Let’s talk about the best private colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, the academic programs they offer, the difference between public and private colleges, and what to expect as average tuition and fees.
American universities, especially private research institutions are always ranked among the world’s best universities. A good number of top private American universities are located in states like Massachusetts, New York, and California.
However, Pennsylvania is also a state where you will find top-tier private colleges and universities. Keep in that the best private universities in the U.S. are quite selective, and those in Pennsylvania are no exception.
Stay with us as we discuss the best private colleges in the Keystone State and more.
What is the Difference between Public and Private Colleges?
There are several differences between public and private colleges and universities. Although public colleges and universities are institutions owned by states, they receive state and federal funding.
Private colleges and universities on the other hand are privately owned institutions with private funding. Unlike public colleges, private colleges receive most of their funding from tax revenues. This is why attending a public college or university is less expensive compared to private schools.
Private colleges cost more to attend because they are not funded like public colleges. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average cost including tuition, fees, room and board for students enrolled full-time at a public university was just over $20,000. This shows that the average annual cost at private universities cost almost $43,000.
What Is the Average Tuition and Fees at Pennsylvania Private Colleges?
Tuition and fees at Pennsylvania’s private colleges will vary for both undergraduate and graduate students.
According to Collegetuitioncompare.com, the average tuition and fees for undergraduate studying at private colleges in PA is $25,862. This is the average undergraduate tuition and fees for this recent academic year.
Pennsylvania private colleges’ tuition and fees are above the national average. The national average tuition for the 2022-2023 academic year is $12,914.
The college with the most expensive tuition and fees in the state is Franklin & Marshall College, which costs $65,844.
Miller-Motte College-McCann-Allentown is the private college with the lowest tuition and fees in Pennsylvania. Its tuition and fees is $5,000, the lowest among Pennsylvania’s private colleges.
Below are the average itemized costs for private colleges in PA;
- Tuition & fees: $25,862
- Cost per credit hour: $1,016
- Living cost: $13,392 (on campus) and $10,754 (off-campus)
- Book and supplies cost: $1,396
List of the Best Private Colleges in Pennsylvania
The best twenty private universities in Pennsylvania include;
- University of Pennsylvania
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Swarthmore College
- Haverford College
- Lehigh University
- Villanova University
- Lafayette College
- Bucknell University
- Bryn Mawr College
- Gettysburg College
- Drexel University
- Franklin and Marshall University
- Thomas Jefferson University
- Muhlenberg College
- University of Scranton
- Dickinson College
- Duquesne University
- Saint Joseph’s University
- Susquehanna University
- Saint Francis University
Let’s look at the top private universities in Pennsylvania and the academic programs they offer.
- Location: Philadelphia
We talked about the selectivity at private universities, so let’s look at that of the University of Pennsylvania. UPenn is a private Ivy League research institution in Philadelphia, PA, and as you would expect, its acceptance rate is just 6%.
It’s one of the oldest and most selective private universities in the United States. UPenn is home to over 22,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Its main campus spans 1,085 acres in University City.
The University of Pennsylvania is an excellent research institution organized into four undergraduate schools and twelve graduate and professional schools. Although getting into UPenn is quite difficult, thousands of undergraduate and postgraduate students are currently studying at this prestigious university.
Get more information about UPenn’s admission process and academic programs by visiting its official website.
- Location: Pittsburgh
This private research university currently ranks 52nd as the best university worldwide, according to QS World University Rankings.
Carnegie Mellon University was established in the early 20th century by Andrew Carnegie. The university was originally established in 1900 as the Carnegie Technical School.
In 1967, the university merged with the Mellon Institute of Industry Research and became Carnegie Mellon University as we know it today.
Currently, the university is home to over 15,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. Carnegie Mellon’s main campus sits on 157 acres of land in Pittsburgh.
It also has other campuses across the United States and beyond.
Carnegie Mellon offers a variety of academic programs at undergraduate and graduate levels through its seven colleges and schools.
- Location: Swarthmore
Established in 1864, this private liberal arts college is among the earliest coeducational colleges in the country. Swarthmore College is a private institution with an enrolment of over 1,000 undergraduate students.
This college is affiliated with UPenn through the Quaker Consortium. This allows the students of Swarthmore College to cross-register for classes at UPenn, Haverford College, and Bryn Mawr College. The college offers over 600 courses each year in more than forty fields of study.
Swarthmore College’s alumni include 5 Nobel Prize winners, 30 Rhodes Scholars, Academy Award winners, and Grammy Award winners.
- Location: Haverford
Haverford College was originally established as a men’s college by members of the Religious Society of Friends in 1833.
The college is home to more than 1,300 undergraduate students. As one of the top private colleges in Pennsylvania, this college offers Bachelor of Arts as well as Bachelor of Science degrees in 31 majors.
This college is a member of the Tri-College Consortium with colleges like Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore College. It’s also affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania through the Quaker Consortium.
- Location: Bethlehem
Lehigh University is a private research institution ranked among the top ten best universities in Pennsylvania.
The university was established by American businessman, Asa Packer on July 27, 1865. Lehigh’s main spans 2,350 acres, which accommodates over 6,900 undergraduate and postgraduate students.
The university consists of five colleges with the College of Arts and Science being the largest with 35% of the university’s student body.
Lehigh offers bachelor’s, master’s, as well as doctoral degrees. Its alumni and faculty members include Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, and National Medal of Science winners.
- Location: Villanova
Villanova University is a private Catholic research university, the oldest Catholic school in Pennsylvania. The university was established in 1842 by Augustinians and it’s named after Saint Thomas Villanova.
Villanova consists of six colleges and schools. The Villanova School of Business is the university’s oldest, which was ranked #1 in the U.S. in Bloomberg Businessweek’s rankings for undergraduate schools in 2016.
Villanova offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs to over 9,700 students currently enrolled at the university.
- Location: Easton
Lafayette College was founded by James Madison Porter and other citizens of Easton in 1826.
The college currently has an enrolment of 2,729 undergraduate students and guarantees campus housing to every enrolled student. Students studying at Lafayette College are all undergraduates who hail from 46 U.S. states and territories.
A good number of international students representing several countries also study at this college. Lafayette Colleges confer a Bachelor of Arts degree as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in different fields of study.
- Location: Lewisburg
This university was originally established in 1846 as the University of Lewisburg. Today, it’s known as Bucknell University, a private liberal arts college that consists of three colleges.
Bucknell University offers 65 majors and more than 70 majors in natural sciences, humanities, arts, management, social sciences, mathematics, and engineering.
This university also offers academic programs and pre-professional advising to prepare students to excel in law and medicine.
- Location: Bryn Mawr
Bryn Mawr College was established in 1885 as a Quaker institution. The college is a member of the Tri-College Consortium with other colleges like Swarthmore College and Haverford College. It’s also one of the Seven Sister Colleges in the U.S.
Bryn Mawr College offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. The college was the first women’s liberal arts college to provide graduate education through a PhD.
#10. Gettysburg College
- Location: Gettysburg
Established in 1832, Gettysburg College is a private liberal arts college, one of the top colleges in Pennsylvania.
Gettysburg College’s main campus covers 225 acres of land in Gettysburg, PA. This college has an undergraduate population of just over 2,400.
Gettysburg College provides various fields of study and awards Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Music Education, and Bachelor of Music degrees.
- Location: Lancaster
This college was established in 1853, after the merger of Franklin College and Marshall College. Franklin and Marshall College sits on 220 acres of land in Lancaster and currently enrols over 2,000 undergraduate students.
F&M is quite selective when it comes to admission. It’s rated as “more selective” according to U.S. News & World Report because of its admission process.
- Location: Philadelphia
Thomas Jefferson University is among the top private universities in Pennsylvania. It has an enrolment of more than 7,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.
In 2017, this university and Philadelphia University merged to form Thomas Jefferson University. Since the merger, Thomas Jefferson University has grown as a private institution, providing over 160 academic programs at undergraduate and graduate levels.
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#13. Muhlenberg College
- Location: Allentown
Muhlenberg College is a private liberal arts college named after the German Lutheran pastor, Henry Muhlenberg.
The college was established in 1848 and is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The college offers undergraduate degrees as well as professional studies.
- Location: Scranton
This university was established as St. Thomas College in the late 19th century by the first Bishop of Scranton, William O’Hara.
The college gained university status in 1938 and adopted the name, The University of Scranton.
Today, more than 5,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students are currently enrolled at this university. The University of Scranton consists of three colleges through which it offers 65 undergraduate programs, 29 master’s degree programs, as well as 43 minors and 38 undergraduate concentrations.
Being one of the best private colleges in Pennsylvania, this university also offers a Doctor of Physical Therapy program, a Doctor of Business Administration program, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
#15. Dickinson College
- Location: Carlisle
Established in 1773 as Carlisle Grammar School, this college is one of the oldest in Pennsylvania. This college was founded just after the formation of the United States and named after John Dickinson, one of the founding fathers of the U.S.
With over 2,400 undergraduate students, Dickinson College offers a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree in 22 disciplinary majors and 20 interdisciplinary majors.
#16. Duquesne University
- Location: Pittsburgh
This university began operating as the Pittsburgh Catholic College of the Holy Ghost in 1878 with just 40 students. Today, Duquesne University has an overall enrolment of over 9,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Duquesne is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and offers undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs.
- Location: Philadelphia
Saint Joseph’s University was established in 1851 by the Society of Jesus. The university is one of twenty-seven member institutions of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
SJU has an enrolment of over 6,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. SJU consist of four colleges and schools and offers about 224 academic programs at undergraduate and graduate levels. This university also provides four health professional programs with online options.
- Location: Selinsgrove
Susquehanna University was originally established as a missionary institute in 1858 before it became a four-year liberal arts college in the late 19th century.
This university only provides undergraduate education, offering more than 100 majors, minors, and academic programs to the over 2,000 students studying at this university.
#19. Drexel University
- Location: Philadelphia
Drexel University is a private university of research with a large student enrollment. This Philadelphia-based research institution is home to over 24,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
Drexel University provides several options for undergraduates and graduates with over 70 bachelor’s degree programs as well as over 100 master’s, doctoral, and professional programs available.
- Location: Loretto
Saint Francis University completes this list of the best private colleges in Pennsylvania. The university is a private Catholic institution situated on 600 acres in Loretto, Pennsylvania.
SFU offers twenty-five undergraduate majors as well as seven graduate fields of study. It also confers a PhD in Physical Therapy to students.
The aforementioned universities and colleges provide undergraduate, graduate and professional education. There are several colleges to choose from if you prefer to study at Pennsylvania’s private institutions.
Although tuition and fees at private colleges across the state are higher than the national average, PA has a low cost of living compared to other neighbouring states.