2022 Top Private Colleges and Universities in Pennsylvania

Private colleges and universities frequently top the lists of the best schools in the U.S. These institutions offer rigorous academic programs for students looking for a personalized college experience.

Private institutions generally cost more than their public counterparts, but students often receive the benefits of smaller class sizes, strong alumni networks, and generous financial aid opportunities.

Unlike public colleges and universities, private institutions do not differentiate between in-state and out-of-state tuition. This means students from anywhere can enroll in Pennsylvania's private colleges and universities without paying higher out-of-state rates.

2022 Best Private Colleges and Universities in Pennsylvania

  1. #1

    University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    26,675

    Format

    Online, In person

    From its campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania grants college degrees as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the institution helps students reach their professional goals. The institution's bachelor's programs incorporate lower-division and upper-division requirements. Students also take general education coursework during their bachelor's degree. Upper-division credits typically focus on advanced concepts within a major. Enrollees receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The school charges an average of 13995 per credit. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  2. #2

    Curtis Institute of Music

    Philadelphia, PA

    Graduation Rate

    69%

    Enrollment

    173

    Format

    In person

    A private institution, Curtis Institute of Music enrolls students on its campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps learners reach their educational goals. The institution offers coursework that gives students the chance to gain relevant knowledge and skills. Applicants may qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Students may find it easier to apply without a test score requirement. The school supports enrollees with tutoring and career services. Information on the school's cost per credit is unavailable. At the accredited school, learners qualify for federal student aid programs. Curtis Institute of Music has been accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting body.

  3. #3

    Swarthmore College

    Swarthmore, PA

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    1,594

    Format

    In person

    Swarthmore College, a private institution in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, enrolls learners in multiple programs. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps learners reach their career goals. The institution offers coursework that gives students the chance to gain relevant knowledge and skills. Some programs may no longer require standardized tests for admission. A test score waiver makes it easier to apply. Learners benefit from support services, which include tutoring and career counseling. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. At the accredited school, learners qualify for federal student aid programs such as the Pell Grant. Swarthmore College holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting body.

  4. #4

    Haverford College

    Haverford, PA

    Graduation Rate

    90%

    Enrollment

    1,317

    Format

    In person

    A private institution located in Haverford, Pennsylvania, Haverford College offers a variety of programs. The school's accredited programs prepare learners for the workforce. The programs offer an academically rigorous course of study at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Students attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Learners at the school choose from academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Haverford College has received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  5. #5

    Carnegie Mellon University

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Graduation Rate

    90%

    Enrollment

    14,180

    Format

    Online, In person

    Carnegie Mellon University, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, enrolls students as a private institution. Instructors draw on their expertise in diverse fields. The school's academic and technical programs prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The school's average cost per credit is unknown. The accredited institution meets the requirements for federal financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant. At the institution, 58% of students receive aid and 38% receive loans. The institution reports a 90% graduation rate. Prospective enrollees can expect an 15% admission rate. Prospective applicants can contact the admission department for more information about applying. Carnegie Mellon University has been accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  6. #6

    Villanova University

    Villanova, PA

    Graduation Rate

    90%

    Enrollment

    10,848

    Format

    Online, In person

    Villanova University, a private organization located in Villanova, Pennsylvania, offers multiple programs. The school's accredited programs prepare learners for the workforce. Learners benefit from the school's academic rigor and affordable tuition rate. The school's programs appear in national rankings. Students pay a per-credit fee of around 1400 at the school. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. The school offers both academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Villanova University has received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  7. #7

    Lafayette College

    Easton, PA

    Graduation Rate

    88%

    Enrollment

    2,662

    Format

    In person

    From its campus in Easton, Pennsylvania, Lafayette College enrolls students as a private institution. Instructors bring expertise in their fields. The school offers academic and technical programs for students planning to enter the workforce or pursue further studies. The school's cost per credit is unknown. Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The institution reports that 57% of students receive financial aid and 25% take out loans. The school reports a 88% graduation rate. The admission rate for new students is 31%. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements. Lafayette College has been accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting body.

  8. #8

    Bucknell University

    Lewisburg, PA

    Graduation Rate

    90%

    Enrollment

    3,697

    Format

    In person

    A private institution located in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Bucknell University enrolls learners in multiple programs. Students leave the school with credentials that prepare them for the workplace. Learners benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. Data on the school's average cost per credit is unavailable. As an accredited institution, degree-seekers qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the school. Depending on their major, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  9. #9

    Clarks Summit University

    South Abington Township, PA

    Graduation Rate

    88%

    Enrollment

    771

    Format

    Online, In person

    Located in Pennsylvania, Clarks Summit University offers 40 programs for students. Degree-seekers enroll in rigorous, top-ranked programs at the school. According to the institution, the student-to-faculty ratio stands at 11-to-1. The institution reports that 100% of students receive some form of financial aid. The private institution reports a 88% graduation rate. The institution's commitment to experiential learning helps students enter the workforce. The school incorporates internships, research opportunities, and service learning. The admission rate is 41% for prospective students. Many schools no longer require test scores for admission.

  10. #10

    Bryn Mawr College

    Bryn Mawr, PA

    Graduation Rate

    84%

    Enrollment

    1,723

    Format

    In person

    From its campus in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College enrolls learners in 55 programs. Students enroll in top-ranked programs that offer a rigorous course of study. According to the school, the student-to-faculty ratio stands at 9-to-1. According to the school, 75% of students receive some form of financial aid. Students earn their bachelor's degree from the school at a rate of 84%. Students should explore how workplace experience makes them more competitive employee candidates. The school offers internships, research opportunities, and other forms of experiential learning. Prospective learners can expect admission rates of 33%. Some programs let applicants apply without submitting test scores.

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Why Choose a Private Institution in Pennsylvania?

There are over 110 private four-year colleges in Pennsylvania, including schools like Villanova University, Drexel University, and Swarthmore College.

Choosing the right college depends on many factors, such as available programs and financial aid. In general, private colleges and universities are smaller than public colleges and may offer fewer degree options.

However, private colleges and universities can offer smaller and more specialized classes. Students interested in a literature degree, for example, could consider attending a private liberal arts college over a public institution.

Another key difference between public and private colleges is cost. Public colleges receive funding from the state and usually feature lower tuition rates than private colleges. Despite the higher overall cost of tuition, some private colleges offer more financial aid than their counterparts.

Readers should also note that Pennsylvania does not participate in reciprocity programs. This means that out-of-state students do not receive tuition discounts.

Pros and Cons of Attending a Private College or University in Pennsylvania

Pros

In general, private schools are smaller than public schools and offer smaller class sizes.Smaller private colleges may not have as many degree options. But they often offer specialized degrees, especially for schools like liberal arts colleges.Pennsylvania has many highly ranked private colleges and universities with highly regarded academic programs.

Cons

Without receiving any aid from the state or federal government, private schools charge more tuition than public colleges and universities.Students attending a smaller private school may have limited program options.Pennsylvania does not participate in tuition reciprocity programs, which means out-of-state students do not receive cheaper tuition.

Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Institutions in Pennsylvania

A nonprofit college or university still charges students tuition. However, it uses that tuition to fund its students' education by providing research opportunities, maintaining facilities, and/or offering co-curriculars.

A for-profit college or university answers to a private organization or corporation. The primary goal of these institutions is to make money for their investors, which means tuition money typically goes to marketing and recruiting rather than to the students. There are 52 for-profit colleges in Pennsylvania that offer four-year or two-year degrees.

Nonprofit and for-profit colleges have pros and cons, but in general, nonprofit colleges offer a better education. However, some for-profit colleges provide more practical degree options for working students.

How Much Does It Cost to Attend a Private Institution in Pennsylvania?

Students should consider cost when deciding where to go to college. Private colleges in Pennsylvania charged an average of $42,812 in tuition and fees in 2019-2020. For room and board, private colleges and universities charged an additional $13,945. Students should also consider extra costs such as textbooks and other school materials.

The University of Pennsylvania is among the most expensive private colleges in Pennsylvania. The school charged students $79,014 in tuition, fees, and room and board in 2021-2022. Among the least expensive private colleges in Pennsylvania is Strayer University, which charged $21,735 for tuition, fees, and room and board in 2021-2022.

However, private colleges and universities also offer financial assistance for students — sometimes more than at public institutions. Students can also explore more options, such as tuition-free colleges.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Private Colleges and Universities in Pennsylvania

How many private colleges and universities are there in Pennsylvania?

There are over 110 private colleges and universities in Pennsylvania. Students can find both large and small private colleges in the state and specialized institutions like liberal arts colleges.

Private colleges and universities do not receive funding from the state. Tuition generally costs more at a private college than at a public college. However, students can often find more opportunities for financial aid at a private college.

What is the most expensive private institution in Pennsylvania?

Among the most expensive private colleges and universities in Pennsylvania is the University of Pennsylvania. Private colleges need tuition fees to cover administrative overhead, research opportunities, and employee salaries.

Readers should always research the cost of college before applying. Prospective students can look on each college's website for information about their financial aid policies or call the admissions office for details.

What is the least expensive private college or university in Pennsylvania?

Strayer University is among the least expensive private colleges and universities in Pennsylvania. While private colleges and universities are generally more expensive than public institutions, students can still find options with reasonable tuition costs.

When applying to any college or university, students should consider the hidden costs of college, including textbooks, school supplies, and transportation expenses. Students can speak with the admissions office or financial aid department to learn more about the cost of attending college at a particular school.

Is a private college or university right for me?

Private and public colleges offer excellent education opportunities. In general, private institutions offer small class sizes and specialized programs.

However, private colleges and universities often cost more than public institutions, especially for students who live in-state. Public colleges and universities also offer more program options and extracurriculars.

Readers should consider factors like cost, area of study, and personal interests when choosing the right college for them.

Can I get more scholarship money at a private college or university?

While private colleges generally cost more, they also provide a lot of financial aid to students. Applicants to private colleges and universities may qualify for academic and need-based scholarships to cover the cost of tuition.

Readers can also research independent scholarship and grant opportunities. Students can use multiple scholarships during the year to help cover the cost of tuition.