To identify the Best Colleges in Pennsylvania for 2019 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in Pennsylvania anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, PA
Swarthmore CollegeSwarthmore, PA
Bryn Mawr CollegeBryn Mawr, PA
Haverford CollegeHaverford, PA
Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgh, PA
Bucknell UniversityLewisburg, PA
Gettysburg CollegeGettysburg, PA
University of ScrantonScranton, PA
Lehigh UniversityBethlehem, PA
Franklin and Marshall CollegeLancaster, PA
Lafayette CollegeEaston, PA
Saint Joseph’s UniversityPhiladelphia, PA
Dickinson CollegeCarlisle, PA
Pennsylvania State University-Main CampusUniversity Park, PA
Villanova UniversityVillanova, PA
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh CampusPittsburgh, PA
Allegheny CollegeMeadville, PA
Juniata CollegeHuntingdon, PA
Muhlenberg CollegeAllentown, PA
Lebanon Valley CollegeAnnville, PA
Washington & Jefferson CollegeWashington, PA
Misericordia UniversityDallas, PA
Messiah CollegeMechanicsburg, PA
Lycoming CollegeWilliamsport, PA
Gannon UniversityErie, PA
Known as the Keystone State – thanks to its centrality in the early days of the American colony – Pennsylvania is one of the most diverse states in the union. It’s not only a highly diverse population, one of the first melting pot in the United States; it’s also a complex mix of urban industry, high finance and banking, agriculture and tourism, with vast countryside, mountains, and forests to attract tourists and nature lovers. In the beginning of the Republic, Pennsylvania was a center of the Revolution (as the site where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed), but Pennsylvania isn’t just history – it remains the nation’s 6th-largest economy and a leader in business and culture.
Pennsylvania’s best colleges and universities are hallmarks of American higher education, from pioneering women’s colleges to the Ivy League. With its roots at the very heart of the American Revolution – site of the writing of Declaration of Independence and the Constitution – and the influence of the 18th century Enlightenment, Pennsylvania has been a leader in higher education since before there was a US, and played critical roles in educating Founding Fathers and the earliest American business, religious, and educational leaders. From front to back, Pennsylvania’s best colleges and universities define “best.”
Why are the Best Colleges in Pennsylvania So Great?
The best colleges in Pennsylvania are some of the world’s most prestigious. They include the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, a globally-recognized private research university founded by Benjamin Franklin, and Carnegie Mellon University, one of the world’s foremost institutions for STEM and the arts alike. Both of these universities began as pioneering and experimental institutions; unlike its Ivy League peers, Penn was rooted in Franklin’s Enlightenment philosophies, focusing on the most current scientific and intellectual developments of the era (rather than religion and classical philosophy). Carnegie Mellon, on the other hand, was built to provide educational opportunity to the working classes of Pittsburgh, though over time, it grew into an elite, globally influential research institution. With the highest level of resources (including one of the best campus rec centers in the US), Penn and Carnegie Mellon represent the potential of higher education.
Like other colleges in the Northeast, Pennsylvania’s higher education system is heavy on small liberal arts colleges, including Little Ivies like Bucknell University and Lafayette University. They include the renowned Quaker Consortium, with Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and Haverford College, institutions that dominate rankings of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation (and feature some of the best college dorms and best college dining halls in the nation). In addition, the names of Founders and Revolutionary War heroes are spread across the state: Franklin & Marshall College, Washington & Jefferson College, Dickinson College. Whether in the humanities and the arts, or professional and technical studies, the best colleges in Pennsylvania are some of the best in the world (including several institutions where students can go to college for free).
Starting with Penn State University, Pennsylvania’s public higher education network is one of the biggest and best in the US. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is composed of 14 public colleges and universities (along with 4 state-supported institutions that are not part of the PSSHE, and 15 community colleges). Penn State has become not only one of the nation’s top-tier public research universities, but also a leader in online education with the Penn State World Campus, which has helped the university reach out to far more students than ever possible. All of the state’s regional campuses add to the potential for advancing the careers of working professionals and career-changing adults, including those in Pennsylvania’s former manufacturing centers who are moving into managerial and service professions.
Into the Future with the Best Colleges in Pennsylvania
In recent years, thanks to transportation and development, Philadelphia is coming back as a real competition to New York City for attracting professionals and commuters. Pennsylvania’s higher education system has been a large part of helping cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh turn their historical strengths into 21st century innovations. The state’s growing minority population also correlates with a growing population of minority students who are using education to create social mobility and political influence. The old manufacturing urban centers, as in other states, are moving to service and professional bases, and the best colleges in Pennsylvania will continue to lead the way to new ways of making a living.