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.


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?

Methodology

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 call “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.

25 Best Private Colleges in Pennsylvania

  1. #1

    Swarthmore College

    Swarthmore , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    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
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Education
    REQUEST INFO
  2. #3

    University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1505/34

    What is University of Pennsylvania known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  3. #7

    Lehigh University

    Bethlehem , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1365/31

    What is Lehigh University known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Medical
    REQUEST INFO
  4. #8

    Bucknell University

    Lewisburg , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    38%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1342/30

    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
    REQUEST INFO
  5. #9

    Wilkes University

    Wilkes-Barre , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1119/23

    What is Wilkes University known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    REQUEST INFO
  6. #10

    Dickinson College

    Carlisle , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Dickinson College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  7. #11

    Drexel University

    Philadelphia , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    23K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/28

    What is Drexel University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  8. Tuition + fees

    $61K

    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:

    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Computer Science
    REQUEST INFO
  9. 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
    • History
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    REQUEST INFO
  10. #14

    Elizabethtown College

    Elizabethtown , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    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
    • Business
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Biology
    REQUEST INFO
  11. #15

    Villanova University

    Villanova , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    31%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1395/32

    What is Villanova University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  12. #16

    Lafayette College

    Easton , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  13. #17

    Thomas Jefferson University

    Philadelphia , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $42K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1165/24

    What is Thomas Jefferson University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Physics
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Nursing
    • Law
    REQUEST INFO
  14. #18

    Allegheny College

    Meadville , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $51K

    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:

    • Literature
    • Communications
    • History
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    REQUEST INFO
  15. 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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  16. #20

    Ursinus College

    Collegeville , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    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
    • Biology
    • Education
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Physics
    REQUEST INFO
  17. #21

    Susquehanna University

    Selinsgrove , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $51K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    3K

    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
    • Earth Sciences
    • Law
    • Political Science
    REQUEST INFO
  18. #22

    Gettysburg College

    Gettysburg , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Gettysburg College known for?

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

    • History
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    REQUEST INFO
  19. #23

    University of Scranton

    Scranton , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $47K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/26

    What is University of Scranton known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Religious Studies
    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    REQUEST INFO
  20. #24

    Duquesne University

    Pittsburgh , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $42K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    79%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/25

    What is Duquesne University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  21. #25

    La Salle University

    Philadelphia , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO

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