Pennsylvania’s Best Private Colleges and Universities of 2021

Private colleges, unlike large public institutions, can be a great option for students wanting a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Here is our list of the best private colleges in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s Best Private Colleges and Universities of 2021

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.

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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.

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What are Pennsylvania’s Colleges & Universities?

Pennsylvania’s Best Overall

What is a public college? And what is the difference between a private and public college?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models — one is a private company with private funding; the other is owned by the state and receives both state and federal funding to operate. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of private vs. public college, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a four-year degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a four-year public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually.

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This list is composed entirely of private colleges and universities that offer four-year undergraduate degrees. We’ve identified 76 private universities in Pennsylvania; 67 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the 25 best private universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a private, non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It must offer a broad range of bachelor’s degrees.
  4. It must have a graduation rate of greater than 50%, and the top 25 schools below have a graduation rate of greater than 60%.

How do we determine Pennsylvania's best private colleges and universities?

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we “Concentrated Influence”. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

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25 Best Private Colleges in Pennsylvania

  1. #1

    Swarthmore College

    #142 institution's historical influence
    #22 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    97%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1460/33

    Swarthmore, PA

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    What is Swarthmore College known for?

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

    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Economics
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

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  2. #2

    Carnegie Mellon University

    #35 institution's historical influence
    #35 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    17%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1510/34

    Pittsburgh, PA

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    What is Carnegie Mellon University known for?

    Carnegie Mellon University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

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  3. #3

    University of Pennsylvania

    #16 institution's historical influence
    #10 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1505/34

    Philadelphia, PA

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    What is University of Pennsylvania known for?

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

    • Business
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Law
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Bryn Mawr College

    #251 institution's historical influence
    #119 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    38%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    2K

    Bryn Mawr, PA

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    What is Bryn Mawr College known for?

    Bryn Mawr College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Anthropology
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Haverford College

    #325 institution's historical influence
    #73 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    18%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1460/33

    Haverford, PA

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    What is Haverford College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  6. #6

    Westminster College

    #2462 institution's historical influence
    #350 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1077/22

    New Wilmington, PA

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    What is Westminster College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Communications
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Lehigh University

    #294 institution's historical influence
    #89 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1365/31

    Bethlehem, PA

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    What is Lehigh University known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    Bucknell University

    #666 institution's historical influence
    #108 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    38%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1342/30

    Lewisburg, PA

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    What is Bucknell University known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Psychology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  9. #9

    Wilkes University

    #2455 institution's historical influence
    #386 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1119/23

    Wilkes-Barre, PA

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    What is Wilkes University known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • History
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
  10. #10

    Dickinson College

    #587 institution's historical influence
    #1095 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    3K

    Carlisle, PA

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    What is Dickinson College known for?

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

    • Law
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Religious Studies
    • Physics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  11. #11

    Drexel University

    #310 institution's historical influence
    #54 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    23K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/28

    Philadelphia, PA

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    What is Drexel University known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    Franklin & Marshall College

    #967 institution's historical influence
    #147 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    3K

    Lancaster, PA

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    What is Franklin & Marshall College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Economics
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #13

    Saint Francis University

    #1869 institution's historical influence
    #1108 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/23

    Loretto, PA

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    What is Saint Francis University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  14. #14

    Elizabethtown College

    #1508 institution's historical influence
    #713 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/24

    Elizabethtown, PA

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    What is Elizabethtown College known for?

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

    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #15

    Villanova University

    #451 institution's historical influence
    #198 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    31%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1395/32

    Villanova, PA

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    What is Villanova University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Law
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  16. #16

    Lafayette College

    #548 institution's historical influence
    #112 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    36%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1345/30

    Easton, PA

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    What is Lafayette College known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Economics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #17

    Thomas Jefferson University

    #439 institution's historical influence
    #568 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $42K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1165/24

    Philadelphia, PA

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    What is Thomas Jefferson University known for?

    Thomas Jefferson University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Communications
    • Law
    • Computer Science
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #18

    Allegheny College

    #807 institution's historical influence
    #283 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1265/27

    Meadville, PA

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    What is Allegheny College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Communications
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  19. #19

    Washington & Jefferson College

    #751 institution's historical influence
    #664 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    1K

    Washington, PA

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    What is Washington & Jefferson College known for?

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

    • Business
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Literature
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Economics
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #20

    Ursinus College

    #1512 institution's historical influence
    #300 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1250/27

    Collegeville, PA

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    What is Ursinus College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #21

    Susquehanna University

    #2333 institution's historical influence
    #347 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    2K

    Selinsgrove, PA

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    What is Susquehanna University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    REQUEST INFO
  22. #22

    Gettysburg College

    #994 institution's historical influence
    #227 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    3K

    Gettysburg, PA

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    What is Gettysburg College known for?

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

    • Education
    • History
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Religious Studies
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    REQUEST INFO
  23. #23

    University of Scranton

    #1260 institution's historical influence
    #567 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/26

    Scranton, PA

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    What is University of Scranton known for?

    University of Scranton’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Business
    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  24. #24

    Duquesne University

    #550 institution's historical influence
    #1080 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    79%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/25

    Pittsburgh, PA

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    What is Duquesne University known for?

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

    • Law
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Medical
    • History
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  25. #25

    La Salle University

    #1219 institution's historical influence
    #361 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    5K

    Philadelphia, PA

    View profile

    What is La Salle University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Religious Studies
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

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