Pennsylvania’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

Pennsylvania’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in Pennsylvania if you reward schools for making the best use of their limited resources? Academic Stewardship asks how effectively schools manage their financial and human resources to gain the influence that makes them academically excellent. Schools that are exemplary in Academic Stewardship are doing everything in their power to help students and faculty achieve their full potential.

Colleges and universities in Pennsylvania deserve to be recognized when they do more with less. It’s impressive when a large wealthy school can spend money lavishly on expensive buildings and programs. But it’s even more impressive when a small school with limited means is able to train and inspire students that the larger wealthier schools tend to ignore.

The American Association of Colleges and Universities reported in late 2021 that almost 75 percent of higher-education professionals at US colleges and universities felt financial constraints prevented their schools from effectively attracting students. Distracted by the size and amenities of larger schools, prospective students tended especially to be overawed by the big research universities.

Pennsylvania’s smaller colleges, especially its liberal arts colleges, need effective ways of communicating their value to a world that celebrates “bigger is better” and “you need the best.” Unfortunately, most college ranking companies, such as U.S. News & World Report, define “best” in a way that devalues schools with smaller budgets and fewer students even when these schools do remarkable work in advancing their students’ education. By and large, college rankings penalize schools that serve underserved populations.

Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell, who for years now has criticized conventional college rankings for misrepresenting what’s good and valuable in education, we decided to construct a new ranking metric that highlights those schools that do more with less. That metric—called the Academic Stewardship metric—takes away both the size and the wealth advantage of schools, and focuses instead on how well schools use the resources available to them to advance the education of their students.

How We Measure the Academic Stewardship of Pennsylvania’s Colleges and Universities

Pennsylvania's Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship
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As a metric, Academic Stewardship is defined by a precise mathematical formula, which can be found in our Academic Stewardship white paper. Measuring the Academic Stewardship of Pennsylvania’s colleges requires measuring two forms of stewardship: 1) Stewardship of financial resources (using the money they have responsibility without waste) and 2) Stewardship of human resources (doing their best to help students, faculty, and administration to flourish). Together, these two types of stewardship form what we call  Academic Stewardship. If you want to learn more about the factors involved in Academic Stewardship, click the more button below.

  1. Stewardship of financial resources: To determine a school’s stewardship of financial resources, we factored in its undergraduate size, budget, endowments and reserves, as well as tuition and fees. All these data are available from the National Center for Educational Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. In addition, we factored in a school’s financial responsibility as gauged by the Federal Student Aid Office at the US Department of Education through its financial responsibility composite scores.
  2. Stewardship of human resources: To determine a school’s stewardship of human resources, we used our InfluenceRanking engine to track the influence of the school’s faculty and alumni but also to control for size of the undergraduate student body. We’ve found that measuring a school’s influence based on the contributions of faculty and alumni make in their fields of study but then also controlling for size of the undergraduate population is the single best indicator of academic excellence. We call this Concentrated Influence. Schools that rank highly in Concentrated Influence are schools that, given their available human resources, invest heavily in their students and faculty, and the results are demonstrable.
    • We measure the influence of colleges and universities based on the publications and citations of the schools’ faculty and alumni who are teaching in and working in areas related to their degrees. To do this, we take publicly available databases, such as Semantic Scholar, Crossref, and Wikipedia and use these to measure the influence of academics in their disciplines. Having measured the influence of persons, we then identify the schools that they’re affiliated with, adding up the influence scores of the faculty and alumni to measure the influence of the schools and their disciplinary programs. Finally, we control these influence scores by size of undergraduate student body so that schools do not score high in influence simply because of a size advantage. We lay out these methodological considerations on our methodology page.
  3. Academic Stewardship: Having measured a school’s stewardship of financial and human resources in the two previous points, we now divide the second measure by the first to define the Academic Stewardship metric. This metric spotlights smaller schools, with fewer financial resources and people, that invest wisely and do proportionately better in building influence than large wealthy schools. Many of these smaller, less wealthy schools are incentivized to make better use of their resources but would never get recognized in conventional school rankings, which directly or indirectly put a premium on the wealth of schools.

Academic Stewardship as so defined is connected to keeping tuition and other costs down, but it should not be confused with affordability or frugality. The schools that this metric ranks as exemplary academic stewards tend to be all over the map when it comes to tuition and other costs. At issue is the influence of schools given the financial and human resources they have on hand. If a school is going to charge more for tuition, then that needs to be reflected in the school having proportionately greater influence.

Why Academic Stewardship Matters to Students and Their Families

The benefits of attending a school with strong academic stewardship include:

  • A clear reason for why students are at the school in the first place. Without the distraction of amenities and luxuries, these schools are at once unpretentious but also passionately committed to their educational mission. The schools in this ranking are financially efficient and academically rigorous. By avoiding frills, these schools take the most direct path to accomplishing their mission of educating students.
  • Valuing character over prestige and self-indulgence. A school that’s a good steward of its resources doesn’t instill shame in its students over what they are missing (such as elite cuisine) but rather pride in what they have and making the most of it. These schools exhibit a culture of good stewardship, which tends to build good character in the students that attend these schools.
  • Avoiding the spoiled-student syndrome. It’s easy to think that offering students endless options and opportunities will enrich their time at school in every way. But spoiling people—whether in business, sports, or academics—has the opposite effect, causing people to take their advantages for granted and in the end achieving less than they might otherwise, a point well-documented in Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code. Schools exhibiting academic stewardship avoid this pitfall.
  • The best schools vs. the schools that help students to be their best. Students at schools demonstrating outstanding academic stewardship aren’t so much concerned about being at the “best” school, whatever that may mean, as about being at a school that helps them to be their best. These schools pay attention to their students, hoping that any glory goes to them rather than to the school. Small schools, and especially liberal arts colleges, help themselves by communicating this advantage to prospective students.
  • Emphasizing development over talent and achievement. Schools like Harvard and Stanford have their pick of academic talent, and their students have a long record of achievement even before they apply to such elite schools. But if a school doesn’t have the resources of a Harvard or Stanford, how does it build a great team of students? In that case, it must focus on student development. Colleges exemplifying academic stewardship emphasize student growth and development, ensuring that the schools are doing everything in their power to help students reach their full potential and thereby become their best selves.
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Pennsylvania’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

  1. #1

    Haverford College

    Haverford , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    18%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1460/33

    What is Haverford College known for?

    Haverford College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Anthropology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    Washington & Jefferson College

    Washington , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Washington & Jefferson College known for?

    Washington & Jefferson College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Business
    • Literature
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Education
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Chestnut Hill College

    Philadelphia , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Chestnut Hill College known for?

    Chestnut Hill College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • History
    • Criminal Justice
    • Sociology
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #5

    Lincoln University, Pennsylvania

    Lincoln University , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    940/17

    What is Lincoln University, Pennsylvania known for?

    Lincoln University, Pennsylvania’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Anthropology

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #6

    Swarthmore College

    Swarthmore , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    97%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1460/33

    What is Swarthmore College known for?

    Swarthmore College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Anthropology
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #7

    Geneva College

    Beaver Falls , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/24

    What is Geneva College known for?

    Geneva College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #8

    Juniata College

    Huntingdon , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $51K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Juniata College known for?

    Juniata College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #9

    Ursinus College

    Collegeville , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1250/27

    What is Ursinus College known for?

    Ursinus College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Economics
    • History
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #10

    Eastern University

    Saint Davids , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    What is Eastern University known for?

    Eastern University ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Religious Studies
    • Sociology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Social Work
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Medical
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #11

    Immaculata University

    Immaculata , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $28K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/21

    What is Immaculata University known for?

    Immaculata University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #12

    Elizabethtown College

    Elizabethtown , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/24

    What is Elizabethtown College known for?

    Elizabethtown College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Economics
    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #13

    Carlow University

    Pittsburgh , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1066/21

    What is Carlow University known for?

    Carlow University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Medical
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #14

    Dickinson College

    Carlisle , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Dickinson College known for?

    Dickinson College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Earth Sciences
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #15

    Allegheny College

    Meadville , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1265/27

    What is Allegheny College known for?

    Allegheny College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • History
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #16

    Chatham University

    Pittsburgh , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Chatham University known for?

    Chatham University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Social Work
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #17

    Grove City College

    Grove City , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1257/26

    What is Grove City College known for?

    Grove City College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Social Work
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #18

    Saint Francis University

    Loretto , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/23

    What is Saint Francis University known for?

    Saint Francis University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #19

    Franklin & Marshall College

    Lancaster , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $63K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Franklin & Marshall College known for?

    Franklin & Marshall College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Anthropology
    • History
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Economics
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #20

    Lafayette College

    Easton , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    36%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1345/30

    What is Lafayette College known for?

    Lafayette College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #21

    Gannon University

    Erie , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/22

    What is Gannon University known for?

    Gannon University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #22

    Gettysburg College

    Gettysburg , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Gettysburg College known for?

    Gettysburg College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. #23

    Arcadia University

    Glenside , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/24

    What is Arcadia University known for?

    Arcadia University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Business
    • History
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. #24

    DeSales University

    Center Valley , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/25

    What is DeSales University known for?

    DeSales University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  24. #25

    La Salle University

    Philadelphia , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    4K

    What is La Salle University known for?

    La Salle University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Communications
    • History
    • Social Work
    • Chemistry
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

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Pennsylvania’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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Colleges and Universities in Pennsylvania

Prospective students hoping to earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree have over 100 higher learning institutions to choose from. The largest public university is Pennsylvania State University, or Penn State, with a tuition of $18,000, and a student population of over 95,000 across its campuses. As a private institution, the University of Pennsylvania, or simply Penn, is known for its medical, nursing, social work, and business fields. Tuition is $56,000, and the school boasts a 95% graduation rate.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

Students can also attend one of the more than 60 religiously affiliated schools, such as Villanova University or Lafayette College, each with a tuition of about $53,000. Some of the most affordable colleges in the state include the Curtis Institute of Music and the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, with tuitions set at $3,000 and $9,000, respectively. Though the average tuition for college in Pennsylvania comes in above the national average, those who practice medicine in underserved areas may qualify for up to $100,000 in loan forgiveness through the Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program.

As the nation’s second state, Pennsylvania’s history runs deep. It’s here where Betsy Ross made the first American flag and where the Declaration of Independence was signed. The Keystone State is also home to some culinary delights, including whoopie pies, soft pretzels, and the famous Philly cheesesteak. Students looking to earn their degree in Pennsylvania will undoubtedly enjoy what the state has to offer.

Check out the state’s top programs and learn more about earning your degree in Pennsylvania.


What are Pennsylvania’s Colleges & Universities?

Pennsylvania’s Best Overall