2023 Best Undergraduate Nursing Schools in Pennsylvania

2022-2023 Nursing Colleges of Distinction

Published: September 1, 2022

By: Colleges of Distinction Staff

Jump to: Alvernia University | Carlow University | Commonwealth University of PA – Bloomsburg | DeSales University | Gwynedd Mercy University | Mercyhurst University | Messiah University | Mount Aloysius College | Neumann University | Saint Francis University | Slippery Rock University | University of Pittsburgh at Bradford | Villanova University | Waynesburg University | West Chester University of Pennsylvania | Westminster College | Widener University | York College of Pennsylvania | Frequently Asked Questions

The path to becoming a nurse is undoubtedly a long and arduous process that requires hard work and dedication. With a shortage in capable and compassionate nurses, it is becoming increasingly important that nursing programs are well rounded, highly accredited, and focused on student success. Colleges of Distinction is proud to recognize schools with these very programs, ones that fully support future nurses along (and beyond!) their undergraduate journey. These institutions, already highly regarded for their commitment to the Four Distinctions, go the extra mile with their cutting-edge nursing degrees.

Our Pennsylvania top colleges for nursing offer students an exciting place to learn and thrive, as proven by the following:

Stability and excellence as core tenets of these nursing programs. Not only have these programs been awarding degrees for more than 10 years, but faculty are continually recognized for their impressive experience and research.

Validation from the ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing) and/or CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) for their commitment to quality and student success.

Practical experiences that provide ample opportunities for students to apply their knowledge to the real world through internships, mentorship programs, and volunteer opportunities.

High mastery rates in such standardized exams as the NCLEX and HESI A2.

Dedicated advising and counseling available specifically for nursing students.

Liberal arts exposure to make students culturally competent, well-rounded individuals with superior critical thinking and leadership skills.

High-impact practices embedded into the curriculum.

Industry connections cultivated by faculty and staff to help students build their network and find meaningful work.

Alvernia University

Reading, PA ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Alvernia offers a unique blend of rigorous liberal arts core education for development of the mind, strong technical training in many high demand majors, experiential learning through study abroad and internship experiences, and engagement with the community through a Franciscan-based community service model. The university calls this model of transformational education the Alvernia Advantage, a style of education that transforms students into ethical leaders with moral courage.

Alvernia has a longstanding commitment to helping students develop their innate talents, discover their passions, and lead successful lives with deep meaning and purpose. Through experiential learning, students graduate well prepared for success in the workplace. The Alvernia Advantage results in a superior track record of career placements and quality graduate school opportunities, with 95% of students either employed or enrolled in a graduate program within six months of graduation.

Acceptance rate 70%      •      Net price $27,129
Total Undergrad Population 2,560     •     Setting City: Small     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 61%      •      Retention rate 71%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

Click here for available majors

Carlow University logo

Carlow University

Pittsburgh, PA ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Carlow emphasizes a well-rounded liberal arts education with a solid foundation in ethics and social justice. Its students carry with them the values that have defined Carlow University for nearly a hundred years. They go on to do good—and do well—in their chosen professions. According to a recent career outcomes report, 97 percent of Carlow alumni were employed or continuing their studies at Carlow or other universities within six months of graduation.

Carlow’s dedication to social justice and service to the community began long before “social justice” became a buzz phrase. Founded in 1929 by the Sisters of Mercy, Carlow’s students and faculty have been at the forefront of such issues as environmental protection, women’s empowerment and education, and racial equality, having participated in different activist events like the Civil Rights marches in Selma.

Acceptance rate 94% • Net price $21,212      •      SAT Range 980-1140      •      Students submitting SAT scores 92%
Total Undergrad Population 1,976      •     Setting City: Large     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 58%      •      Retention rate 85%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 10:1

Click here for available majors

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

DeSales University, a Catholic school in Center Valley, PA

DeSales University

Center Valley, PA ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

DeSales energizes transformative learning through the liberal arts and professional studies as it introduces students to various ways of thinking and communicating, discipline-specific knowledge, and critical inquiry in fields complementing and reinforcing study in their selected majors.

Beginning in the summer before their first semester, each first-year student is assigned an upperclassman mentor who will support them on Opening Day. These mentors meet with students on a weekly basis to check in and build a strong community of support. 

All first-year students join their mentors in a service project so that they may understand the importance of community engagement at DeSales. After their first semester at DeSales University, the first-year students can apply to become mentors for the new incoming class, allowing them to impart their knowledge and wisdom on the new students and keep the program fresh and exciting, year after year.

Acceptance rate 82%      •      Net price $29,836      •      SAT Range 1010-1240     •     Students submitting SAT scores 81%
Total Undergrad Population 3,302     •     Setting Rural     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 65%      •      Retention rate 81%           •     Student-to-faculty ratio 12:1

Click here for available majors

Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Valley, PA ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

As one of 16 Sisters of Mercy colleges and universities in the United States, GMercyU is shaped by its Catholic identity and Mercy heritage. It’s a place where values are valued, open dialogue is encouraged, and service is expected. Focusing on educating the whole person—intellectually, spiritually, socially, and morally—GMercyU offers professional education grounded in the liberal arts, so students are prepared to do more than just do. Distinctive Mercy Graduates are prepared to think critically, communicate clearly, and live productive and meaningful lives.

With a campus community that is small but big hearted, GMercyU students find a warm and inclusive community in which to learn, grow, and succeed.

Acceptance rate 88%      •     Net price $25,219      •      SAT Range 950-1140      •      Students submitting SAT scores 90%
Total Undergrad Population 2,737     •     Setting Suburb     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 61%      •      Retention rate 78%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 11:1

Click here for available majors

Mercyhurst University

Erie, PA ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Mercyhurst University, founded in 1926 by the Sisters of Mercy, is a fully accredited, four-year, Catholic comprehensive institution for men and women in Erie, Pennsylvania. The university offers more than 60 undergraduate majors, nine graduate programs, and a variety of post-baccalaureate and advanced certificates.

Mercyhurst’s motto—Carpe Diem, Latin for “Seize the Day”—is at the heart of everything the university does. At Mercyhurst, students find a community that celebrates experiences both inside and outside the classroom, experiences that challenge them to write more, practice harder, dig deeper, and see the world from an unconventional perspective. College isn’t about reveling in what you’ve done in the past; it’s about uncovering who you are and who you want to become.

Acceptance rate 88%      •     Net price $26,942
Total Undergrad Population 2,790     •     Setting City: Small • Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 70%      •      Retention rate 80%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 15:1

Click here for available majors

Messiah College is now Messiah University logo

Messiah University

Mechanicsburg, PA ‧ Christian ‧ 4-year

Messiah University is nationally recognized for bringing together top-tier academics and Christian faith. The University’s motto, “Christ Preeminent,” shapes every experience its students have at school. Lifelong friendships. Support from faculty mentors. Outstanding preparation for life and career. Championship athletics. Celebrated arts programs. Transformational service and ministry. Eye-opening study abroad. At Messiah, one’s life, faith, world, and possibilities open up. Students come to see anew.

Messiah University is a liberal arts and applied sciences University founded in 1909 by the Brethren in Christ Church. Though it is no longer legally owned by the Brethren in Christ Church, the University continues to emphasize its Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan theological heritage. Now the University’s faith base is broadly evangelical and includes students and employees from a variety of denominations and Christian faith traditions.

Acceptance rate 78%      •      Net price $27,641      •     SAT Range 1080-1310     •     Students submitting SAT scores 92%
Total Undergrad Population 3,370     •     Setting Suburb     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 79%      •      Retention rate 86%      •     Student-to-faculty ratio 13:1

Click here for available majors

Mount Aloysius College logo

Mount Aloysius College

Cresson, PA ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Established in 1853, Mount Aloysius is a liberal arts and science-based institution with a commitment to career-directed study. Rooted in Catholic tradition, Mount Aloysius is one of the nation’s 17 Mercy-sponsored colleges. MAC began as an Academy and has since evolved into a comprehensive college that provides undergraduate and graduate education.

Recreational opportunities include cross-country skiing, mountain biking, and intramural sports. On campus, a traditional, multi-day competition called the “Mini-Olympics” involves seasoned athletes and bookworms alike.

The practical career assistance at Mount Aloysius prepares students for real-world careers in their fields of study. MAC goes beyond the classroom to help students gain practical experience. The career services department offers résumé-building assistance, mock interview opportunities, career workshops, job fairs, and referrals to prospective employers.

Acceptance rate 95%      •      Net price $22,082
Total Undergrad Population 2,806      •      Setting Town      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 40%      •      Retention rate 76%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 11:1

Click here for available majors

Neumann University, a Franciscan Catholic university in Aston, Pennsylvania

Neumann University

Aston, PA ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Founded in 1965, Neumann University is a private, Catholic institution in the Franciscan tradition. With an emphasis on respect for individuals, concern for the environment, and social responsibility, Neumann excels throughout its bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs as well as its numerous student activities and 24 Division III sports teams.

Neumann is a small school full of big opportunities. In addition to the traditional liberal arts degrees, students can tap into such in-demand fields as Cybersecurity, Data Science and Analytics, Nursing, and the Health Sciences. Regardless of major, every student gets professional experience through real-world, hands-on internships, clinical placements, or student-teaching practice. The location, suburban Philadelphia, provides ample opportunities for jobs and internships and is in close proximity to New York City and Washington, D.C.

Acceptance rate 80%      •      Net price $29,471      •      SAT Range 900-1080     •     Students submitting SAT scores 87%
Total Undergrad Population 2,506     •     Setting Suburb     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 51%      •      Retention rate 77%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

Click here for available majors

Saint Francis University logo

Saint Francis University

Loretto, PA ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Saint Francis University offers academic study within the Franciscan tradition of using one’s talents to serve others. The more than 60 offerings include highly targeted, career-focused majors grounded in the liberal arts tradition of inquiry and self-discovery. Highly regarded programs in health science, education, business, and science attract a diverse student body to the beautiful campus setting.

The values of respect, faith, generosity, and joy run deep in the University culture and help to prepare ethical, knowledgeable professionals with a passion to shape the world. This holistic approach to career preparation is supported by respected faculty who work closely with students in small settings to meet individual goals.

Simulation labs, Esports, SCUBA diving, Aviation, experiential learning, two public museums, Canine Learning and Behavior class, and a snow tubing park are some of the opportunities unique to Saint Francis University. Students enhance their academic and campus experiences with programs that fit their personalities.

Acceptance rate 59%      •      Net price $29,393      •      SAT Range 1010-1220     •     Students submitting SAT scores 89%
Total Undergrad Population 2,769     •     Setting Town     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 63%      •      Retention rate 96%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

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

Villanova University Logo

Villanova University

Villanova, PA ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Villanova University was founded in 1842 by the Order of St. Augustine. To this day, Villanova’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition is the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University’s six colleges.

The Falvey Scholars program awards superior work in undergraduate research. Each year, a group of students is nominated for their exceptional work. A committee then selects the recipients from the group of nominated students. Awards are given in five areas: Arts, Sciences, Engineering, Nursing, and Business. Selected students are given the opportunity to share their findings with the campus community.

The Match Research Program gives bright, highly motivated freshman the opportunity to participate in research during their spring semester. Selected students work as assistants to faculty that are conducting research. Students work 10 hours a week for 10 weeks, and receive a stipend of $1000. This is an incredible opportunity for students interested in research. Not only does the program provide a solid introduction to practices and methodologies, but students have the chance to learn directly from experienced faculty.

Acceptance rate 31%      •      Net price $38,303      •      SAT Range 1320-1460     •     Students submitting SAT scores 60%
Total Undergrad Population 11,032     •     Setting Suburb     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 92%      •     Retention rate 96%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 11:1

Click here for available majors

Waynesburg University

Waynesburg, PA ‧ Christian ‧ 4-year

Waynesburg offers more than 70 major concentrations and five integrated bachelors-to-masters programs in athletic training, business, counseling, criminal investigation, and education. The University also offers graduate programs, with some available 100 percent online. The University’s top academic programs include business, communication, criminal justice, education, forensic science, and nursing.

What makes Waynesburg truly special, though, is that its academics are not just about class. They’re the foundation for a culture of growth, championed through academic excellence and personalized guidance that nurtures mind, spirit, and future. Waynesburg programs accelerate student growth through hands-on learning, research, internships, leadership work, service trips, and career planning.

Waynesburg University offers a unique International Studies minor option, employing many opportunities for students to gain a global education. One such example is the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership, which provides scholarships to students who have never left the United States to study abroad for a summer. Waynesburg is one of only 13 higher education institutions in the country to participate in the program. Students can also partake in Faith Learning and Service Immersion Trips, which extend beyond domestic borders to places such as Nassau, Bonaire, Montego Bay, Patzun, Juana Diaz, Taipei, Belize, and the Dominican Republic.

Acceptance rate 90%      •      Net price $20,029 •      SAT Range 980-1170     •      Students submitting SAT scores 76%
Total Undergrad Population 1,576     •     Setting Town      •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 65%     •      Retention rate 79%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 11:1

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

Westminster College

New Wilmington, PA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Nestled within the charming town of New Wilmington, just one hour north of Pittsburgh, the Westminster College community studies hard, priding itself in strong academics, outstanding faculty, and individualized attention with an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It expands horizons with opportunities to study abroad and make connections with a strong alumni base. It encourages participation, sponsoring 22 varsity sports, 18 honor societies, and more than 80 clubs. It’s a platform for spiritual freedom, providing the independence for students to think and participate in what’s most important to them. It’s a place to call home to nearly 1,200 students each year.

Students quickly realize that the residence hall is so much more than a place to lay their head at the end of the day. It’s also somewhere to make memories and build strong, new friendships. That’s the College’s primary focus is on making every minute feel like home from the moment students step foot on campus.

Because Westminster College has a 4-year housing requirement, it is the mission of the staff to offer a dynamic approach to living that contributes to the development and education of all students. By living on campus, students feel the foundation of safety and comfort so that they’re able to explore new ideas, relate to others with respect and compassion, discover who they are, and solve problems autonomously.

Acceptance rate 77%      •      Net price $21,101
Total Undergrad Population 1,228     •     Setting Town     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 71%      •      Retention rate 80%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 11:1

Click here for available majors

widener university logo

Widener University

Chester, PA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Widener University is a private college in Chester, Pennsylvania. Join The Pride and take part of the Widener Advantage-a close knit community of students and faculty with a range of diverse programs to choose from.

Acceptance rate 75%      •     Net price $32,695     •     SAT Range 1035-1210     •     Students submitting SAT scores 92%
Total Undergrad Population 2,912     •     Setting Suburb     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 65%     •      Retention rate 81%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 13:1

Click here for available majors

Read more about Widener’s nursing program

York College in York, PA

York College of Pennsylvania

York, PA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Students come to York College of Pennsylvania because they want to take action. They want internships and paid cooperative learning. They want to conduct research with faculty and meet with their professors one-on-one. They want to get engaged right away, joining the school’s award-winning radio station or entering in the Elevator Pitch Competition. And, most of all, they want to pay half of what other top private colleges are asking without sacrificing a solid education. From day one, York College does all that and more.

York College has the academic focus that students want and employers need throughout more than 60 majors, including such new degrees as Integrated Marketing Communications, Cybersecurity Management, Public History, and Civil Engineering. Plus, with everything from a rock climbing wall to huge concerts on a campus that pulses with activity, there’s always something to do with friends old and new on the 4,000-student campus.

Acceptance rate 71%      •     Net price $22,876      •      SAT Range 990-1190     •     Students submitting SAT scores 92%
Total Undergrad Population 4,039     •     Setting Suburb     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 65%      •     Retention rate 77%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

Click here for available majors

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

What are average tuition costs in Pennsylvania?

The average tuition & fees of Pennsylvania colleges is $11,694 for Pennsylvania residents and $18,884 for students from other States.

Cheapest nursing degree program in Pennsylvania

University of Pittsburgh at Bradford has an average net price of $15,519 making it the least expensive business degree program in Pennsylvania that made our list.

Easiest nursing degree program to get into in Pennsylvania

Mount Aloysius College has an acceptance rate of 95%, making it the least exclusive college with a nursing program on our list.

Nursing degree program with lowest student debt in Pennsylvania

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown has a median total debt after graduation of $24,550. This is the typical debt for a student who completed their undergraduate degree.

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