Pennsylvania’s Best Public Colleges and Universities of 2021

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in Pennsylvania provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Pennsylvania’s Best Public 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 public colleges and universities that offer four-year undergraduate degrees. We’ve identified 41 public universities in Pennsylvania; 22 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the 20 best public universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must receive direct funding from the state.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It offers a broad range of bachelor’s degree programs.
  4. Its graduation rate must be greater than 50%.

How do we determine Pennsylvania's best public 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 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.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

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20 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

  1. #1

    University of Pittsburgh

    #58 institution's historical influence
    #987 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $20K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1350/30

    Pittsburgh, PA

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    What is University of Pittsburgh known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

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  2. #2

    Pennsylvania State University

    #77 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $18K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    47K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1190/26

    University Park, PA

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    What is Pennsylvania State University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Temple University

    #131 institution's historical influence
    #1402 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    33K

    Philadelphia, PA

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    What is Temple University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Indiana University of Pennsylvania

    #1397 institution's historical influence
    #334 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    93%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1015/19

    Indiana, PA

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    What is Indiana University of Pennsylvania known for?

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

    • Education
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

    #2558 institution's historical influence
    #379 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/19

    Shippensburg, PA

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    What is Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania known for?

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

    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • Criminal Justice
    • Earth Sciences
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    California University of Pennsylvania

    #2760 institution's historical influence
    #557 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/20

    California, PA

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    What is California University of Pennsylvania known for?

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Law
    • History
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

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  7. #7

    Penn State Harrisburg

    #4227 institution's historical influence
    #647 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Student body

    5K

    Middletown, PA

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    What is Penn State Harrisburg known for?

    Penn State Harrisburg’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics
  8. #8

    Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

    #2200 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1085/21

    Slippery Rock, PA

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    What is Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

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  9. #9

    Clarion University of Pennsylvania

    #3713 institution's historical influence
    #760 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/20

    Clarion, PA

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    What is Clarion University of Pennsylvania known for?

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

    • Education
    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Communications
    • Nursing
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    West Chester University

    #1700 institution's historical influence
    #1387 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/23

    West Chester, PA

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    What is West Chester University known for?

    West Chester University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    Millersville University of Pennsylvania

    #3009 institution's historical influence
    #805 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    7K

    Millersville, PA

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    What is Millersville University of Pennsylvania known for?

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

    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

    #3646 institution's historical influence
    #574 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/20

    Bloomsburg, PA

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    What is Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania known for?

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

    • Education
    • Business
    • Biology
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Economics
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #14

    Penn State Altoona

    #4814 institution's historical influence
    #602 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Student body

    3K

    Altoona, PA

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    What is Penn State Altoona known for?

    Penn State Altoona’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Literature
  14. #15

    Penn State Lehigh Valley

    #5776 institution's historical influence
    #690 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Student body

    <1K

    Center Valley, PA

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    What is Penn State Lehigh Valley known for?

    Penn State Lehigh Valley’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Earth Sciences
    • Psychology
    • Biology
  15. #16

    Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

    #2222 institution's historical influence
    #521 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    93%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1055/21

    Kutztown, PA

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    What is Kutztown University of Pennsylvania known for?

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

    • Biology
    • Education
    • Physics
    • Anthropology
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • History
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #17

    Penn State Berks

    #5256 institution's historical influence
    #1160 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Student body

    3K

    Reading, PA

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    What is Penn State Berks known for?

    Penn State Berks’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • History
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Psychology
  17. #18

    Penn State York

    #8459 institution's historical influence
    #765 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Student body

    <1K

    York, PA

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    What is Penn State York known for?

    Penn State York’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #19

    Penn State New Kensington

    #7537 institution's historical influence
    #1421 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Student body

    <1K

    New Kensington, PA

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    What is Penn State New Kensington known for?

    Penn State New Kensington’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Earth Sciences
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Communications
  19. #20

    Penn State Hazleton

    #5738 institution's historical influence
    #1400 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Student body

    <1K

    Hazleton, PA

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    What is Penn State Hazleton known for?

    Penn State Hazleton’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Criminal Justice
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science

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