Best Colleges in Pennsylvania + Full List of Schools

Looking for the best colleges in Pennsylvania? Check out our ranking of the state's top colleges and universities, including every school in the state.
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Updated on October 6, 2023
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From its Ivy League university to its top-ranked liberal arts colleges, the Keystone State has something for every student. But what are the best colleges in Pennsylvania?

Whether you're looking for an affordable public university, a picturesque college town, or a prominent private college, Pennsylvania has it.

Ready to check out which schools made the list? Then, keep reading for our ranking of the best colleges in Pennsylvania.

Featured Online Programs

Best Colleges in Pennsylvania of 2023

Methodology

With nearly 300 colleges, it's not easy to narrow down the best colleges in Pennsylvania. Our list factors in academic reputation, graduation rates, and financial aid opportunities.

We also included a variety of school types, including public and private colleges, urban and rural campuses, and small and large student bodies. These are the colleges that stand out in Pennsylvania.

We use datasets from sources like the National Center for Education Statistics to inform the data for these schools. BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site. from our partners appear among these rankings and are indicated as such. All data is current as of the date this article was published. Program-specific information may vary.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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#1 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania + Full List of Schools Best Value

University of Pennsylvania

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Pennsylvania's only Ivy League university, the University of Pennsylvania dates back to 1740. Today, more than 13,000 undergrads attend UPenn, with around half in the College of Arts and Sciences. Wharton and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences also enroll around 3,500 undergrads.

Nearly 55,000 students applied to UPenn for the Class of 2026, and only 6% received an admission offer. That makes the private university one of the most selective in the state.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$53,166
Out-of-state
$53,166
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$37,678
Out-of-state
$37,678
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
95%
Acceptance Rate
9%
Students Enrolled
26,552
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
85% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#2 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania + Full List of Schools

Swarthmore College

  • Swarthmore, PA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

With its tree-filled campus, this liberal arts college feels like an escape from urban life. But top-ranked Swarthmore College is just 11 miles from Philadelphia. 

Swarthmore offers more than 40 majors, plus the option to design your own major. And while the private college sets high standards, first-year students enroll in classes pass/fail for their first semester. 

At Swarthmore, you'll take a hands-on approach to learning with fieldwork and internship opportunities. You can conduct an undergraduate research project, study abroad, or escape to Parrish Beach — a student lawn hangout that's only missing water.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$54,256
Out-of-state
$54,256
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
86%
Acceptance Rate
9%
Students Enrolled
1,437
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#3 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania + Full List of Schools Best Value

Carnegie Mellon University

  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Founded as a technical school in Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University ranks as one of the best colleges in Pennsylvania. Over 14,500 students attend the private university, which stands out for its research and interdisciplinary programs.

You can study engineering, information science, or computer science at Carnegie Mellon. Or dive into business, the social sciences, or the humanities. The university's experiential learning focus is one reason that top companies like Google, Deloitte, and Pixar recruit at Carnegie Mellon.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$57,560
Out-of-state
$57,560
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$46,441
Out-of-state
$46,441
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
96%
Acceptance Rate
17%
Students Enrolled
13,519
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
3% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#4 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania + Full List of Schools Best Value

Lehigh University

  • Bethlehem, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The Lehigh Valley is one of Pennsylvania's most scenic spots. And Lehigh University brings around 7,400 students to the scenic town of Bethlehem. You choose from over 100 majors, including over a dozen interdisciplinary programs. Lehigh encourages innovation and hands-on learning in its programs.

As a private university, Lehigh offers many need-based financial aid programs. The college also reports that the average starting salary for its 2022 graduates reached $75,000.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$54,790
Out-of-state
$54,790
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$27,000
Out-of-state
$27,000
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
91%
Acceptance Rate
50%
Students Enrolled
7,067
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#5 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania + Full List of Schools

Haverford College

  • Haverford, PA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Looking for a liberal arts college with quick access to a major city? Haverford College boasts a 200-acre arboretum campus that's a 20-minute train ride to Philadelphia. At Haverford, you choose from over 50 majors and complete a senior thesis. Nearly half of the 1,400 undergrads receive grants to pay for their degrees.

Just how many trees fill the Haverford campus? The private college reports a 6-to-1 tree-to-student ratio.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$58,402
Out-of-state
$58,402
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
88%
Acceptance Rate
18%
Students Enrolled
1,307
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#6 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania + Full List of Schools Best Value

Villanova University

  • Villanova, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

It's the only Augustinian Catholic university in the U.S. Villanova University offers personalized attention with a global perspective. You choose from over 60 majors, with several options for a joint bachelor's and master's degree. 

Located 12 miles from Philadelphia, Villanova enrolls 6,700 undergrads. The school's 260-acre campus offers easy access to the city with three campus rail stops. You can qualify for merit-based scholarships and need-based grants at this private university.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$56,730
Out-of-state
$56,730
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$20,619
Out-of-state
$20,619
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
96%
Acceptance Rate
31%
Students Enrolled
11,032
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
95% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#7 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania + Full List of Schools

Bryn Mawr College

  • Bryn Mawr, PA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

It's one of the top women's colleges in the country. Bryn Mawr College offers undergraduate programs for women and coed graduate schools. Thanks to its partnerships with Swarthmore, Haverford, and UPenn, Bryn Mawr students can expand their course options. 

You benefit from a residential college feel with easy access to Philadelphia. The liberal arts college provides grant-based financial aid to meet 100% of the demonstrated need for undergrads.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$53,180
Out-of-state
$53,180
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$45,240
Out-of-state
$45,240
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
87%
Acceptance Rate
38%
Students Enrolled
1,634
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#8 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania + Full List of Schools

University of Pittsburgh

  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

This public university has multiple regional campuses in the greater Pittsburgh area. The University of Pittsburgh boasts over 650 degree and certificate programs through its 16 schools and colleges. 

And the college offers a high-quality education at an affordable price for Pennsylvania residents. Thanks to the Pitt Pell Plus program, students who qualify for the Federal Pell Grant receive a match from Pitt. Over 5,000 students take advantage of the program, with an average grant award of $4,500.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$18,628
Out-of-state
$32,656
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$23,530
Out-of-state
$39,898
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
93%
Acceptance Rate
64%
Students Enrolled
32,277
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#9 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania + Full List of Schools

Pennsylvania State University

  • University Park, PA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

If you're a sports fan, you've probably heard of this Pennsylvania college. Pennsylvania State University is also the state's largest, with over 100,000 enrolled students when counting those enrolled at regional and online campuses.

You have over 275 majors to choose from at Penn State. Or expand your options with Penn State World Campus, which has more than 175 degrees and certificates. As a distance learner, you can pay a flat tuition rate and you'll also qualify for federal financial aid.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
Not provided
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#10 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania + Full List of Schools

Temple University

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

This public university dates back to 1884, when it was founded as a night school. Today, Temple University is the largest college in Philadelphia. The top-ranked school also offers over 500 academic programs at an affordable tuition rate. 

The Philadelphia skyline shines from Temple's main campus. Or you can earn a Temple degree online. Over half of Temple students receive merit-based scholarships, and the school awards over $100 million in scholarship annually.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$16,080
Out-of-state
$28,992
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$16,956
Out-of-state
$23,346
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
87%
Acceptance Rate
71%
Students Enrolled
37,236
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

List of All Colleges in Pennsylvania

We've created a complete list of all four-year nonprofit universities in Pennsylvania. You can use the table below to compare data on student population, average net cost, acceptance rate, and number of applicants.

The following school data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Schools with fewer than 500 undergrads were not included in this list.

All Colleges in Pennsylvania
School Total Student Enrollment Avg. Annual Net Price Acceptance Rate Number of Applicants
Albright College 1,498 $21,496 85% 5,578
Allegheny College 1,353 $26,719 70% 4,148
Alvernia University 2,484 $27,091 59% 5,703
Arcadia University 3,026 $29,692 78% 6,321
Bryn Mawr College 1,742 $39,072 31% 3,594
Bucknell University 3,787 $39,965 33% 11,707
Cabrini University 1,613 $21,981 79% 3,403
Cairn University-Langhorne 1,031 $25,923 81% 468
Carlow University 2,104 $17,437 93% 1,124
Carnegie Mellon University 16,002 $33,499 11% 34,261
Cedar Crest College 1,324 $23,500 84% 946
Chatham University 2,387 $28,322 66% 3,514
Chestnut Hill College 1,420 $25,357 98% 1,543
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania 697 $11,588 100% N/A
Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania 12,074 $17,412 94% 9,570
Delaware Valley University 2,178 $29,256 95% 2,299
DeSales University 2,991 $29,104 77% 3,662
Dickinson College 2,137 $37,610 35% 8,261
Drexel University 22,344 $39,267 80% 37,040
Duquesne University 8,107 $33,919 87% 12,376
East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania 5,143 $17,278 94% 5,679
Eastern University 5,769 $26,669 63% 2,994
Elizabethtown College 2,021 $26,723 81% 2,977
Franklin and Marshall College 1,990 $31,135 36% 8,923
Gannon University 4,665 $22,200 81% 6,678
Geneva College 1,232 $20,999 79% 1,575
Gettysburg College 2,854 $33,882 56% 5,696
Grove City College 2,316 $23,538 71% 2,174
Gwynedd Mercy University 2,091 $28,122 58% 1,063
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology 3,082 $10,022 84% 1,160
Haverford College 1,421 $23,476 14% 5,657
Holy Family University 2,912 $12,379 77% 1,986
Immaculata University 2,361 $29,188 70% 2,188
Indiana University of Pennsylvania 8,816 $20,205 92% 8,603
Juniata College 1,212 $29,926 76% 2,563
Keystone College 1,131 $15,559 81% 1,572
King's College 1,993 $25,869 96% 3,216
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania 7,455 $20,776 96% 7,248
La Roche University 2,068 $24,233 97% 3,222
La Salle University 4,049 $17,552 94% 5,214
Lafayette College 2,729 $37,186 34% 10,500
Lancaster Bible College 2,066 $21,415 97% 351
Lebanon Valley College 2,080 $26,743 77% 3,130
Lehigh University 7,394 $30,453 37% 15,163
Lincoln University 1,824 $15,502 81% 6,699
Lycoming College 1,059 $19,697 75% 3,039
Marywood University 2,729 $22,504 81% 2,645
Mercyhurst University 2,801 $24,935 81% 3,625
Messiah University 3,231 $24,120 79% 2,438
Millersville University of Pennsylvania 6,775 $21,076 92% 6,506
Misericordia University 2,242 $27,033 89% 2,196
Moravian University 2,533 $31,168 67% 3,284
Mount Aloysius College 2,752 $20,564 86% 1,865
Muhlenberg College 1,959 $32,926 66% 4,329
Neumann University 2,155 $28,707 85% 3,501
Peirce College 856 $9,621 100% N/A
Penn State (Pennsylvania State University) 50,028 $26,747 55% 85,784
Penn State Abington 3,090 $20,460 93% 6,463
Penn State Altoona 2,577 $20,621 96% 7,523
Penn State Beaver 522 $18,113 93% 1,707
Penn State Berks 2,077 $21,728 97% 5,605
Penn State Brandywine 1,196 $21,600 96% 2,440
Penn State Erie-Behrend College 3,295 $21,968 95% 4,363
Penn State Harrisburg 4,572 $22,096 96% 9,925
Penn State Lehigh Valley 888 $18,142 94% 1,806
Penn State Mont Alto 670 $19,838 91% 678
Penn State Schuylkill 623 $17,252 86% 928
Penn State Scranton 875 $16,594 94% 2,297
Penn State World Campus 13,979 $19,551 82% 857
Penn State York 718 $18,910 93% 2,005
Pennsylvania Western University 12,778 $18,527 94% 8,463
Point Park University 3,288 $24,702 82% 6,033
Robert Morris University 3,431 $23,572 94% 4,684
Saint Francis University 2,857 $27,459 73% 2,167
Saint Joseph's University 7,861 $33,777 89% 9,708
Saint Vincent College 1,536 $23,121 73% 2,163
Seton Hill University 1,988 $24,576 78% 2,558
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania 5,162 $21,462 88% 6,367
Slippery Rock University 8,221 $17,873 74% 5,591
Susquehanna University 2,231 $28,605 77% 6,375
Swarthmore College 1,625 $20,715 7% 14,707
Temple University 33,196 $23,935 80% 38,666
The University of the Arts 1,313 $42,467 80% 1,086
Thiel College 907 $22,732 82% 1,878
Thomas Jefferson University 8,286 $28,110 89% 5,723
University of Pennsylvania 28,201 $26,123 7% 54,588
University of Pittsburgh 33,767 $24,286 49% 53,072
University of Pittsburgh-Bradford 1,074 $16,505 94% 5,071
University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg 1,328 $18,194 98% 3,003
University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown 2,043 $17,545 97% 3,470
University of Scranton 4,731 $35,526 84% 9,530
University of Valley Forge 583 $25,825 82% 370
Ursinus College 1,527 $33,546 82% 3,237
Villanova University 10,383 $34,837 23% 23,835
Washington & Jefferson College 1,151 $25,636 88% 3,414
Waynesburg University 1,366 $22,281 76% 2,157
West Chester University of Pennsylvania 17,275 $22,973 88% 14,778
Westminster College 1,211 $22,645 75% 2,225
Widener University 5,416 $32,185 88% 5,961
Wilkes University 5,207 $27,918 94% 4,798
Wilson College 1,360 $23,923 94% 739
York College of Pennsylvania 3,656 $20,916 96% 4,529
Source: NCES

What Is the Cost of College in Pennsylvania?

Cost of College in Pennsylvania in 2021
Institution Type Average Tuition & Required Fees
Public 4-Year (In-State) $14,532
Public 4-Year (Out-of-State) $25,697
Private 4-Year $43,926
Public 2-Year (In-State) $5,441
Public 2-Year (Out-of-State) $12,808
Source: NCES

4 Benefits of Studying in Pennsylvania

Whether you're interested in colleges in Pennsylvania's scenic, forested valleys or its bustling cities, here are some of the benefits of studying in the Keystone State.

  • Top-Ranked Colleges: PA has some of the best colleges in the country. If you're looking for an Ivy League experience, check out UPenn. If you want the state's biggest, most sports-dominant public university, turn to Penn State. And for a liberal arts college experience, there's Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and more.
  • Financial Aid: The cost of college in Pennsylvania is slightly higher than the national average, according to NCES data. But you can make college affordable by researching schools with lower tuition rates and looking into financial aid opportunities. Many colleges also offer grants and scholarships, like the Pitt Pell Plus Program, which matches Pell Grants.
  • Internship Opportunities: Pennsylvania is home to many Fortune 500 companies and smaller businesses. And many of those companies partner with colleges in Pennsylvania to offer internships. Gain hands-on experience by interning at a finance, healthcare, or engineering company.
  • History and Culture: Interested in historic sites? Pennsylvania has it covered, from Independence Hall to the Gettysburg battlefield. Cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are also known for their art, culture and food. When you're not hitting the books, you'll benefit from everything Pennsylvania has to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Colleges in Pennsylvania

How many colleges are in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has nearly 300 colleges, universities, and technical schools. Six Pennsylvania colleges boast ranks in the top 100 nationwide. The state offers nearly 100 four-year nonprofit public and private colleges. Pennsylvania also has over a dozen community colleges that charge affordable tuition rates.

What are the best colleges in Pennsylvania?

The best colleges in Pennsylvania include private colleges like UPenn and Carnegie Mellon. Public universities like Pitt and Penn State are also great options for college students. And the Keystone State has many outstanding liberal arts colleges, including Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr.

What is the hardest college to get into in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has many selective colleges. According to NCES data, both Swarthmore and UPenn reported a 7% admission rate in fall 2022. That means that only 7 in 100 applicants receive an admission offer. Carnegie Mellon is the next hardest to get into, with an 11% acceptance rate.

What's the most affordable college in PA?

Peirce College boasts the lowest average annual net price of all four-year nonprofit colleges in Pennsylvania, at just $9,621 in fall 2022. Many public colleges and universities in Pennsylvania offer affordable tuition rates as well, including Lincoln University ($15,502 net price) and the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford ($16,505 net price).

Two-year colleges in Pennsylvania are even more affordable, with in-state students paying around $5,440 per year.

What is the biggest college in Pennsylvania?

Penn State is by far the biggest college in Pennsylvania. The public university reports a population of around 88,000 students in fall 2022 across its Pennsylvania campuses, with even more students enrolling in online programs through Penn State World Campus. The main campus in University Park, Pennsylvania, enrolls around 50,000 students.

Other large colleges in Pennsylvania include the University of Pittsburgh, with 33,800 students; Temple University, with 33,200 students; and the University of Pennsylvania, with 28,200 students.