2023 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

2022-2023 Public Colleges of Distinction

Published: September 1, 2022

By: Colleges of Distinction Staff

Jump to: Commonwealth University of PA – Bloomsburg | PennWest University | Slippery Rock University | University of Pittsburgh at Bradford | University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown | West Chester University of Pennsylvania | Frequently Asked Questions

Public colleges and universities are usually perceived to have larger class sizes, less attention, and less prestige than private colleges. Don’t let these labels fool you! Each institution offers a unique college experience, ranging from small liberal arts colleges to research institutions.

Rather than looking at college rankings to choose where you will study for the next four years, take a more immersive approach to your college search. Explore college campuses, sift through your top college majors, and find the college experience that you want.

Colleges of Distinction has hand-picked a selection of the best colleges in Pennsylvania that cater to students’ interests to help you with your college search. Take a look below to see our list of 2022-2023 Colleges of Distinction to help you find the right college for you.

Commonwealth University of PA – Bloomsburg

Bloomsburg, PA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Founded in 1839, Commonwealth University of PA – Bloomsburg is a public institution in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Students can immerse themselves in studies in nearly 60 undergraduate degree programs and more than 66 minors.

Acceptance rate 89%      •      Net price $18,302
Total Undergrad Population 8,427     •     Setting City: Small     •     Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 58%      •      Retention rate 77%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 20:1

Click here for available majors

PennWest University

California, PA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

PennWest California was founded in 1852 to prepare teachers for Pennsylvania’s classrooms. Today, the University has grown to a mid-size public university that offers over 100 undergraduate and more than 95 graduate programs of study in education, human services, the liberal arts, business, science, and technology. 

The University focuses on applied learning, which positions students of all ages and backgrounds for career success, whether they choose to study on campus or online. Located south of Pittsburgh, PennWest California is a proud member of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education.

Acceptance rate 94%      •     Net price $19,116      •     SAT Range 920-1120      •     Students submitting SAT scores 79%
Total Undergrad Population 6,885     •     Setting Suburb     •     Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 50%      •     Retention rate 70%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 19:1

Click here for available majors

Slippery Rock University logo

Slippery Rock University

Slippery Rock, PA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Founded in 1889, Slippery Rock University is a Carnegie Master-L, four-year, public, coeducational, comprehensive University offering a broad array of undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 8,800 students.

The University, a member of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, provides students with a superior learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with applied learning opportunities that will help them succeed in an increasingly complex world.

The focus of a Slippery Rock University education goes beyond its diplomas. Its aim is to develop people capable of making positive differences in the lives of others. SRU challenges its graduates to understand the problems of the global society and address them throughout their lives with the confidence and skills gained at the University.

Acceptance rate 74%      •      Net price $18,117      •     SAT Range 980-1150     •     Students submitting SAT scores 89%
Total Undergrad Population 8,860     •     Setting Town      •     Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 69%      •     Retention rate 83%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 21:1

Click here for available majors

University of Pittsburgh at Bradford

Bradford, PA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford is a supportive, friendly institution for students who want to earn a world-renowned degree in a personalized environment. Pitt-Bradford’s 1,500 students enjoy the close-knit campus community, which means they receive personalized attention from their professors as well as administrators and staff on campus. Since Pitt-Bradford is a regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh, students receive the University of Pittsburgh degree, which is recognized and respected all over the world.

Pitt-Bradford offers more than 40 majors and more than 50 minors and pre-professional programs, from biology, criminal justice, and psychology to nursing, accounting, and energy science and technology. Most classes are small—the average class size is 19—which enables professors to get to know their students. Students also have ample opportunities to take part in the robust campus life: Division III athletics, intramurals, and recreational activities; more than 60 student clubs and organizations; and arts and cultural events.  

There are several exciting areas on campus at which students can get cutting-edge, hands-on experience. Students who major in computer information systems and technology work on projects in their own dedicated labs, including a new virtual reality lab. Criminal justice majors investigate simulated crime scenes and collect evidence like the pros in the Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) House. Nursing students practice their techniques on computerized mannequins in a simulation lab. Students studying psychology practice their counseling techniques and observe other sessions in the psychology lab suite.

Acceptance rate 79% • Net price $15,519      •     SAT Range 950-1145     •     Students submitting SAT scores 88%
Total Undergrad Population 1,305      •     Setting Town      •      Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 44%      •     Retention rate 73%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 17:1

Click here for available majors

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

Johnstown, PA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

The first regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh system—and one of the first regional campuses of a leading university in the United States—University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown supports inquisitive minds across 70 programs of study. Its founding in 1927 sparked an impressive development in higher education, providing the world-class University of Pittsburgh education to a comfortable residential campus within the lush Laurel Highlands.

Pitt-Johnstown is proud to support its community of Mountain Cats with a curriculum that is up to date with the world’s demands. No matter the discipline, the University has continually evolved its programs to ensure that every student gets the most out of their education. This kind of responsive educational framework creates leaders who are prepared for careers in nursing, engineering, the humanities, and more.

To complement its spectacular Pitt-quality education, Pitt-Johnstown maintains more than one million square-feet of facility space with the kind technology and resources needed to support all areas of study. For example, the Nursing and Health Sciences Building is equipped with 11 laboratories and state-of-the-art nursing simulation equipment, all of which run on sustainable/green energy.

New technology has also helped give rise to the University’s new programs in computer science and chemical, civil, computer, electrical, and mechanical engineering. These ABET-accredited programs are supplied with the gadgetry needed for students to get hands-on experience.

Acceptance rate 87%      •      Net price $17,574      •      SAT Range 1010-1190     •     Students submitting SAT scores 93%
Total Undergrad Population 2,356     •     Setting Suburb      •     Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 54%      •     Retention rate 78%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 17:1

Click here for available majors

West Chester University of Pennsylvania

West Chester, PA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Located just 25 miles from Philadelphia, West Chester University of Pennsylvania (WCUPA) is a public, regional, comprehensive institution committed to providing high-quality undergraduate education as well as a vibrant on-campus community.

The Co-Curricular Portfolio is WCUPA’s way to make a meaningful record of a student’s involvement outside of the classroom. The point of the portfolio is to demonstrate that students have impactful experiences outside of their schoolwork. Résumés can only fit so much information, and so extracurricular experiences must often be excluded or abbreviated.  The portfolio allows students to showcase their experiences in clubs, sports, service, leadership, and more. This detailed scope says much more about students’ overall abilities and skillsets.

Deciding a major isn’t always easy, and many students may even need a guiding hand to see all their possible choices. Faculty members are happy to act as pre-major advisors in order to help their students select the appropriate major for them. Undecided students are given a wealth of resources in order to let them explore their choices before coming to a conclusion. Through pre-major advising, students can discover passions they never knew they had.

Acceptance rate 86%      •      Net price $19,336      •      SAT Range 1010-1180     •     Students submitting SAT scores 90%
Total Undergrad Population 17,719     •     Setting Suburb     •     Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 75%      •     Retention rate 85%           •      Student-to-faculty ratio 20:1

Click here for available majors

What it’s like to attend public schools in Pennsylvania and other FAQ:

What are average public tuition costs in Pennsylvania (in-state, out-of-state)?

The average tuition & fees for public institutions in Pennsylvania are $13,416 for in-state students and $18,065 for out-of-state students.

Cheapest public degree program in Pennsylvania

University of Pittsburgh-Bradford has an average net price of $15,519 making it the least expensive public school in Pennsylvania that made our list.

Easiest public degree program to get into in Pennsylvania

PennWest University has an acceptance rate of 94%, making it the least exclusive public college on our list.

Public Degree program with lowest student debt in Pennsylvania

PennWest University has a median total debt after graduation of $23,494. This is the typical debt for a student who completed their undergraduate degree.

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