Best Colleges in Pennsylvania of 2022

Pennsylvania is home to more colleges than most states in the U.S. Find out which ones ranks among the best colleges in Pennsylvania.

Best Colleges in Pennsylvania of 2022
Micah Giszack

Pennsylvania is home to more than a hundred four-year public and private colleges and universities that award bachelor’s degrees. So, if you’re looking to go to college in Pennsylvania, you’ll have many institutions to choose from. 

In this BrokeScholar study, we focused on identifying the best colleges in Pennsylvania. In order to do this, we analyzed every four-year public and four-year private nonprofit college and university in Pennsylvania that awards bachelor’s degrees. The methodology for determining the best colleges in Pennsylvania is based on a combination of factors, including graduation rate, admission rate, number of bachelor’s degrees awarded, the ratio of bachelor’s degrees awarded to undergraduate population (done in order to avert larger schools that give out large quantities of degrees from automatically ranking highest), in-state tuition costs, and out-of-state tuition costs. All data was sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), for the academic year 2021-2022.

Read on to find out the best colleges in Pennsylvania of 2022.

Best Colleges in Pennsylvania

The best colleges in Pennsylvania combine solid academic records and academic programs, with generally high graduation rates, as well as competitive rates of admissions. The result of this study is an interesting mix of private nonprofit and public universities and colleges in Pennsylvania, which means that high school students looking for the best colleges in Pennsylvania will have plenty to choose from. Here’s a look at the 15 best colleges in Pennsylvania:

Rank

College/University

In-state tuition

Out-of-state tuition

Bachelor's Degrees Awarded

Bachelor's Degrees Awarded to Undergrad Ratio

Graduation Rate

Admission Rate

1

University of Pennsylvania

$24,167

$61,710

2,830

25.4%

96%

6%

2

Swarthmore College

$20,360

$56,056

351

24.4%

97%

8%

3

Carnegie Mellon University

$36,983

$58,924

1,629

24.6%

93%

14%

4

Haverford College

$25,215

$61,210

326

24.9%

93%

18%

5

Villanova University

$38,303

$59,020

1,814

25.8%

92%

25%

6

Bucknell University

$39,359

$59,802

883

23.9%

88%

35%

7

Lafayette College

$28,735

$57,114

604

24.0%

90%

41%

8

Franklin and Marshall College

$28,038

$63,406

592

26.3%

85%

38%

9

Lehigh University

$29,098

$57,470

1,272

24.4%

88%

46%

10

Bryn Mawr College

$37,015

$56,320

290

22.3%

85%

39%

11

Dickinson College

$37,342

$58,733

486

25.2%

84%

48%

12

University of Pittsburgh

$22,346

$20,362

4,790

20.7%

84%

67%

13

Temple University

$23,254

$17,378

6,572

24.1%

75%

72%

14

Grove City College

$22,371

$19,310

541

23.8%

83%

73%

15

Pennsylvania State University

$18,898

$36,476

16,675

22.4%

73%

92%

1. University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania is the state of Pennsylvania’s lone Ivy League school. UPenn has the most selective rate of admission in our study, with just a 6% admission rate in the 2021-2022 academic year. Contrast that with the study’s overall average admission rate of 78%. Another major strong point of UPenn is its high graduation rate, 96%, which is far higher than the study’s overall average graduation rate of 63% for the 108 colleges and universities in Pennsylvania analyzed in this study. With an undergraduate population of 11,155 in the 2021-2022 academic year, 2,830 bachelor’s degrees were awarded the same year, for a ratio of 25.4% of bachelor’s degrees to undergraduate students, one of the highest rates in the study. U.S. News ranks the University of Pennsylvania as the No. 8 best school in its National Universities category, No. 14 in its Best Value Schools category, and the No. 26 Most Innovative Schools nationally.

2. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College is a very well-known, highly selective private liberal arts college and one of the best colleges in Pennsylvania. Its graduation rate for the 2021-2022 academic year was 97%, even higher than No. 1 UPenn’s graduation rate. Swarthmore’s admission rate for the 2021-2022 academic year was 8%, not as selective as UPenn, but far more selective than the study’s overall average of 78%. With a small undergraduate population of 1,437, Swarthmore awarded 351 bachelor’s degrees, for a ratio of 24.4% of bachelor’s degrees to undergraduate students, the second-best rate in the study. U.S. News ranked Swarthmore College No. 3 in its National Liberal Arts Colleges category, No. 4 for Best Undergraduate Teaching, and No. 2 in its Best Value Schools category. 

3. Carnegie Mellon University

When it comes to the top universities in Pennsylvania, it’s hard to beat Carnegie Mellon University. With an admission rate of 14% in the 2021-2022 academic year, Carnegie Mellon is one of the most competitive colleges in Pennsylvania to get in to. What’s more, its graduation rate is a superb 93%, well above the study’s overall average graduation rate of 63%.  Carnegie Mellon awarded 1,629 bachelor’s degrees in the 2021 academic year, against an undergraduate population of 6,622, for a ratio of 24.6% of bachelor’s degrees to undergraduate students. Carnegie Mellon also scores highly in U.S. News rankings, placing at No. 25 in its National Universities category, and even more impressive, No.5 in its Most Innovative Schools category.

4. Haverford College

Easily one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation — it was ranked 16th in U.S. News’s National Liberal Arts Colleges category — Haverford College ranks No. 4 in our study of the best colleges in Pennsylvania. Haverford College is highly selective, with an admission rate of 18% in the 2021-2022 academic year. At the same time, its graduation rate is excellent, at 93%, tied with Carnegie Mellon’s graduation rate, and both far superior to the study’s overall average. With a small undergraduate population of 1,307 students, Haverford College awarded 326 bachelor’s degrees in the academic year 2021, making for a 24.9% ratio of bachelor’s degrees to undergraduate students.

5. Villanova University

Villanova University ranks highly in our study of the best colleges in Pennsylvania. First off, the admission rate at Villanova is quite selective, with an admission rate of only 25% in the 2021-2022 academic year, more selective than the average for the study overall of 78%. With an undergraduate population of 11,032 in the 2021-2022 academic year, Villanova University awarded 1,814 bachelor's degrees, for a ratio of 25.8% of bachelor’s degrees awarded to undergraduate students, one of the highest rates of degrees awarded in the study. U.S. News ranked Villanova as No. 49 in its National Universities ranking category, and No. 23 in its best colleges for Nursing category. 

6. Bucknell University

Bucknell University ranks as the No. 6 school in our study of the best colleges in Pennsylvania thanks to a number of key factors. The university’s graduation rate of 88% is excellent, far superior to the 63% average for the whole study. Meanwhile, its admissions are more competitive than most colleges and universities in Pennsylvania. Bucknell University’s admission rate for the 2021-2022 academic year was 35%, in contrast to the 78% average admission rate for the study overall. Though a small school with an undergraduate population of only 3,695 students in the 2021-2022 academic year, Bucknell University awarded 883 bachelor’s degrees that year, for a ratio of 23.9% of bachelor’s degrees to undergraduate students, better than the study’s overall average. According to U.S. News, Bucknell University is not just one of the top colleges in Pennsylvania, but a national contender. U.S. News named it the No. 38 best school in its National Liberal Arts Colleges category, and No. 7 in its Most Innovative Schools category.

7. Lafayette College

Lafayette College is a private nonprofit college that has a smallish sized undergraduate population of 2,514 in the 2021-2022 academic year. Lafayette College ranked well in our study of the best colleges in Pennsylvania, boasting a graduation rate of 90%, the sixth-best in the study. Lafayette College’s admission rate is also very competitive, with an admission rate of 41% in the 2021-2022 academic year, in contrast to the 78% average for the study overall. Against its undergraduate population of 2,514 students, 604 bachelor’s degrees were awarded in the 2021 academic year; that works out to a 24% ratio of bachelor’s degrees awarded to undergraduate students. What’s more, U.S. News ranked Lafayette College at No. 38 in its National Liberal Arts Colleges category.

8. Franklin and Marshall College

Franklin and Marshall College scored very well across categories in our study of the best colleges in Pennsylvania. Admissions to Franklin and Marshall are competitive, with the school having an admission rate of 38% in the 2021-2022 academic year, as against 78% average admission rate for the study overall. Franklin and Marshall is widely recognized as an excellent liberal arts college, being ranked by U.S. News as the No. 42 top school in its National Liberal Arts Colleges category, as well as No. 31 in its Best Value Schools category. With a relatively small undergraduate population of 2,254 students, Franklin and Marshall awarded 592 bachelor’s degrees in the 2021-2022 academic year, for an excellent ratio of 26.3% of bachelor’s degrees conferred to undergraduate student population.

9. Lehigh University

Located in the classic steel town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh University came in as the No. 9 school in our study of the best colleges in Pennsylvania. With a graduation rate of 88%, Lehigh University far surpasses the study’s overall graduation rate average of 63%. Its admission rate of 46% for the 2021-2022 academic year makes Lehigh much more selective than the average school in Pennsylvania. In U.S. News’s National Universities category, Lehigh University was ranked No. 49 in the whole country, as well as No. 13 in its Best Undergraduate Teaching category. Along with its high graduation rate, Lehigh University has a high ratio of bachelor’s degrees awarded to undergraduate population. With an undergraduate population of 5,203 students, Lehigh awarded 1,272 bachelor’s degrees, for a ratio of 24.4%, exceeding the study’s overall average of 21%.

10. Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr College is another small private nonprofit school to make our list of the best colleges in Pennsylvania. Admissions to Bryn Mawr College are competitive, with an admission rate of 39% in the academic year 2021-2022, much more selective than the 78% average for the study overall. Bryn Mawr College’s graduation rate for the same academic year, 85%, was also better than the study’s overall average of 63%. Bryn Mawr has been recognized for its academic record, being ranked by U.S. News as being the No. 7 school in its Best Undergraduate Teaching category, and a more intriguing ranking of No. 19 best school in its First-Year Experiences category.

11. Dickinson College

Dickinson College is widely recognized as a strong liberal arts college, and indeed was ranked by U.S. News as the No. 50 top school in its National Liberal Arts Colleges category. Also rather cool, Dickinson College was ranked No. 16 nationally for Study Abroad programs. Dickinson College is one of the more selective schools in our best colleges in Pennsylvania study, with an admission rate of 48% in the 2021-2022 academic year. Its graduation rate of 84% is also better than the average of 63% for all the 108 Pennsylvania colleges analyzed in the study.  

12. University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh is a versatile school, with excellent engineering and biomedical programs. Often just referred to as Pitt, this university boasts a very solid graduation rate of 84%, which puts it among the top-15 schools with the highest graduation rates in our study of the best colleges in Pennsylvania. Its admissions is more competitive than the majority of schools considered in our study, with Pitt having an admission rate of 67% in the 2021 academic year, more selective than the 78% average admission rate for all the Pennsylvania colleges and universities analyzed in the study. Out of all the colleges in the nation, U.S. News ranked the University of Pittsburgh No. 59 in its National Universities category, as well as ranking No. 20 in its Top Public Schools in the country category. With an in-state tuition of $20,362 in the 2021-2022 academic year, Pitt is actually more affordable than most colleges in our study, even though compared to other states and their public schools, $20,362 isn’t that low.

13. Temple University

Temple University in Philadelphia ranks as the No. 13 school in our study of the top colleges in Pennsylvania. Its graduation rate of 75% beats the study’s overall average of 63%, while its admission rate of 72% is only a bit more selective than the study’s average overall of 78%. Temple University, though, does offer strong academics at an affordable price for in-state students. In the 2021-2022 academic year, the in-state tuition at Temple University cost $17,378, much lower than the in-state average of $33,400 for the study overall. Temple’s out-of-state tuition was $30,602, but that’s still cheaper than the study’s overall out-of-state tuition average of $35,112. Plus, U.S. News ranked Temple University as the No. 46 Top Public School out of all national universities, and perhaps more interestingly, ranked in 5th in terms of having the Best Undergraduate Insurance Program under its undergraduate business program rankings.

14. Grove City College

Coming in at the No. 14 spot in our study of the best colleges in Pennsylvania, Grove City College  combines solid academic scores with affordability, a tough thing to pull off. With a graduation rate of 83% in the 2021 academic year, Grove City College is well above the study’s overall average of 63%. With an undergraduate population of 2,277 students, Grove City College awarded 541 bachelor’s degrees, for a 23.8% ratio of degrees awarded to undergraduate students, which is better than the average of 21% for the study as a whole. According to U.S. News, Grove City College was ranked No. 105 in the whole country in its National Liberal Arts Colleges category.

15. Pennsylvania State University

Good old Penn State rounds out our list of the best colleges in Pennsylvania. Though its admission rate for the 2021-2022 academic year was quite open, at 92%, it still has a graduation rate that’s 10 percentage points better than the study’s overall average of 63%. According to U.S. News college rankings, Penn State came in as the No. 63 top school in its National Universities category, while also being ranked as No. 21 for the Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs and No. 23 in its Top Public Schools category. For in-state students, Penn State is particularly attractive for its affordability. In-state tuition in the 2021 academic year was $18,898, well below the study’s overall average in-state tuition cost.

The Bottom Line on the Best Colleges in Pennsylvania

These 15 best colleges in Pennsylvania tend to combine affordability, excellent academic records, high graduation rates, competitive admission rates, and high proportions of bachelor’s degrees awarded per academic year. Naturally, some Pennsylvania colleges and universities that made this top-15 list are more expensive than others. Franklin and Marshall is most notable n this regard, costing more than $63,000 per year in tuition and required fees, higher than even the Ivy Leaguer UPenn. However, it also offers one of the best academic experiences in all of Pennsylvania and is often ranked among the best colleges in the country. 

Since money is such an essential factor in choosing and attending college, be sure to review the student discounts offered by BrokeScholar to help reduce the cost of purchases you might make when attending one of these schools in Pennsylvania. What’s more, take time to investigate the vast library of scholarships compiled on BrokeScholar that can help you save even more money.