Resources:

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