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2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania

123 Colleges
$60,948 Avg Salary*
74% Avg 4-Year Grad Rate*

When pursuing a degree in today's world, there are many different options to choose from. At College Factual, we're committed to helping you make that decision by providing information such as that found in our Top in Pennsylvania Colleges and Universities ranking.

After analyzing 123 schools in Pennsylvania, we came up with our list of those that offered the highest quality education. Our ranking is based on over 20 objective factors, including post graduate earnings, freshman retention, and graduation rate. We steer clear of subjective measures since they don't give a clear picture when determining how one school compares to another.

See what other factors we include in our ranking methodology.

Custom Rankings

We know that one set of rankings doesn't always help you determine the best school for you, so we've created the ability to narrow your list by location and field of study as well as alternative rankings that prioritize different factors such as those of importance to veterans and returning adults or those who value diversity and value for your money.

We've created a tool called College Combat that lets you create your own customized comparisons based on the factors that matter the most to you. Test it out by comparing your favorite schools against others you are considering!

Top Colleges in Pennsylvania

Learn more about these excellent schools below:

#1

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania tops this year’s ranking as the best school in Pennsylvania for overall quality. UPenn is a large private not-for-profit school situated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It awarded 3,632 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 1.1% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1% Graduates with a bachelor’s degree from UPenn make an average of $85,900 per year during the early years of their career.

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#2

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around if you attend Swarthmore College. The school came in at #2 in Pennsylvania on this year’s overall quality ranking. Swarthmore is located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania and has a small student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 545 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

The low student loan default rate of 1.3% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1% Upon graduation, bachelor’s degree recipients go on to jobs making an average salary of $56,700 during the early years of their career..

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#3

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

You’ll be in good company if you decide to attend Carnegie Mellon University. It ranked #3 on our 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania list. Carnegie Mellon University is a fairly large private not-for-profit school located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that handed out 1,848 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 96%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree from Carnegie Mellon make an average of $83,600 per year during the early years of their career.

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#4

Lehigh University

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

You’ll be in good company if you decide to attend Lehigh University. It ranked #4 on our 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania list. Located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the medium-sized private not-for-profit school awarded 1,379 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

Students who start out at the school are likely to stick around. The freshman retention rate is 96%. During the early years of their career, graduates from Lehigh make an average of $81,900 a year.

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#5

Bucknell University

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

A rank of #5 on our Best Colleges in Pennsylvania list means Bucknell University is a great place for students working on their bachelor’s degree. This small private not-for-profit school is located in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and it awarded 1,034 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

Bachelor’s degree students at the school tend to finish their degree on-time. The 4-year graduation rate is 85%, which is impressive compared to the national rate of 33%. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree from Bucknell make an average of $70,800 per year during the early years of their career.

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#6

Haverford College

Haverford, Pennsylvania

Haverford College ranked #6 on this year’s Best Colleges in Pennsylvania list. Haverford is located in Haverford, Pennsylvania and has a small student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 343 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

The 4-year grad rate at the school is 85%. That’s impressive when you compare it to the national rate of 33%. During the early years of their career, graduates from Haverford make an average of $60,700 a year.

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#7

Lafayette College

Easton, Pennsylvania

Lafayette College landed the #7 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking. This small private not-for-profit school is located in Easton, Pennsylvania, and it awarded 804 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

Bachelor’s degree students at the school tend to finish their degree on-time. The 4-year graduation rate is 87%, which is impressive compared to the national rate of 33%. During the early years of their career, graduates from Lafayette make an average of $68,600 a year.

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#8

Franklin and Marshall College

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Franklin and Marshall College did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking, coming in at #8. This small private not-for-profit school is located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and it awarded 614 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 92%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year. Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from Franklin and Marshall go into careers with an average salary of $58,900 during the early years of their career.

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#9

Villanova University

Villanova, Pennsylvania

Villanova University ranked #9 on this year’s Best Colleges in Pennsylvania list. Villanova is located in Villanova, Pennsylvania and has a fairly large student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 2,240 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

The student loan default rate at the school is 1.4%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1% The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Villanova is $77,900 during the early years of their career.

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#10

Dickinson College

Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Dickinson College landed the #10 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking. Dickinson is a private not-for-profit institution located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The school has a small population, and it awarded 752 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

With a student-to-faculty rate of 9 to 1, it’s easy to see that the school is committed to helping their undergraduates succeed. The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson is $57,400 during the early years of their career.

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#11

Gettysburg College

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg College landed the #11 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking. This small private not-for-profit school is located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and it awarded 722 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The student-to-faculty rate of 9 to 1 is a sign that students will have more opportunities to engage with their professors one-on-one. Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg go into careers with an average salary of $56,100 during the early years of their career.

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#12

Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Bryn Mawr College came in at #12 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking. Located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the small private not-for-profit school handed out 406 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 92%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year. The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr is $54,600 during the early years of their career.

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#13

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

University Park, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University - University Park ranked #13 on this year’s Best Colleges in Pennsylvania list. Penn State University Park is a public institution located in University Park, Pennsylvania. The school has a large population, and it awarded 10,893 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 93%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year. Upon graduation, bachelor’s degree recipients go on to jobs making an average salary of $50,100 during the early years of their career..

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#14

University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh Campus

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh Campus landed the #14 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking. Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the large public school awarded 5,451 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 93%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year. Upon graduation, bachelor’s degree recipients go on to jobs making an average salary of $53,900 during the early years of their career..

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#15

University of Scranton

Scranton, Pennsylvania

With a ranking of #15, University of Scranton did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania list. Located in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the medium-sized private not-for-profit school handed out 938 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

With a freshman retention rate of 87%, the school does an excellent job of retaining its students. The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Scranton is $57,500 during the early years of their career.

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#16

Muhlenberg College

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Muhlenberg College ranked #16 on this year’s Best Colleges in Pennsylvania list.Allentown, Pennsylvania is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 733 students in 2018-2019.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 91%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year. Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from Muhlenberg go into careers with an average salary of $59,400 during the early years of their career.

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#17

Drexel University

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Drexel University landed the #17 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking. Drexel is a large private not-for-profit school situated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It awarded 3,710 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 89%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree from Drexel make an average of $68,800 per year during the early years of their career.

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#18

Washington & Jefferson College

Washington, Pennsylvania

Washington & Jefferson College did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking, coming in at #18. W&J is a private not-for-profit institution located in Washington, Pennsylvania. The school has a small population, and it awarded 382 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The student loan default rate at the school is 1.1%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1% During the early years of their career, graduates from W&J make an average of $54,500 a year.

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#19

Ursinus College

Collegeville, Pennsylvania

With a ranking of #19, Ursinus College did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania list. Ursinus is a small private not-for-profit school situated in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. It awarded 400 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 2.5%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%. During the early years of their career, graduates from Ursinus make an average of $55,200 a year.

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#20

Elizabethtown College

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania

Elizabethtown College did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking, coming in at #20. Located in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, the small private not-for-profit school handed out 527 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

With a freshman retention rate of 87%, the school does an excellent job of retaining its students. During the early years of their career, graduates from E - town make an average of $51,300 a year.

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#21

Allegheny College

Meadville, Pennsylvania

Allegheny College came in at #21 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking. Allegheny College is a small private not-for-profit school located in Meadville, Pennsylvania that handed out 452 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 3.1%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%. During the early years of their career, graduates from Allegheny make an average of $50,900 a year.

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#22

Saint Joseph's University

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Saint Joseph’s University did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking, coming in at #22. Saint Joseph’s University is a medium-sized private not-for-profit school located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that handed out 1,311 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

With a freshman retention rate of 91%, the school does an excellent job of retaining its students. During the early years of their career, graduates from St. Joe’s make an average of $59,600 a year.

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#23

Messiah University

Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Messiah University did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking, coming in at #23. Located in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, the small private not-for-profit school handed out 636 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

With a freshman retention rate of 88%, the school does an excellent job of retaining its students. Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from Messiah go into careers with an average salary of $45,100 during the early years of their career.

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#24

Duquesne University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Duquesne University landed the #24 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking. Duquesne is a medium-sized private not-for-profit school situated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It awarded 1,487 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 2.8% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1% The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Duquesne is $58,500 during the early years of their career.

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#25

Lebanon Valley College

Annville, Pennsylvania

Lebanon Valley College landed the #25 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania ranking. This small private not-for-profit school is located in Annville, Pennsylvania, and it awarded 434 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 1.7%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%. During the early years of their career, graduates from LVC make an average of $45,800 a year.

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Notes and References

Footnotes

*These averages are for the top 25 schools only.

References

  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) serves as the core of our data about colleges.
  • Some other college data, including much of the graduate earnings data, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s (College Scorecard).
  • Information about the national average student loan default rate is from the U.S. Department of Education and refers to data about the 2016 borrower cohort tracking period for which the cohort default rate (CDR) was 10.1%.

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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