Best Colleges in Pennsylvania

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Once you’ve set your sights on attending college, choosing the right school becomes a challenging but essential process. Pennsylvania is home to more than 450 two-year and four-year colleges, universities and trade schools, providing a range of diverse opportunities for those pursuing higher education. Prospective students not only face the question of attending either a two-year or four-year program, but a multitude of other considerations, like financial aid and retention rates. To simplify your search, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Pennsylvania, including the top four-year and two-year schools.

Admissions to any of Pennsylvania’s four-year programs is highly competitive. As part of its “Strategic Plan 2020,” the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is committed to preserving and promoting accessibility and affordability, among other initiatives. Additional key points of the Strategic Plan aim to move toward adapting to an ever-changing student population and aligning academic programs with workforce and personal growth needs.

A short list of proposals have been at the forefront of higher education news this year in the state. Lawmakers have proposed increased funding of higher education programs by $1.7 billion to offset dramatic spending cuts in recent years. Additional suggestions promote freezing state college tuitions in an effort to make higher education more accessible to first-year students. With these initiatives on the horizon for 2015, the future looks bright for prospective Pennsylvania students. We’ve created the following list of top colleges to help guide the way.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 University of Pennsylvania 96.42 3/5 96% Philadelphia, PA

Located in Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania is among the best colleges in Pennsylvania as well as one of the top research schools in the nation, with 137 research centers and a research budget of $928 million. The school’s rich history reflects the passionate work of one of America’s greatest thinkers, Benjamin Franklin. His vision to provide educational opportunities to improve the lives of individuals and society as a whole are the bedrock of the university, and in keeping with the inquisitive nature of its historic founder, the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious academic programs are driven by cutting-edge research and innovative technology. Prospective students can choose to pursue degrees from four undergraduate schools. The programs offered are as diverse as the student body, with bachelor degrees ranging from computational biology to theatre arts. Students receive a strong educational foundation in liberal arts, and the university houses several culturally enriching programs, including the Arthur Ross Gallery and the Institute of Contemporary Art.

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2 Swarthmore College 91.50 3/5 92% Swarthmore, PA

Nestled in the southeast corner of Pennsylvania just 11 miles from Philadelphia, Swarthmore College has one of the most visually striking campuses in America. Its breathtaking landscapes and historic buildings enhance an already astute academic environment. Founded in 1864, Swarthmore College is known for its inclusive, community-oriented academic programs. Students interested in an undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College can choose from a variety of majors, including the option to design an individualized degree. Students who developed their own major have focused on areas from behavioral economics to health policy and urban studies. First year seminars are offered to incoming students to help boost their academic success by cultivating research skills, critical thinking, and scholarly writing. Since 2001, Swarthmore College has offered community-based learning, an exciting alternative to traditional on-campus learning. Students who participate in the community-based learning program have the opportunity to gain and apply skills in real-world settings, and the university has partnered with other Pennsylvania colleges to provide students with access to courses offered elsewhere.

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3 Haverford College 87.58 4/5 93% Haverford, PA

Haverford College is one of the leading private research colleges in Pennsylvania, and students interested in enrolling in one of its many exceptional academic programs can expect to receive a world-class education. Located in Haverford, just 10 miles west of Philadelphia, Haverford College offers a unique educational experience. The university’s small class sizes allow students to receive individualized attention and support from the school’s expert faculty. Of the roughly 1,300 students who attend Haverford College, 98% live on campus and are actively involved in the campus community. Haverford College has 145 student groups that cater to a variety of interests and passions, from academic clubs and pre-professional organizations to recreational activities including chess and ping pong. Students have access to several culturally and intellectually enriching programs, including the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship and the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center. Haverford College offers a variety of research-oriented undergraduate degree programs ranging from astrophysics to the social sciences and linguistics.

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4 Bucknell University 80.35 4/5 90% Lewisburg, PA

Bucknell University is centrally located in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and offers more than 50 majors, including Africana studies, neuroscience, and women’s and gender studies. The university’s high quality academic programs emphasize experiential learning, and undergraduate students are invited to participate in groundbreaking research projects that cultivate critical thinking skills, collaborative learning, and creative approaches to solving problems. Bucknell University is the alma mater to an eclectic mix of renowned individuals, including Pulitzer Prize winner Peter Balakian. Bucknell University’s academic programs prepare students for a lifetime of transformative learning, and the impressively low student/faculty ratio guarantees that students’ academic endeavours are nurtured every step of the way. With less than 10 students per class, the university’s astute faculty members serve as mentors who guide students through a variety of academic programs rooted in a liberal arts education. Bucknell University is one of the most welcoming colleges in Pennsylvania, and students will discover an inclusive campus environment that promotes meaningful peer interaction and community involvement.

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5 Bryn Mawr College 80.31 4/5 82% Bryn Mawr, PA

Located in Bryn Mawr, just outside Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr College was founded in 1885 to provide higher education opportunities to women, and it was the first college in the nation to make doctorate programs available to women. Bryn Mawr College’s academic programs reflect the university’s mission to empower women through its rigorous undergraduate curriculum that emphasizes diversity, integrity, and community leadership. Students have access to a variety of supplementary educational experiences designed to promote student success. The Emily Balch Seminars are an engaging series of discussions led by rotating faculty and are designed to encourage critical thinking from diverse perspectives. First-year students are invited to share the vision of Emily Balch, who graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1889 and went on to win the Nobel Prize for Peace. Bryn Mawr College is one of the best colleges in Pennsylvania for women and offers 37 majors, including the unique growth and structures in cities program.

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6 Lafayette College 79.51 4/5 91% Easton, PA

Lafayette College takes an experiential approach to learning, and students are encouraged to participate in a variety of intellectually and personally enriching hands-on experiences. Founded in 1826, Lafayette College is located in Easton, Pennsylvania, and is conveniently situated less than 60 miles north of Philadelphia and 70 miles west of New York City. Its central location caters to the school’s mission to provide students with ample opportunities to develop leadership skills through community interaction. Lafayette College’s vision for an inclusive higher education experience is reflected in the academic programs offered by the university. Students learn in an academic environment that celebrates student diversity and differences of thought while also fostering collaboration and cohesion. Lafayette College’s 51 academic programs provide Pennsylvania colleges with a paradigm for academic excellence. Students can choose a degree program from one the university’s four academic divisions: humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering.

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7 Lehigh University 78.73 4/5 88% Bethlehem, PA

Located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh University was founded in 1865 by Asa Packer, a leader in industry who sought to create a higher learning institution that would provide men with a well-rounded education that would not only serve their career interests but would improve the economy as well. Today Lehigh University is a coeducational facility that serves almost 7,000 students. A leader among colleges in Pennsylvania, Lehigh University provides a high quality education in an inclusive setting. Undergraduate students are taught by expert faculty and are encouraged to engage in cutting-edge research projects that emphasize analytical thinking skills, collaboration, and community outreach. More than 1000 undergraduate students participate in research projects every year. The exceptional academic programs offered by Lehigh University encourage an interdisciplinary curriculum, and undergraduate students receive a variety of academic support, including access to career development programs and the Health and Wellness Center.

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8 Carnegie Mellon University 77.44 4/5 87% Pittsburgh, PA

A leader among Pennsylvania colleges, Carnegie Mellon University has a rich history that provided direction to the thoughtful development of its academic programs and continues to influence its vision for higher education today. Located in the industrial heart of the state, Carnegie Mellon University provides local Pittsburgh residents as well as students from around the world with an academic experience that reflects the courageous nature of its influential founder Andrew Carnegie. The university offers seven outstanding schools and colleges, including the renowned Mellon College of Science which provides exciting research experiences for emerging scholars. Students at Carnegie Mellon University receive a well-rounded education that emphasizes both art and science. The College of Fine Arts offers degrees in architecture, drama, and music, as well art and design. Students interested in pursuing a degree in engineering can explore a variety of career paths at the College of Engineering, which offers eight concentrations. No matter which program a students chooses, a high quality education guided by innovation is guaranteed.

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9 Franklin and Marshall College 76.71 4/5 83% Lancaster, PA

One of the best colleges in Pennsylvania can be found in the historically rich city of Lancaster. Franklin & Marshall College is one of the nation’s oldest universities and was founded in 1787 with the help of Benjamin Franklin. When its doors opened more than 200 years ago, Franklin and Marshall College became the first bilingual and coeducational university. Although coeducation proved to be temporary and the school was closed to women for 182 years, the university once again welcomes all genders and offers an exceptional academic experience backed by a mission to provide a high quality education that encourages creativity, critical thinking, and scholarly collaboration within the context of a transformative learning environment. Students choose degrees from six academic areas: humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, languages, fine arts, and interdisciplinary. Interdisciplinary programs allow students to gain a well-rounded education preparing them for a variety of graduate opportunities. Examples of the innovative interdisciplinary degrees available from Franklin & Marshall College include Judaic studies, neuroscience, and animal behavior studies.

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10 Gettysburg College 75.88 4/5 84% Gettysburg, PA

Located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Gettysburg College was founded in 1832 during a tumultuous era of American history. Gettysburg College is one of the best colleges in Pennsylvania for history majors, and the university offers a minor in Civil War era studies. More than half of Gettysburg College’s students choose to double major, and the curriculum emphasizes self-reflection, integrative thinking, and communication skills. Students are taught to be informed citizens and are encouraged to adapt a global perspective. The academic programs offered by Gettysburg College foster an multiple inquiries approach to learning, and students gain valuable skills that assist in thoughtful information gathering. Students choose from a variety of unique degree programs, including organization and management studies, religious studies, and women, gender, and sexuality studies. A number of inventive minors are also available that allow students to customize their degree paths to better reflect their passions and interests. Examples of minors offered by Gettysburg College include Greek, public history, and peace and justice studies.

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11 Chatham University 71.76 3/5 59% Pittsburgh, PA

Chatham University is one of the premier colleges in Pennsylvania and provides a superior education that emphasizes sustainability and the health sciences. Chatham University’s main campus is located in Pittsburgh, and in 2010 the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment at Chatham University was founded in Richland, Pennsylvania. The university’s Eden Hall Campus is the first fully sustainable campus in the world, and students have the unique opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Sustainability on a campus that utilizes innovative technology to positively impact the environment. The academic programs offered at Chatham University’s main campus include more than 35 competitive undergraduate degrees in the areas of health and lab sciences, business and communication, and the arts and humanities. Students can also choose to design a major to reflect individualized interests. Not only will students receive an exceptional education from Chatham University, but they will also have the opportunity to participate in the university’s traditions, including a Moonlight Breakfast, House Olympics, and Undergraduate Class Colors.

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12 Muhlenberg College 71.25 4/5 87% Allentown, PA

Located in the bustling metropolis of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Muhlenberg College is one of the top colleges in Pennsylvania, and the university’s core principles provide the foundation for its rigorous academic programs. These principles include community engagement, collegiality, curiosity, and character. Muhlenberg College is less than 90 miles from New York City and 50 miles from Philadelphia, and its central location provides students with plenty of culturally enriching environments for experiential learning. Student Life is an important part of the Muhlenberg College experience, and students have the opportunity to engage in a variety of community-building programs, including residence life, religious life, and LGBTQ life. The university’s Multicultural Center prepares students for important leadership roles in the areas of community advocacy and social justice. Students enrolled in one of Muhlenberg College’s competitive bachelor’s degree programs have the option of pursuing a minor in several areas, such as creative writing or innovation and entrepreneurship.

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13 Dickinson College 70.61 4/5 85% Carlisle, PA

Dickinson College was established in 1783 by Benjamin Rush, an academic visionary and one of America’s founding fathers. Located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Dickinson College is one of the best colleges in Pennsylvania and serves roughly 2,400 students annually. The student/faculty ratio is 9 to 1, and the small class sizes create an intimate learning environment where students receive individualized support and attention. Dickinson College’s academic programs emphasize collaborative learning that prepares students for leadership roles in a global society. The active learning model utilized by Dickinson College encourages real-world acquisition of knowledge and skills, and students have several exciting field experience opportunities to fit their academic interests, ranging from large scale public art projects to research expeditions across the globe. Freshmen complete a first-year academic program designed to cultivate a sense of community, and each incoming student begins a mentoring relationship with one of Dickinson College’s expert faculty members.

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14 Villanova University 69.77 4/5 88% Villanova, PA

Villanova University is one of the leading Christian colleges in Pennsylvania and provides an exceptional academic experience rooted in Catholic Augustinian traditions. The university’s academic programs prepare students for a lifetime of rewarding professional and spiritual experiences. Villanova University is committed to the advancement of knowledge necessary to produce globally-minded citizens who strive for peace and justice. Located in Villanova, just 12 miles west of Philadelphia, Villanova University offers a variety of degree programs from six colleges and schools. With a graduation rate of 90%, the university values each of its students and offers several student services designed to support students as they pursue their dreams. Students have access to the Career Center, Learning Support Services, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, and much more. Villanova University offers a prestigious Presidential Scholarship Program that covers the cost of tuition, room and board, and text books for eight semesters.

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15 West Chester University of Pennsylvania 69.72 4/5 69% West Chester, PA

Located in West Chester, in the southeast corner of the state, West Chester University of Pennsylvania is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and is one of the top colleges in Pennsylvania, offering students a superior academic experience. The university attracts students from diverse backgrounds and strives to provide an inclusive learning environment led by accomplished professors. The core curriculum utilizes a social justice model that addresses global issues and promotes community engagement. West Chester University offers many high quality degree programs, and undergraduate students receive a well-rounded education that emphasizes practical skills attainment guided by theoretical knowledge. Students have the opportunity to augment their academic experience by pairing a minor with an already exceptional degree program, boosting their knowledge base and marketability. A variety of advocacy-oriented minors are offered including the minor in youth empowerment and urban studies and the peace and conflict studies program.

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16 Lancaster Bible College 69.65 3/5 73% Lancaster, PA

Lancaster Bible College is one of the premier Christian colleges in Pennsylvania. Located in historically significant city of Lancaster, Lancaster Bible College was established in 1933 with the mission to provide Christian students with an exceptional education grounded in the teachings of Christ. The academic programs offered at Lancaster Bible College incorporate the university’s core values into the Biblically-centered curriculum, and students are encouraged to grow both professionally and spiritually. The university’s 27 academic majors reflect the university's commitment to the Scripture, and students can choose from a variety of bachelor’s degree programs that emphasize ministry with the following populations: children and family ministry, women in Christian ministry, and youth and young adult ministry. A pastoral ministry degree is also available. Not only does Lancaster Bible College offer high quality academic programs, its vibrant Student Life program ensures that students receive a well-rounded higher education experience with plenty of community engagement and support.

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17 Grove City College 67.90 3/5 82% Grove City, PA

Just 50 miles north of Pittsburgh, Grove City College offers a liberal arts Christian education rooted in the principles of faith and freedom. The college’s Christian-oriented courses encourage spiritual growth and the exploration of faith while welcoming students from all denominations. A leader among Pennsylvania colleges, Grove City College’s academic programs reflect the college’s mission to produce ethical leaders equipped with the skills necessary to effectively engage in the modern world. The college's curriculum emphasizes the Christian perspective of neighborly love in a free society. Grove City College offers more than 50 programs that take a holistic approach to education. Each student receives an inclusive learning experience that incorporates the humanities, social and laboratory sciences, and foreign languages into the rigorous curriculum. Grove City College’s undergraduate majors range from accounting and business to political science and sociology with plenty in between. The college offers several pre-professional programs in the areas of dentistry, law, medicine, theology, and veterinary medicine.

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18 Juniata College 67.41 4/5 75% Huntingdon, PA

Located in the picturesque town of Huntingdon, Juniata College is one the leading private liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania and offers a world-class education in an intimate setting with less than 2,000 students in attendance. The highly competitive school provides an academic experience designed to advance student knowledge through a community of creativity and collaboration. Juniata College produces exceptional scholars and world leaders. Some of its renowned alumni include Physics Nobel Prize Winner Dr. William Phillips, Teflon creator Kenneth Berry, and D.C. Comics writer Scott M. Beatty. Juniata College is driven by student success, and 96% of its undergraduate students graduate within four years and go on to pursue engaging professional careers or enroll in graduate programs. The university has 27 distinct academic departments, and each academic program is built upon a liberal arts curriculum that emphasizes art, humanities, international studies, social sciences, and natural sciences.

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19 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania 65.72 3/5 62% Slippery Rock, PA

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and is located in Slippery Rock, only 52 miles north of Pittsburgh. Founded in 1889 as a normal school for teacher training, Slippery Rock University quickly became a leader among Pennsylvania colleges, and its historical foundation paved the way for a modern university with strong values rooted in the cultivation of conscientious, community-oriented leaders with lifelong desires for intellectual growth. The university serves over 8,500 students and offers a variety of academic programs that embody the school’s mission to empower its students through transformative learning experiences. At Slippery Rock University students have the opportunity to pursue degrees that reflect their personal interests and passions, and the diverse array of academic areas guarantee that students will find their niche. Degree programs range from fine arts to wellness and fitness, and the university offers a number of unique programs including environmental geosciences, cybersecurity, and gender and diversity studies.

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20 Saint Vincent College 65.51 3/5 73% Latrobe, PA

Located in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Saint Vincent College is conveniently situated in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. With almost 50 undergraduate majors and 60 Student Life clubs and organizations, Saint Vincent College offers something for everyone. The school’s exceptional academic programs are guided by Benedictine wisdom and Catholic traditions, making it one of the leading Christian Pennsylvania colleges. Saint Vincent College’s liberal arts curriculum incorporates the university’s core values that include the advancement of knowledge through the guiding light of Catholicism and the pursuit of community enrichment through meaningful intellectual experiences rooted in faith. Academic programs strive to embody social justice perspectives, as well as a diverse, global worldview. Not only does Saint Vincent College offer a uniquely Catholic academic experience, its Student Life program provides students with meaningful community engagement and the opportunity to create memorable experiences. Home of the Bearcats, Saint Vincent College has 22 division II sports teams and several intramural sports organizations.

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21 University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus 64.50 4/5 79% Pittsburgh, PA

The University of Pittsburgh, often referred to as Pitt, has been a leader among Pennsylvania colleges for over 225 years since its founding in 1787. Seven of the university’s students have won the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, and its exceptional faculty lead the world in medical advances. Through their innovative and groundbreaking research, two of Pitt’s School of Medicine’s faculty members have been selected for 2017 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for their discovery of cancer-causing viruses. Incoming freshmen choose degree paths from the university’s four colleges and schools: the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business Administration, the Swanson School of Engineering, and the School of Nursing. The university’s academic programs cover an extensive range of areas from Studio Arts to Natural Sciences, and the BA in business administration offers seven concentrations. The liberal arts education at Pitt provides students with a strong foundation while encouraging intellectual exploration through its unique courses.

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22 Messiah College 64.49 4/5 76% Mechanicsburg, PA

Located just outside the state capital in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Messiah College is one of the best private multi-denominational Christian colleges in Pennsylvania and offers more than 80 majors. Founded in 1909, Messiah College’s academic programs reflect the university’s original mission to provide a high quality Christian-based education that emphasizes community service, ethical leadership, and personal and spiritual growth through reconciliation. Messiah College’s academic degree programs are led by passionate faculty members who excel in research and instruction and serve as educational and spiritual mentors. The many undergraduate degree programs offered at Messiah College integrate liberal arts with Christian philosophies to provide a well-rounded academic experience that instills in its students a lifelong desire for learning. The university’s School of Business, Education and Social Sciences includes the Department of Human Development and Family Science, where students can choose to pursue a unique set of degrees that focus on family systems and interpersonal relationships.

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23 Millersville University of Pennsylvania 63.55 3/5 65% Millersville, PA

Millersville University was founded in 1855 as a school for teachers. With more than 150 years in the business of higher education, Millersville University has perfected its liberal arts curriculum to ensure that students have the best academic experience possible. One of best colleges in Pennsylvania, Millersville University offers more than 100 academic programs, and 98% of its esteemed faculty hold a doctorate degree. The student/teacher ratio is 21 to 1, and all classes are taught by experienced faculty members. The university offers a unique exploratory program that assists students in choosing a major. Millersville University’s most popular majors include biology, business, english, and psychology. The university caters to students with a variety of backgrounds, and military personnel can receive credits for training completed in the armed services. Millersville University students have the opportunity to lead an active social life. The university offers a variety of extracurricular programs, including multicultural programs, women’s programs, and Greek life.

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24 Duquesne University 63.34 4/5 74% Pittsburgh, PA

Duquesne University is one of the best Catholic colleges in Pennsylvania and is the only Spiritan university in the nation. Also known as the Holy Ghost Fathers, Spiritans value an education rooted in spiritual growth and community service. The academic programs at Duquesne University emphasize diverse perspectives, and the faith-based curriculum caters to students of all denominations. The inclusive learning environment and low student/faculty ratio promote individualized support from the university’s esteemed faculty. Duquesne University offers a variety of undergraduate degrees from its nine academic schools. The Catholic-based programs encourage intellectual growth as well as ethical and spiritual development. The liberal arts core curriculum incorporates theology and philosophical inquiry designed to promote critical thinking and problem solving skills. The university offers a competitive Gussin Spiritan Division for incoming freshmen where students learn vital skills that promote college success. Students at Duquesne University have many opportunities to engage with peers, and the university is home to a variety of student organizations.

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25 Temple University 63.01 3/5 66% Philadelphia, PA

Located in the vibrant city of Philadelphia, Temple University was founded in 1884 and is one of the best colleges in Pennsylvania. Temple University’s 17 schools and colleges prepare students for a lifetime of professional success. With 140 undergraduate programs ranging from accounting to visual studies, students are guaranteed to find the degree program that fits their academic and professional goals. Temple University strives to provide a holistic learning experience and offers a variety of programs designed to promote student mental and physical health, including the Temple University Fitness Center, Counseling Services, and the Wellness Resource Center. Students at Temple University are immersed in a culturally enriching environment that celebrates the arts. The Temple Performing Arts Center is located in a beautifully restored building that formerly housed the Baptist Temple Church and offers many exciting opportunities for creative expression and community connection.

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Higher education initiatives are especially important for Pennsylvania’s population of students in two-year programs. Since 2011, the state has been struggling to bridge the gap between the 43% of adults who currently hold an associate’s degree or higher and the 60% of jobs requiring a college degree. Despite this skills gap of 17%, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education counts 500,000 alumni living and working in the Commonwealth after graduating from one of the state’s colleges or vocational schools.

Some students in Pennsylvania choose to complete a two-year program and then transition into a four-year degree. However, associate-level students pursuing a two-year degree alone have had extremely low retention rates compared to those who pursued the four-year alternative. Studies show that recent initiatives have increased accessibility and incentives for two-year students in the state, aiming to increase retention in these programs.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Butler County Community College 73.55 1/5 54% Butler, PA

Butler County Community College, or BC3 as it's known locally, offers degree programs to students from its six different locations throughout the state. As one of the best Pennsylvania community colleges, BC3 currently provides 36 different career programs and 18 degree transfer programs alongside 21 certificates. With areas of study ranging from business and healthcare to humanities and STEM, students can find a program no matter their interests. Recognizing that students are split between those seeking career training to quickly prepare them for the job market and those that hope to transfer to a four-year degree upon completion of their associate, BC3 provides options to care for every aspiration. For students looking to get involved or receive support, there are many services available. Student groups and organizations are a big part of BC3 life, as are resources such as adult literacy classes, academic success coaching, and career advice.

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2 Lancaster County Career and Technology Center 71.74 3/5 76% Willow Street, PA

With more than 50 different certificate, diploma, and degree programs focused in career training and further education, Lancaster County Career & Technology Center offers all that prospective students could hope for from one of the best community colleges in Pennsylvania. Three campuses spread throughout the county offer a range of studies in addition to three other campuses devoted to specific studies in commercial and motor vehicle training, health sciences, and public safety. Accredited by the Commission of the Council of Occupational Education, future students can rest assured knowing their educations will translate well in the working world. Even while still completing studies, the school hosts an online job board for students looking to get a leg up on the competition. In terms of student services, students can seek support via the disability office, higher education and adult education department, and the high school support programs division.

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3 Orleans Technical Institute 70.84 3/5 70% Philadelphia, PA

For more than 40 years, Orleans Technical Institute in Philadelphia has been providing students with a range of technical, career, and transfer programs to prepare them for wherever life takes them next. As one of the best community colleges in Pennsylvania, OTI works to ensure students have access and flexibility when it comes to their educations. They do this by providing full or part-time programs taught both during the day and at night. Currently a range of degrees are available in areas ranging from building maintenance and carpentry to human services and court reporting. Outside the classroom, students can take advantage of assistance in searching for a job, financial aid services, library services, student organizations, and lots of modern equipment, technologies, and facilities. Not sure what career path is right for you? Consider taking OTI's interactive quiz that helps students pick the right trade based on their individual qualities.

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4 Somerset County Technology Center 70.84 2/5 68% Somerset, PA

Founded in 1972, Somerset County Technology Center exists to fulfill the educational needs of both recent high school graduates and adult learners looking to build their skills resume. Those just out of high school have approximately 15 different courses to choose from, ranging from cosmetology and dental assisting to machine technology and welding. The adult education department keeps an updated list of all the current courses available, allowing students to find classes uniquely suited to their educational pursuits. As one of the many two-year colleges in Pennsylvania, SCTC is committed to ensuring students are able to complete their programs at a reasonable cost and also receive financial aid if they are eligible.

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5 Bucks County Community College 68.65 2/5 47% Newtown, PA

With nearly 80 programs of study available at Bucks County Community College, it's no wonder this school ranks amongst the best community colleges in Pennsylvania. Depending on their major, students at BCCC are currently working towards transferring to a four-year college or launching their career. Options for transfer programs range from cinema video production and chemistry to education and criminal justice. Conversely, students opting to follow the occupational route can select from programs like entrepreneurship and small business management, fire science, medical assistant, or paralegal studies. Outside the classroom, students still have lots of opportunities for learning. The Center for Personal & Professional Development is a collaborative project across departments to ensure students have access to all the services and support they need, including job readiness training. For learners with children, childcare is available at the campus during regular class times.

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6 Northampton Community College 68.26 1/5 41% Bethlehem, PA

Located in Bethlehem, Northampton Community College has been one of the best two-year colleges in Pennsylvania for 50 years and has the lowest per credit cost of any colleges in the state. Today the school is able to offer almost 100 different associate degrees and certificates, with additional options available via the honors program, study abroad opportunities, and online learning initiatives. A sample of degree paths currently offered include architecture, biotechnology, education, hospitality, and global studies. Students who want to take advantage of all NCC has to offer often elect to live in campus housing (the only community college in Pennsylvania to offer on campus living options) to take full advantage of on campus dining options, the health and wellness center, and more than 60 student clubs. For the athletic learners, the Northampton Spartans are well regarded in the region for their men's and women's basketball teams, women's volleyball, as well as other opportunities in golf, baseball, softball, soccer, and cross country.

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7 Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology 66.19 1/5 53% Lancaster, PA

Lancaster's Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology is consistently ranked amongst the best two-year colleges in Pennsylvania, thanks in part to the school's dedication to being on the cutting edge of technological teaching and learning. Named after an 18th century statesman, philanthropist, and visionary, TSCT works diligently to instill some of the same traits of its namesake into students roaming the halls. This school is a great option for learners looking for a smaller, more personalized learning experience. As of the latest data available, TSCT caters to 900 students and has a 96% job placement rate for graduates. Twenty-two associate degrees are currently offered, including architectural technology, electro-mechanical technology, graphic communications, and metals fabrication and welding. A number of degrees are also offered as evening programs for students trying to juggle a job alongside schooling. The Bulldogs are well ranked in regional athletics, with options including football, cross country, basketball, track and field, and wrestling.

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8 Pennsylvania Highlands Community College 63.23 1/5 51% Johnstown, PA

Originally founded in 1993 as a county system, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College has continuously expanded throughout its 24-year history to currently include five different campuses in addition to distance education offerings. Twenty-nine associate degrees are available at PHCC, including those leading to direct employment or university transfer. Programs taught as an A.S. or A.A. typically prepare students for four-year universities, while A.A.S. degrees are designed as career and technical programs. Current offerings include innovative studies in areas of child development, histotechnology, medical assisting technology, and professional pilot. Athletics are a big part of campus life, with the men's basketball and women's volleyball currently in their sixth season. In addition to these NJCAA programs, the school has also launched bowling and cross country teams recently. For busy students, FlexLearning is a system allowing students to learn via weekend, evening, or online classes. Students looking for an excellent example of the best two-year colleges in Pennsylvania can find all they need and more at PHCC.

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9 Montgomery County Community College 62.19 2/5 40% Blue Bell, PA

As one of the oldest Pennsylvania community colleges in this ranking, Montgomery County Community College has been providing two-year educations to students throughout the region for more than 50 years. With more than 100 associate degrees and certificate options available, students can select from five different areas of study: arts and humanities; business and entrepreneurial initiatives; health sciences; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; and social sciences. As of 2017, the school has two main campuses, a number of off-site locations, and a virtual learning campus for students who can't get to the brick-and-mortar location. For those who can, there are plenty of innovative ways of getting involved, including lots of opportunities to take advantage of student leadership roles. One of the more innovative features of the college is “MCCC On the Air”, a weekly radio program featuring the Dean of Arts and Humanities interviewing an influential member of the college or local community.

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10 Rosedale Technical College 61.68 4/5 78% Pittsburgh, PA

With an exclusive focus on trade and technical skill-building, Rosedale Technical College is focused on providing classes that enable students to obtain employment and use their skills in everyday work. As one of the few non-profit Pennsylvania community colleges with more than 65 years of experience in educating learners, the school specializes in nine different areas of study: automotive, diesel, electrical, HVAC, industrial technician, welding, truck driving, collision repair, and business management. For veterans looking to gain career training after serving their country, RTC provides special educational and job service placement for this special population. According to the most recent data, nearly one-fifth of all RTC students are veterans and saw a 97% job placement rate. If a student doesn't live within driving distance of the school, RTC can help them find suitable housing to meet their needs.

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11 Valley Forge Military College 58.58 5/5 96% Wayne, PA

As the only educational institution offering courses from a military prospective, Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne is uniquely positioned as one of the most unique two-year colleges in Pennsylvania. Established in 1928, VFMC offers both preparatory classes for boys, grades 6-12, while also offering co-educational college courses since 1935. The college currently offers five different programs of study in business administration, justice and security studies, liberal arts, health and biological studies, and physical sciences. Courses are offered on a military model, meaning learning may be carried out in a more disciplined way than students are used to. Rather than focusing exclusively on academics, VFMC is also committed to instilling leadership responsibilities, character traits, personal motivation, and physical development. As the only institution in the northeast to provide freshmen the chance to participate In Early Commissioning, those approved have the opportunity to gain a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves or Army National Guard at the end of sophomore year.

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12 Delaware County Community College 57.81 1/5 39% Media, PA

Although the name may be initially confusing, make no mistake about Delaware County Community College being one of the best two-year colleges in Pennsylvania. Originally located in Media, the school has expanded to include two locations. In 2017, the school celebrates its 50th year of providing junior educations. Fifty-one career and transfer degrees are currently offered, in areas ranging from advanced technology and culinary arts to neurodiagnostic technology or hotel and restaurant management. For students who may not be able to get to campus for every meeting, online learning initiatives are also provided. Cooperative education and internship opportunities play a large part in the educations received at DCCC, and the college prides itself on maintaining key relationships with significant businesses and organizations where students may benefit from an internship. For international learners, DCCC also has an English as a Second Language Resource Center to help them gain fluency.

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13 Lehigh Carbon Community College 57.42 1/5 38% Schnecksville, PA

With five campuses spread throughout the region, Lehigh Carbon Community College is actively working to fulfill its mission of being one of the best and most affordable community colleges in Pennsylvania. The institution currently offers nearly 70 associate level degrees from their colleges of healthcare sciences, business, education, legal, technology, computer science, communication arts, math and science, social services, and humanities and social sciences. A number of these programs are also available via LCCC's global online campus. For local learners, the college maintains transfer agreements with lots of different colleges in the area to ensure credits earned at LCCC count toward four-year degrees. The Center for Career Development is available to help enterprising students find jobs while still in school or when they are nearing graduation.

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14 Wyo Tech-Blairsville 57.29 5/5 80% Blairsville, PA

Starting with 22 students in 1966, WyoTech initially began in Wyoming as a school dedicated to providing automotive technology learning opportunities. Today the school has more than 26,000 alumni and a campus in Blairsville that opened in 2022. As one of the more unique two-year colleges in Pennsylvania on this ranking, WTB specializes in providing programs of study centered on automotive, diesel, collision, motorcycle, and marine studies. Students looking to study at WTB from further afield need not worry about housing: Indy Park is a facility located one mile from the school that provides residential services to qualified students. Students at WTB have myriad opportunities to be involved in cutting edge developments in the industry: most recently, the school debuted a Ford conversion van at an automotive show that was well-attended by executives in the industry.

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15 The Workforce Institute's City College 55.61 4/5 82% Philadelphia, PA

Unlike some of the other two-year colleges in Pennsylvania, The Workforce Institute's City College is focused on providing innovative options for students in terms of accelerated learning options. Programs such as the associate degree in specialized technology can be completed in as few as 15 months by motivated learners. With classes available during the day, at night, and on the weekends, learners can choose from four additional associate degrees in computer support specialist, computer technology -- software, health information technology, and web design program. The school, which was formerly known as Metropolitan Career Center for more than 40 years, was rebranded in the last few years under its current name to better reflect a mission of providing workforce development services. To ensure every student finds success, each is provided with a student advisor to help them work through issues or concerns surrounding childcare, housing, relationships, and academics.

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16 Community College of Allegheny County 53.16 2/5 33% Pittsburgh, PA

With 84 associate degree programs available to choose from, it should be no surprise that the Community College of Allegheny County earned its place amongst the best two-year colleges in Pennsylvania. Degrees run the gamut, with specialized studies available in areas of industrial design and art, aviation technology, court reporting, criminal justice and criminology, and anesthesia technologist. More than 43,000 students elect to enroll at CCAC, with 73% reporting it was their first choice. Although the school is one of the largest in the state, the average class size sits at a low 16:1. Although the majority of learners complete courses during weekdays, evening, weekend, and online classes are also available. Intercollegiate sports are a staple at CCAC, with men's and women's teams in basketball, bowling, cross country, and golf alongside men's baseball and women's softball and volleyball. Intramural sports are also available as part of the 60+ student clubs and organizations on campus.

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17 Manor College 52.77 3/5 67% Jenkintown, PA

As one of the numerous private community colleges in Pennsylvania, Manor College is dedicated to encouraging academic excellence by providing a personalized learning experience to each and every student. Located outside Philadelphia, students enjoy easy access to the city while reaping the benefits of a less-expensive area. Rooted in Catholic traditions, the school also has connections to Ukrainian-American communities and offer numerous programs honoring that history. A range of campus-based and online degrees are available at Manor from the departments of allied health, science and mathematics; business, technology, and legal studies; liberal arts; and adult and continuing education. Students looking for a dedicated study area often take advantage of the Learning Commons -- a popular area for finishing a project, organizing a group meeting, doing research, or studying in peace. When they aren't studying or in class, MC students enjoy lots of different student life opportunities, leadership development initiatives, sports, and career development services.

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18 University of Pittsburgh-Titusville 50.97 3/5 49% Titusville, PA

Operating as one of the regional campuses of the University of Pittsburgh, the Titusville campus enjoys the distinction of being one of the few two-year colleges in Pennsylvania to be directly affiliated with a four-year institution. For students looking to transfer to a bachelor's program, this unique partnership allows them to move into such a program seamlessly. UPT currently has 14 different associate degrees available, but learners also have the ability to begin completing the requirements for more than 100 additional majors offered within the UPitt system. Student housing is available for learners coming from further afield, as are veteran services for soldiers or veterans looking to transition back to civilian life and translate their existing skills into a career. For those with an interest in athletics, the Pitt-Titusville Panthers are members of the Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference and offers opportunities in women's and women's basketball alongside women's volleyball.

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19 Westmoreland County Community College 50.97 1/5 33% Youngwood, PA

Located in Youngwood, Westmoreland County Community College joined the ranks of community colleges in Pennsylvania when it opened its doors in 1970. Today the school is home to more than 5,500 full and part-time learners taking advantage of 63 associate degree programs alongside other diploma and certificate opportunities. Aside from the main campus, learners also have access to seven different off-campus learning centers in the region. With five different sessions per academic year, students have the opportunity to accelerate their learning if they're able to enroll full-time. Some of the innovative programs available currently include criminal justice, computer information security, dietetic technology, and diagnostic medical sonography. WCCC works closely with any students planning to attend a four-year university, as evidenced in the list of colleges and universities that WCCC graduates have gone on to attend.

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20 Johnson College 49.29 3/5 61% Scranton, PA

Originally founded by the coal baron Orlando Johnson in 1912, today Johnson College continues in its benefactor's footsteps, providing useful arts and trades to prepare learners for meaningful careers. As one of the many two-year colleges in Pennsylvania providing certificates and diplomas, JC began offering its first associate degrees in 1998 after receiving full accreditation. The college currently has 14 different associate degrees centered in areas of technology, health services, and business administration. Some of the rarest programs include animal sciences, carpentry and cabinetmaking technology, radiologic technology, and diesel preventative maintenance technology. With an 89 percent undergraduate placement rate, students have high praises for their alma mater in both academic teaching and preparation for the future. Students on the fence are welcome to attend one of JC's regularly scheduled Open Houses to learn more about the school and how it can help them reach their goals.

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21 Luzerne County Community College 45.68 2/5 35% Nanticoke, PA

Nanticoke's Luzerne County Community College has been operating as one of the many two-year colleges in Pennsylvania since 1966, and it's been busy from then until now. With a current enrollment of nearly 5,700 students, learners can take advantage of 72 different degree programs preparing them for both careers and transfer to a four-year institution. In addition to offering a wide range of options, LCCC also does a great job of offering nuanced programs not typically found at other institutions. Examples include surgical technology, pre-mortuary science, mechatronics, and nanofabrication manufacturing technology. Aside from the main campus, LCCC has six dedicated centers alongside two high school sites for young learners looking to get a jump on their educations. Outside of educational offerings, learners can take advantage of more than 40 student clubs and organizations, leadership training, sporting opportunities, and student government. LCCC also has an interactive app for students who prefer to keep up with campus happenings from their smartphone.

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22 Community College of Philadelphia 45.55 2/5 33% Philadelphia, PA

With 100 associate degrees available -- not to mention certificate and diploma offerings -- Community College of Philadelphia wins the award amongst two-year colleges in Pennsylvania for having the widest swath of academic offerings. Courses are taught via nine different colleges, including architecture and construction; art, design, and media; business and technology; health care; law and public service; liberal arts; science; social and human services; and technical/trade. No matter if a student is planning to move straight into a career or further their educations at a four-year college or university, the programs at CCP are sensitive to individual goals. Since its creation in 1965, more than 700,000 learners have enrolled at CCP, including nearly 31,000 currently taking courses. For the cost conscious student, approximately 83% of all full-time learners received some type of financial aid and more than 80% found work within eight months of graduation.

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23 Reading Area Community College 44.65 2/5 35% Reading, PA

Since opening its doors in 1971 with 265 students, Reading Area Community College has worked diligently to expand its offerings of associate degrees, certificates, diplomas, career training, and personal enrichment programs to meet the needs of the community it serves. As one of the best community colleges in Pennsylvania, RACC is constantly working to answer the call of 21st century learning with innovative degree programs: as of 2017, the school has 39 associate degree plans of study. Some of those you may not find at other schools include creative writing, machine tool technology, respiratory studies, and mechatronics engineering technology. For students planning to study an avenue of technology, the Schmidt Training & Technology Center is available for hands on, customized learning opportunities in areas of manufacturing technology and information technology.

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24 Pennsylvania Institute of Technology 39.23 3/5 44% Media, PA

With five different start times throughout the year, Pennsylvania Institute of Technology is devoted to ensuring busy students have lots of flexibility and opportunities to complete degrees no matter how hectic their schedules. With a commitment to maintaining its place amongst the best two-year colleges in Pennsylvania, PIT focuses on providing cutting edge opportunities via two locations in the Greater Philadelphia area. The school has 16 different associate degrees currently, which each being offered online, in-class, or via blended learning. A quick glance at programs available include studies in medical billing and coding, criminal justice, biomedical equipment engineering, and computer support. As students come to the end of their studies, campus administrators are on hand to provide job placement services to learners, no matter their areas of interest. While in school, academic advising, mentoring, tutoring, and counseling supports are available to all enrolled students.

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25 Community College of Beaver County 38.19 2/5 23% Monaca, PA

Located 40 miles away from the thriving city of Pittsburgh, Monaca's Community College of Beaver County rounds out our ranking of the best two-year colleges in Pennsylvania. In addition to the main campus, CCBC also has the Aviation Sciences Center for learners interested in pursuing careers related to aerospace. The range of associate degrees currently available are divided into 11 different departments, ranging from arts and sciences for learners looking to transfer to a four-year degree and programs in criminal justice, culinary arts, police academy, and technologies for students who want to begin their careers after leaving CCBC. Outside of academics, students can regularly be seen cheering on the CCBC Titans at men's basketball games or women's softball and volleyball games.

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

Spanning 46,055 square miles, Pennsylvania boasts a wealth of resources and unique experiences. Fine art enthusiasts can visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art, while thrill-seekers may find the roller coasters at Pittsburgh’s Kennywood more their speed. History buffs shouldn’t miss Independence National Park in Philadelphia—home to the Liberty Bell and also the location where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Gettysburg Military Museum, Valley Forge, Strasburg’s Amish farms and the state capitol are also major attractions.

The many perks of living in a diversified state make this one a highly desirable place to attend school. Though, as is typical of many high population states, the cost of living in Pennsylvania’s most populated regions is high; the state’s largest city, Philadelphia, is 5.1% more expensive than the national average.

The northern region of the state encompasses coal-mining territory and the Endless Mountains, while central Pennsylvania dips down into rivers and valleys. Greater Pittsburgh sits between the Laurel Highlands and Allegheny National Forest in the west. In the southeast, the Delaware Valley contains the majority of Philadelphia metro, alongside Pennsylvania Dutch Country and the agricultural Pennsylvania Piedmont region.

Regional Spotlight: Southeastern Pennsylvania

  • Major Cities: Philadelphia, Reading
  • Attractions: Gettysburg Museum, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Liberty Bell
  • Cost of Living: Philadelphia
  • Popular Schools: West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, Penn State
  • Population: 7.1 million
  • Unemployment: 7.1%
  • Climate: Humid (warmest part of Pennsylvania)

Regional Spotlight: Northeastern Pennsylvania

  • Major Cities: Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Pittston
  • Attractions: Blue Mountain Ski Resort, Houdini Museum, Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic
  • Cost of Living: Scranton
  • Popular Schools: Lackawanna College, Penn State (Wilkes-Barre campus), Luzerne County Community College
  • Population: 563,631
  • Unemployment: 5.7%
  • Climate: Moderate

Regional Spotlight: Central Pennsylvania

  • Major Cities: Lancaster, Harrisburg, York
  • Attractions: Susquehanna River Valley, Knoebels Amusement Resort, Indian Caverns
  • Cost of Living: Harrisburg
  • Popular Schools: Franklin and Marshall College, Harrisburg Area Community College-Harrisburg, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology
  • Population: 519,445
  • Unemployment: 3.6%
  • Climate: Moderate

Regional Spotlight: Western Pennsylvania

  • Major Cities: Pittsburgh, Eerie, Altoona
  • Attractions: Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Point State Park
  • Cost of Living: Pittsburgh
  • Popular Schools: Carnegie Mellon University, Allegheny College, Community College of Beaver County
  • Population: 4 million
  • Unemployment: 4.6%
  • Climate: Humid

Residency

Pennsylvania’s unique historical identity creates an ideal setting for students. The many world-renowned educational institutions and cultural centers allow for ample research, study and internship opportunities. Those looking to attend school in Pennsylvania should plan to establish residency as soon as possible, prior to enrollment. Residency requirements vary depending on the student’s age and individual university regulations.

For Minors:

Residency of minors in Pennsylvania depends on their parents. The student’s parents must live in the state of Pennsylvania and the student must provide proof of residency at the parent’s household. If the parents are divorced or separated, the minor student must currently live with a parent who is a resident of Pennsylvania to be considered an in-state applicant; he or she cannot reside with an out-of-state parent.

For Adults:

The criteria below are required in order to prove residency in Pennsylvania for the purpose of tuition as an individual age 18 or older:

  • You must physically reside in Pennsylvania for at least 12 consecutive months preceding school enrollment.
  • You must prove intent to maintain your permanent residence in Pennsylvania, including full-time, self-sustaining employment in the state.
  • You must prove that you currently aren’t receiving financial support from someone who is not a resident of Pennsylvania and have not in the past 12 consecutive months.

Additional Resources for Pennsylvania College Students

College Savings

Education Nonprofits

Higher Education News

Official State Links

Best Colleges in Pennsylvania of 2016
Rank School Location
1 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
2 Swarthmore College Swarthmore, PA
3 Bucknell University Lewisburg, PA
4 Haverford College Haverford, PA
5 Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA
6 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA
7 Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr, PA
8 Lafayette College Easton, PA
9 Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster, PA
10 Gettysburg College Gettysburg, PA
11 Villanova University Villanova, PA
12 Dickinson College Carlisle, PA
13 Muhlenberg College Allentown, PA
14 Messiah College Mechanicsburg, PA
15 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA
16 University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA
17 Temple University Philadelphia, PA
18 West Chester University West Chester, PA
19 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA
20 Saint Vincent College Latrobe, PA
21 Allegheny College Meadville, PA
22 Juniata College Huntingdon, PA
23 Ursinus College Collegeville, PA
24 Washington & Jefferson College Washington, PA
25 University of the Sciences Philadelphia, PA
Best Community Colleges
1 Pennsylvania State University - Mont Alto, PA Mont Alto, PA
2 Johnson College Scranton, PA
3 Pennsylvania State University - Shenango Sharon, PA
4 Pennsylvania State University - Fayette-Eberly Lemont Furnace, PA
5 Thaddeus Stevens College of the Technology Lancaster, PA
6 Pennsylvania State University - Hazleton Hazleton, PA
7 Bucks County Community College Newtown, PA
8 Community College of Beaver County Monaca, PA
9 Pennsylvania State University - Dubois DuBois, PA
10 Northampton Community College Bethlehem, PA
11 Harrisburg Area Community College Harrisburg, PA
12 Luzerne County Community College Nanticoke, PA
13 Mount Aloysius College Cresson, PA
14 Montgomery County Community College Blue Bell, PA
15 Delaware County Community College Media, PA
16 University of Pittsburgh-Titusville Titusville, PA
17 Westmoreland County Community College Youngwood, PA
18 Lackawanna College Scranton, PA
19 Harcum College Bryn Mawr, PA
20 Butler County Community College Butler, PA
21 Manor College Jenkintown, PA
22 Lehigh Carbon Community College Schnecksville, PA
23 Community College of Allegheny County Pittsburgh, PA
24 Pennsylvania Institute of Technology Media, PA
25 Valley Forge Military College Wayne, PA