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Best Value Colleges and Universities in Pennsylvania 2021

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With more than 100 universities and colleges in Pennsylvania, learners in the state can choose from major public research universities, private liberal arts colleges, Ivy League schools, and small specialty colleges. The University of Pennsylvania, perhaps the state’s most notable institution, is an Ivy League school and was famously founded by Benjamin Franklin.

Students can also choose from institutions in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia regions. Many colleges in Pennsylvania maintain agreements with other schools in the state, allowing learners to access courses from multiple institutions.

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Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Graduates who stay in Pennsylvania enjoy job prospects in many industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals in the state earn a median annual salary of $51,340. The occupations with the highest employment in Pennsylvania include positions in office and administrative support, transportation and material moving, sales, food preparation, and healthcare.

Top 10 Best Value Colleges and Universities in Pennsylvania

Rank School Location
1 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
2 Swarthmore College Swarthmore, PA
3 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA
4 Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA
5 Bucknell University Lewisburg, PA
6 Haverford College Haverford, PA
7 Villanova University Villanova, PA
8 Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster, PA
9 Lafayette College Easton, PA
10 Muhlenberg College Allentown, PA

Accreditation for Schools in Pennsylvania



Accreditation provides quality assurance for students pursuing higher education. Independent accrediting bodies evaluate colleges and universities to ensure they meet set standards for academic quality. In the United States, schools can receive regional or national accreditation.

Regional accreditation is considered more prestigious and requires institutions to meet higher standards than national accreditation. Each regional accrediting agency evaluates schools in a specific geographic area.

National accrediting agencies often specialize in a specific profession or field. Additionally, online colleges, vocational schools, and religious institutions generally earn national accreditation. Credits and degrees from nationally accredited schools do not typically transfer to regionally accredited institutions.

In addition to institutional accreditation, learners can look for specialized programmatic accreditation. Field-specific agencies evaluate a program’s curriculum to ensure it prepares learners to succeed in the discipline. For example, three organizations award accreditation to master of business administration programs. Before applying to colleges in Pennsylvania, learners should research the accreditation status of the school and program.

FAQ


  • How long do you have to live in Pennsylvania to get in-state tuition?

    To qualify for in-state tuition rates, students must reside in Pennsylvania for at least 12 continuous months prior to enrollment. During that time, residents must be in the state for a purpose other than pursuing an education.


  • Does Pennsylvania offer free college?

    Some colleges in Pennsylvania provide heavily subsidized options and scholarships based on financial need and academic potential. These opportunities may cover the full cost of obtaining a degree.


  • How many colleges and universities are located in Pennsylvania?

    Pennsylvania contains more than 160 colleges and universities, including 58 public schools and numerous private liberal arts schools.


  • What is the average cost of college in Pennsylvania?

    For the 2017-18 academic year, the average cost of tuition and fees at Pennsylvania public schools was $14,534 for in-state students and $40,068 for out-of-state students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.


What Are the Requirements for a Degree in Pennsylvania?



Colleges and universities in Pennsylvania set admission requirements similar to those of institutions throughout the country. Undergraduate applicants can generally submit the Common Application or the Coalition Application. Applicants must typically provide high school transcripts, an essay, and recommendation letters. Learners may need to submit standardized test scores, but ACT or SAT scores are optional for admission to many Pennsylvania colleges. Applicants to these schools can provide standardized test scores to bolster their application.

Students enrolled in Pennsylvania programs must complete required coursework and maintain a satisfactory GPA. Some programs require learners to complete a capstone project or thesis. Specific graduation requirements depend on the student’s school, major, and degree level.

Certifications and Licensure for Students in Pennsylvania



Some professions require state licensure or certification. Pennsylvania professionals who need a state-issued credential to practice include nurse practitioners, who must pass the NCLEX exam and submit an application to the state board of nursing. Students should research the requirements to practice in their specific field. The following list highlights a few common credentials for graduates of Pennsylvania universities.

ACSP Certification


These credentials demonstrate that individuals possess the knowledge and skills necessary to work in laboratory professions. The ASCP Board of Certification provides certification in several areas of laboratory sciences, including medical technology, sonography, radiology, and pathology. Candidates for certification must pass a national exam.

Pennsylvania Real Estate License


In Pennsylvania, real estate brokers and agents need licensure. Candidates for a real estate license must complete 75 hours of approved real estate education within five years and pass two licensing exams. The Department of State issues licenses to candidates who meet regulations approved by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission.

Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner


To obtain a nurse practitioner (NP) license in Pennsylvania, individuals must complete an approved nursing program and pass the NCLEX exam. Candidates apply for licensure from the State Board of Nursing. NPs licensed in other states can apply for licensure by endorsement in Pennsylvania.

Professional Organizations for Students in Pennsylvania



Students and professionals in Pennsylvania can pursue career options in a variety of fields. Joining a professional organization in their discipline can help individuals access professional development and networking opportunities. Many professional organizations offer scholarships, host conferences and events, and award certifications.


  • Pennsylvania Association of Educational Office Professionals PAEOP works to advance the professional interests of educational office employees. The organization hosts conferences, professional development events, and workshops. PAEOP also delivers scholarships, including an award for students in business-related fields. The National Association of Educational Office Professionals also hosts an annual conference.

  • Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers PSPE promotes integrity among practicing engineers in the state. Membership benefits include access to conferences, continuing education, and career services. The society also provides materials to help individuals prepare to earn the professional engineer license. PSPE maintains a job board with current openings in the field.

  • Pennsylvania Psychological Association PPA supports psychologists who practice in schools, businesses, hospitals, universities, and private and public government agencies. The association works to advance the field of psychology as a means of promoting human welfare. PPA offers professional development opportunities and advocates for members.

  • Pennsylvania State Education Association PSEA comprises professionals dedicated to the field of public education. In addition to teachers, members include school nurses, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and school counselors. PSEA provides advocacy, resources and research, certification guides, and professional development opportunities.

Scholarships for Students in Pennsylvania

Students attending colleges in Pennsylvania can qualify for various scholarships, including some reserved for state residents. Organizations award scholarships based on financial need and academic merit. Some scholarships support learners in a specific field or minority demographic. Learners enrolled in Pennsylvania programs can apply to the three scholarships below.

Clarkston Scholars Program

Who Can Apply: Clarkston Consulting awards this scholarship to a sophomore attending a four-year college or university in Pennsylvania. Applicants must be majoring in the life sciences. The scholarship winner also receives mentorship from Clarkston Consulting during the two-year scholarship period.
Amount: $10,000

D. Colman Witte Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports high school and college students who are enrolled in or plan to enroll in an art, architecture, or interior design program. Candidates must attend a college or university in the Philadelphia area and need a minimum 2.75 GPA. Applicants submit a portfolio that includes 10 images.
Amount: $500-$6,000 per year

Feinstein Fund for Philadelphia Scholars

Who Can Apply: High school seniors who live in Philadelphia and demonstrate financial need can apply. Applicants need a minimum 3.25 GPA and must submit high school transcripts, a college acceptance letter, and a financial aid award letter. Candidates must also provide a copy of their FAFSA report, a recommendation letter, and SAT or ACT scores.
Amount: $10,000

Best Value Colleges and Universities in Pennsylvania 2021



  1. University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded by Benjamin Franklin, Penn is a private Ivy League research university located in Philadelphia. Penn offers a variety of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. The university delivers academic programs through four undergraduate schools and 12 graduate and professional schools.

    Undergraduate students can pursue degrees in the arts and sciences, engineering and applied science, business, and nursing. Penn offers early-decision admission for first-year freshmen. Students admitted during the early-decision consideration are obligated to accept the offer of admission. Legacy applicants with university affiliations receive priority during the early-decision admission period.

    Each graduate school features a unique admissions process. Prospective graduate students should apply directly to their program of interest. Most Ph.D. programs require applicants to submit GRE scores.

    University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  2. Swarthmore College
    Location

    Swarthmore, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private liberal arts school, Swarthmore College participates in the Tri-College Consortium. This cooperative academic agreement allows students to cross-register for courses from other colleges in Pennsylvania. Swarthmore College also participates in the Quaker Consortium with the University of Pennsylvania.

    The college reports an 8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Students choose from more than 40 areas of study and can design their own major. Swarthmore College features an engineering program and offers externship, internship, and research opportunities.

    Undergraduate applicants can submit the Common Application, Coalition Application, or the Questbridge Application. Applicants must submit an essay, high school transcripts, and two teacher recommendations. The college waives the standardized test score requirement during admission cycles between 2020 and 2022.

    Swarthmore College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  3. Carnegie Mellon University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded by Andrew Carnegie, CMU is a private research university located in Pittsburgh. The university maintains seven colleges and independent schools in fields such as fine arts, engineering, and business. All of these colleges and schools offer both undergraduate and graduate programs.

    Undergraduate applicants must submit high school transcripts, an evaluation from their school counselor, a teacher recommendation, and an essay. CMU typically requires SAT or ACT scores but has made standardized test scores optional for learners applying for fall 2021 admission. Individual programs may post additional requirements.

    Graduate-level admission requirements vary by program, and each department reviews applicants independently. Students may apply to multiple programs at CMU. Most graduate and professional programs require applicants to submit standardized test scores.

    Carnegie Mellon University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  4. Lehigh University
    Location

    Bethlehem, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private research university located in Bethlehem, Lehigh offers more than 100 undergraduate programs, 87 graduate and certificate programs, and 20 interdisciplinary programs. The university reports a 9-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, with an average class size of 29 students.

    Learners can pursue degrees in fields such as business, engineering, education, and health. One of the best universities in Pennsylvania for learners with diverse interests, Lehigh offers dual-degree programs that allow students to earn two bachelor’s degrees in five years. Students can choose from interdisciplinary programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

    Undergraduate applicants must submit the Common Application or Coalition Application, short essays, a counselor recommendation, high school transcripts, a teacher recommendation, and SAT or ACT scores. Lehigh waives the standardized test score requirement for applicants planning to enroll during the 2020-21 school year.

    Lehigh University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  5. Bucknell University
    Location

    Lewisburg, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Bucknell University is a private liberal arts college located in Lewisburg. The university offers top-ranked liberal arts, engineering, and management programs. Students choose from 65 majors, and the university reports a 9-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    Bucknell University fosters positive living and learning environments, with small class sizes, collaborative residential communities, undergraduate research opportunities, and study-abroad programs. Students also take writing courses taught by professors in their field to prepare for academic and professional writing.

    Applicants can submit either the Coalition Application or the Common Application. Prospective students need a high school diploma or the equivalent. The university launched a test-optional pilot program beginning in the 2019-20 academic year. Applicants do not need to submit standardized test scores. Candidates should apply directly to the college of their choice.

    Bucknell University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  6. Haverford College
    Location

    Haverford, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private liberal arts college, Haverford College offers a variety of degree options and maintains a 9-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The school participates in the Tri-College Consortium and the Quaker Consortium. Students can cross-register at other colleges in Pennsylvania.

    Undergraduate students can choose from 31 bachelor's degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. All undergraduate students must complete a senior thesis, during which they conduct independent research in collaboration with faculty members. Through its partnerships with other institutions, Haverford College offers accelerated graduate degree options and joint master's programs.

    Haverford College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  7. Villanova University
    Location

    Villanova, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private Catholic university, Villanova offers a variety of degree and certificate programs at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Students can take courses through six colleges, in fields including engineering, business, nursing, and law. Villanova offers distance learning options at all degree levels.

    As the nation's only Augustinian Catholic university, Villanova emphasizes Augustinian values with an administration led by priests. All students take a required Augustine and culture seminar.

    First-year undergraduate applicants must submit essays, high school transcripts, counselor and teacher recommendations, and a midyear report. Optionally, applicants can submit SAT or ACT scores. Graduate applicants should apply directly to their prospective program.

    Villanova University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  8. Franklin and Marshall College
    Location

    Lancaster, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    With 175 faculty members and about 2,400 full-time students, F&M offers bachelor's degrees in several areas of study. The college fosters collaboration between students and faculty. More than half of F&M seniors conduct an independent study or design a custom major. Students can engage in research, direct or compose in the performing arts, and participate in global education experiences.

    Unlike other colleges in Pennsylvania, F&M offers a unique summer scholars program during which students work with faculty members for 10 weeks. Learners in the program create innovative projects in areas such as the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences. The summer program often culminates in coauthored publications in peer-reviewed journals.

    Applicants must submit the Common Application or Coalition Application, high school transcripts, recommendation letters from a counselor and a teacher, a midyear report, and SAT or ACT scores.

    Franklin and Marshall College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  9. Lafayette College
    Location

    Easton, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private liberal arts college, Lafayette educates students at its main campus in Easton and at a satellite campus in New York City. With some of the most diverse Pennsylvania programs, the college offers degree options in 51 areas of study, including the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

    Students declare a major by the end of their sophomore year. Learners can double major or design a custom major. Examples of self-designed majors include behavioral economics, child development and social inequality, and nanoscience. All learners complete core courses. Degree-seekers can also participate in departmental honors programs, interdisciplinary programs, tech clinics, and service-learning opportunities.

    Lafayette bases admission decisions on each applicant's previous academic performance, admission interview, leadership potential, extracurricular activities, and SAT or ACT scores. Fall 2021 applicants do not need to submit standardized test scores.

    Lafayette College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  10. Muhlenberg College
    Location

    Allentown, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private liberal arts college located in Allentown, Muhlenberg College offers 50 undergraduate and continuing studies programs in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Muhlenberg reports an 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Learners can enroll in accelerated programs, honors programs, and exchange programs. Students can also pursue double majors, independent studies, internships, and study-abroad opportunities.

    Muhlenberg delivers pre-professional programs to prepare students for legal and health careers. Graduates often become dentists, veterinarians, optometrists, and pharmacists. The college's academic partnerships allow students to earn degrees at an accelerated pace and to transfer easily into medical and law programs.

    Applicants must submit recommendations from a counselor and a teacher, a midyear report, and SAT or ACT scores. While standardized test scores are optional for general admission, applicants to academic partnership programs must submit ACT or SAT scores. Graduate-level application requirements vary by program.

    Muhlenberg College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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