15 Top Hidden Gem Colleges in Pennsylvania


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Hidden Gem Colleges PA

Hidden Gem Colleges in Pennsylvania are some of the state’s best smaller colleges and universities. They offer quality education and also online programs. Pennsylvania is an education-rich state with many public colleges and universities that provide a good education with affordable tuition. Students can choose from schools in rural to urban settings in major cities.

Higher education in Pennsylvania has a long history. Pennsylvania is home to some of the nation’s most prestigious large research universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, and Lehigh University. However, there are also a number of small liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania. And it is also home to several excellent state universities, such as Penn State, Temple University, and the University of Pittsburgh. This list focuses on midsize colleges and smaller accredited online colleges in Pennsylvania that also have traditional campus-based programs. So, our list consists of small public colleges and private colleges in PA.

How We Ranked the Hidden Gem Colleges in Pennsylvania

The editors at Online Schools Guide found smaller schools in Pennsylvania with an excellent academic reputation that offer online degree programs. Then, we ranked the colleges based on the cost of attendance and the number of online offerings.

1. Clarks Summit University

Clarks Summit University

Clarks Summit University, formerly Baptist Bible College and Seminary, is a private Christian university in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. It is affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship International. The university offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in ministry, business, biblical studies, education, and also counseling.

CSU strongly emphasizes spiritual development and is committed to helping its students grow spiritually and become mature and effective Christian leaders. The university also offers various student organizations, campus ministries, and sports teams.

In addition to the school’s traditional degree programs, Clarks Summit offers a variety of online degrees. Students can choose from six associate degrees, 12 bachelor’s degree majors and 12 minors, seven master’s degrees, and also three doctoral degrees. All of these degrees are completely online and provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in their chosen fields. The university also has various student resources and services available to help online students succeed.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

Location: Clarks Summit, PA

Online programs: 40

Website: Clarks Summit University

2. Cairn University

Cairn University

Cairn is a private Christian university in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1913 as the Bible Institute of Philadelphia. Committed to global outreach and service, Cairn offers many opportunities for students to engage in missions and volunteer work. The university also provides a variety of career services, such as job placement assistance and networking opportunities.

Traditional students can choose from over sixty undergraduate and graduate degree programs in various fields. Popular paths include business, theology, English, education, and also music. In addition to the campus-based programs, the school offers a variety of online degrees. These include six associate degrees, nine bachelor’s, seven master’s, two graduate certificates, and five dual degree programs. Students can take classes in a flexible, asynchronous format that allows them to complete their coursework at their own pace. The university also offers various student services to support academic success, such as advising, library resources, and career services.

Accreditation: MSCHE

Location: Langhorne, PA

Online programs: 29

Website: Cairn University

3. Saint Vincent College

Saint Vincent College

Saint Vincent College is a private, Catholic, Liberal Arts college near the Pennsylvania town of Latrobe. Established in 1846 by Archabbot Boniface Wimmer and sponsored by the Benedictine monks, SVC is one of the oldest Catholic colleges in the United States. It offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in various fields and disciplines. The college is also home to the Saint Vincent Seminary, a four-year graduate school of theology. The college’s library houses a notable collection of rare books and manuscripts, and the campus also features a museum dedicated to the history of the Benedictines and the history of the college.

Additionally, Saint Vincent College offers a variety of online programs, from certificates to doctoral degrees. Students can earn bachelor’s degrees in Business, Education, and Psychology. Graduate offerings include master’s programs in Special Education, Management, Criminology, and more. And doctoral degrees are available in various fields. All the online programs at Saint Vincent College are accredited and designed to prepare students for success in their chosen fields.

Accreditation: MSCHE

Location: Latrobe, PA

Online programs: 20

Website: Saint Vincent College

4. Albright College

Albright College

Albright College is a private liberal arts college in Reading, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1856, it is the state’s oldest college in continuous operation. It was named after the Pennsylvania minister Jacob Albright. The school enrolls over 1,750 full-time undergraduates and 800 part-time students annually and offers several prestigious honors programs. Albright also offers a variety of student activities, clubs, and organizations. Its athletics program is a member of the Middle Atlantic Conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Albright offers over 40 majors and minors in the arts, sciences, and professional fields for traditional students. In addition, the college offers a variety of online degree programs designed to meet the needs of today’s students. Their programs are flexible, affordable, and designed to fit the needs of busy adults. Online programs at Albright include five undergraduate and four graduate accelerated degrees. These programs are taught by experienced faculty who provide personalized guidance and support. All faculty members are committed to delivering quality education to online learning students.

In addition to online degrees, Albright College also offers a handful of online certificates in Digital Marketing, Addiction Studies, and Music Production. These programs enhance existing career skills and help students gain new knowledge and skills. Albright Resources for online students include library access, tutoring, and career services. They also provide technical support and access to various online tools and resources.

Accreditation: MSCHE

Location: Reading City, PA

Online programs: 12

Website: Albright College

5. Geneva College

Geneva is a small Christian college in the Pennsylvania city of Beaver Falls. Founded in 1848, it has affiliations with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. The college provides students with a comprehensive education grounded in the liberal arts, sciences, and professional studies. And it offers over 80 majors, minors, and certificate programs. Geneva College also offers a number of extracurricular activities, including student clubs, intramural sports, and music and theatre performances. The college also emphasizes spiritual development, with a chapel program, community service opportunities, and student organizations dedicated to Christian service.

In addition to its traditional programs, Geneva College offers a variety of online degree programs to meet the needs of students from all walks of life. Students can earn an online associate degree in General Studies. Additionally, there are four Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) options.

  • Child and Family Services BPS
  • BPS Human Resources
  • Management BPS
  • BPS Organizational Leadership

The college’s online programs feature convenient and flexible coursework with the same quality instruction provided on campus. Additionally, online students can use student services, such as career counseling, academic advising, and library access, to help them reach their educational goals.

Accreditation: MSCHE

Location: Beaver Falls, PA

Online programs: 5

Website: Geneva College

6. Wilson College

Wilson College

Wilson College is a private liberal arts college in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1869, it is one of the oldest colleges in the United States. This school provides students with a strong liberal arts education and prepares them for successful professional and personal lives after graduation.

Wilson offers a variety of degree programs, including Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, history, art, theater, and music, as well as Bachelor of Science degrees in business, psychology, computer science, and mathematics. The college also offers a Master of Arts in Education and a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts.

In addition to the campus programs, Wilson offers a variety of online degrees. These programs give students the flexibility they need to complete their degrees while still managing their work, family, and other commitments. Online offerings include nine undergraduate and six graduate programs in a range of disciplines. These include business, education, health sciences, psychology, and public administration. Faculty members who teach on-campus classes also teach online classes. So students have the same quality instruction. Additionally, the college provides students access to various online student services and tools to help them succeed.

Accreditation: MSCHE and a Council of Independent Colleges member.

Location: Chambersburg, PA

Online programs: 15

Website: Wilson College

7. Waynesburg University

Waynesburg University is a private university in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1849 and has affiliations with the Presbyterian Church. Students are encouraged to pursue their passions through a liberal arts and sciences curriculum. The university offers a variety of extracurricular activities, student organizations, and clubs. Waynesburg University also has a strong focus on service and community engagement.

The university offers over 70 undergraduate and graduate programs, including pre-professional, professional, and doctoral programs. In addition, Waynesburg offers online degrees in a variety of fields. These degrees are designed to meet the needs of adult learners and working professionals who want to pursue their education while managing their work and family responsibilities.

Online Degrees:

Undergraduate offerings include two online BA in Administration degree completion options and two online general associate degrees (AA or AS). It is also among the best online colleges in PA for nursing, with an online RN to BSN. Additionally, there are six graduate degrees students can earn online.

  • Master of Arts in Criminal Investigation (MACI)
  • MAT – Master of Arts in Teaching with Secondary Certification
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  • MEd – Master of Education
  • Master of Arts in Counseling
  • MBA

Students enrolled in an online program benefit from the same quality education and support that on-campus students receive. Online students can connect with faculty and fellow students through various online tools and resources, access online library resources, and benefit from flexible course scheduling.

Accreditation: MSCHE

Location: Waynesburg, PA

Online programs: 11

Website: Waynesburg University

8. University of Valley Forge

University of Valley Forge

The University of Valley Forge is a Christian university in the Pennsylvania town of Phoenixville. Founded in 1939, the interdenominational institution offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in ministry, business, counseling, education, and other fields. The university is committed to providing an education that integrates Biblical truth, academic excellence, and personal transformation.

Valley Forge students can pursue two online undergraduate degrees. Students can choose either a BS in Psychology or a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA). In addition, there are six online graduate offerings. This includes an MEd program that makes it among the best online colleges in PA for early childhood education.

  • MBA
  • Master of Music in Music Technology
  • MA in Christian Leadership
  • Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction
  • MEd in English as a Second Language certification
  • Master of Education with Pennsylvania – PreK-4 Teaching Certification

With a student body of over 1,500, Valley Forge is a vibrant, diverse community that offers students a variety of ways to engage in their education. The university also offers many student activities, athletic programs, and service opportunities.

Accreditation: MSCHE

Location: Phoenixville, PA

Online programs: 8

Website: University of Valley Forge

9. Rosemont College 

Rosemont College is a private, coeducational college located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Founded in 1921 by the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, the college offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificate programs. The college is organized into three schools the School of Arts and Sciences, Graduate and Professional Studies, and Life Long Learning. The online programs at Rosemont include eight undergrad and six graduate degree options.

Online Undergraduate Programs:
  • AS Business Administration
  • AS Criminal Justice
  • BA Applied Psychology
  • BS Global Cybersecurity
  • BA Integrated Studies
  • BS Business Administration
  • BA Writing Studies
  • BS Criminal Justice
Online Graduate Programs:
  • MA in Homeland Security & Emergency Management
  • MBA with five specializations
  • MS in Strategic Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Publishing
  • MS in Global Cybersecurity
  • Healthcare Administration MS

Additionally, Rosemont College strongly focuses on integrated learning, including internships, service learning, study abroad, and research. The college also emphasizes a commitment to social justice and the environment. Rosemont is known for its vibrant student life and active campus community, with over 70 student organizations and clubs. In addition, the college has a strong athletic program with men’s and women’s sports teams.

Accreditation: MSCHE

Location: Lower Marion, PA

Online programs: 14

Website: Rosemont College

10. Cedar Crest College

Cedar Crest College

Cedar Crest College is a private four-year liberal arts college in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1867, Cedar Crest College is the oldest women’s college in the United States. It offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degrees, including bachelor’s degrees in over 30 areas of study and master’s degrees in nursing, business, and education. Additionally, Cedar Crest offers online degrees and certificates.

Online Graduate Programs:
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Human Resource Management Certificate
  • Management Information Systems Certificate
  • Health Care Management Certificate
  • Strategic Leadership Certificate

Cedar Crest College provides quality education to its students and is committed to diversity, inclusivity, and personal growth. Student services include academic advising, career services, and student organizations. It is one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation and has earned numerous accolades for its commitment to excellence in education.

Accreditation: MSCHE

Location: Allentown, PA

Online programs: 5

website: Cedar Crest College

11. Grove City College

Grove City College

Grove City College is a private Christian liberal arts college in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1876 and affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, it is one of the oldest colleges in the United States.

The college emphasizes academic programs committed to a core curriculum of liberal arts. Core values include a commitment to free enterprise, traditional values, and spiritual growth. The college also provides a variety of extracurricular activities, including music, theatre, intramural sports, and more.

Grove City College offers over 80 majors and minors and prepares students for professional life and responsible citizenship. In addition to traditional programs, the school now offers three online master’s degrees.

  • Master of Science in Accounting
  • MBA – business master’s
  • Master of Science in Business Analytics

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

Location: Grove City, PA

Online programs: 3

Website: Grove City College

12. Westminster College

Westminster College is a private liberal arts college in Fulton, Missouri, in the United States. It was founded in 1851 as Fulton College and adopted its current name in 1929. Westminster College enrolls approximately 1,000 students from more than 35 countries. It has a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, with an average class size of 17. The college offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 30 areas, including business, education, the humanities, the sciences, and the social sciences. In addition to traditional programs, the school offers an online RN to BSN.

A variety of pre-professional programs and master’s degrees in counseling and education at Westminster offer degree programs for graduate students. The college was ranked #1 in the nation for its undergraduate teaching program by US News & World Report. Westminster also strongly commits to civic engagement and service, with students participating in service-learning courses, internships, and volunteer opportunities.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

Location: New Wilmington, Pennsylvania

Online programs: 1

Website: Westminster College

13. Elizabethtown College

Elizabethtown College

Elizabethtown College is a nationally ranked private college in a small Pennsylvania town. It is affiliated with the Church of the Brethren and provides an education grounded in the liberal arts, shaped by strong professional and pre-professional programs, and enriched by co-curricular and service opportunities. The college offers a variety of undergraduate majors and minors, as well as master’s and doctoral degrees. In addition to traditional programs, the school offers five online bachelor’s degrees.

Online Bachelor of Science Degrees:
  • Accounting
  • Business Administration
  • Health Care Administration
  • Human Services (Generalist or Behavioral Addictions Counseling)
  • RN to BSN

Through its academic programs, the college seeks to develop in its students the knowledge, skills, and values that will enable them to lead productive and meaningful lives. The college also strongly emphasizes global education, with many students studying abroad. Elizabethtown College is committed to providing an atmosphere of mutual respect and community spirit. It is also dedicated to promoting a commitment to lifelong learning, ethical and spiritual values, and service to others.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

Location: Elizabethtown, PA

Online programs: 5

Website: Elizabethtown College

14. Alvernia University

Alvernia University

Alvernia University is a private Franciscan university located in Reading, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1958 as Alvernia College, a four-year college for women. In 2008, the school became co-educational and changed its name to Alvernia University. It offers over 50 undergraduate majors and master’s degrees in business, education, nursing, and occupational therapy.

The university has been recognized for its commitment to diversity and community engagement. Alvernia is a Catholic institution whose mission is to educate students to become ethical leaders with moral courage in service to others. Alvernia University offers a variety of online degree programs for students to pursue. These degrees are offered at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels.

Online Undergraduate Degrees:
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Communication
  • BA in Addictions and Mental Health Treatment
  • Criminal Justice BA
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Healthcare Administration
  • BS in Business Management
  • Healthcare Science BS
  • BS in Psychology
  • RN to BSN Completion Program
Online Graduate Degrees:
  • MBA
  • MEd with Special Education Certification
  • Special Education Certification
  • MEd with Special Education Emphasis

The online programs are designed to allow students to complete their degrees from anywhere and at their own pace. Popular online degree programs include business, accounting, criminal justice, healthcare administration, and nursing. These programs are taught by experienced faculty and provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their field. Alvernia University also offers financial aid and academic support services to help students succeed.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

Location: Reading, PA

Online programs: 12

Website: Alvernia University

15. Gettysburg College

Gettysburg College

Gettysburg College offers a variety of online degree programs that are designed to meet the needs of working adults. These include undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of business, education, and health sciences. Students can take advantage of Gettysburg’s flexible learning environment, allowing them to study when and where it is convenient. Each program is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their chosen field. The faculty is also committed to providing students with the support they need to be successful in their online coursework.

Gettysburg College is a private liberal arts college in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1832 and is the oldest college in Pennsylvania. The college is best known for its Civil War history, and the Battle of Gettysburg, fought on the college campus in 1863. This school offers over 40 majors and minors, including various interdisciplinary programs. Students can also participate in various student organizations and activities, including a student-run radio station, a student-run newspaper, and other clubs and organizations.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

Location: Gettysburg, PA

Online programs: 15

Website: Gettysburg College

Hidden Gems Colleges PA

What is a Hidden Gem College in Pennsylvania?

A Hidden Gem in Pennsylvania is a college or smaller university with a smaller student body. Many of these schools are private religious schools. However, small liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania and smaller state schools also fit this category.

State universities offer a wide range of academic programs, from undergraduate to doctoral degrees, and may be more affordable than their private counterparts. In addition to traditional higher education institutions, Pennsylvania also has many community colleges and technical schools. These schools offer degree and certification programs in various fields, including the trades, health sciences, technology, business, and more.

However, our Hidden Gem Colleges are some of the best online colleges in Pennsylvania. These schools transfer the benefits of a smaller school to their online offering. So students have smaller classes with a lower student-to-faculty ratio. And many schools provide access to academic resources for online students equal to traditional students. Additionally, they are accessible to students of all backgrounds and offer flexible scheduling to accommodate working students. And other useful comparison tools for your college search are a school’s acceptance rate, retention rate, and also graduation rate.

Best Small Colleges in Pennsylvania with Traditional Programs

For students who do not need an online option, there are many other schools small liberal arts schools with on-campus degree programs.

  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Swarthmore College
  • Lafayette College
  • Allegheny College
  • Eastern University
  • Jefferson College
  • Haverford College
  • Dickinson College
  • Juniata College
  • Lycoming College
  • Muhlenberg College

What are the Benefits of Attending a Small College or University in Pennsylvania?

Attending a small school in Pennsylvania offers a variety of benefits. Smaller class sizes mean more individual attention and support from faculty, while the close-knit community atmosphere can foster lasting connections with classmates.

Pennsylvania also has a wealth of cultural attractions and historical sites to explore. Students who attend universities located near Philadelphia or Pittsburg can experience city life on the weekends. And the state boasts some of the most competitive universities in the nation. So, as a bonus, the cost of tuition is often lower at smaller schools, saving students money in the long run.

Why Do Students Attend Small Colleges or Hidden Gem Colleges in Pennsylvania?

There are several reasons why students may choose to attend a small college or hidden gem in Pennsylvania. Many small colleges provide a more personalized learning experience. Smaller class sizes allow for more one-on-one interactions with professors and a more intimate learning environment.

Additionally, smaller colleges may offer a greater sense of community and belonging since fewer students attend. Another reason students may choose to attend a small college or hidden gem in Pennsylvania is access to unique programs and resources. Smaller institutions are often nimble enough to respond quickly to changes in the job market or student interests. Students can take advantage of new and innovative programs and courses.

Finally, small hidden gem colleges in Pennsylvania may also provide a more affordable option for students. These institutions may offer lower tuition rates, fewer fees, and more need based scholarships and financial aid opportunities than large universities.

Are Hidden Gem Colleges in Pennsylvania More Expensive?

The cost of attending small colleges in Pennsylvania may vary depending on the school. Some smaller schools are more expensive due to their higher tuition rates or because they offer more specialized or unique programs. Additionally, some of these schools may offer additional services or amenities that may add to the cost.

However, it is best to research the school you are interested in to determine the actual cost of attending. Private schools offer many types of financial aid and scholarships that applicants may not understand until they have a financial evaluation. So, many of these schools end up costing about the same as larger institutions after a final financial aid evaluation. And, these hidden gem colleges can be some of the most affordable online colleges in Pennsylvania.

Are Smaller Colleges Better than Large Ones?

The answer to this question depends on the individual needs and preferences of the student. Each college has advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between a small college and a large one should depend on which offers the best fit for the student.

Smaller colleges often have a more intimate setting and individualized attention, which can benefit some students. On the other hand, larger colleges may offer more resources and more diverse opportunities. Ultimately, choosing between a small college and a large one should depend on what best meets the student’s academic and personal needs.

Are Online Colleges Worth It?

Individual needs and circumstances are the most important factors that determine if an online program is right for you. Online colleges in Pennsylvania offer a number of advantages, such as flexibility, convenience, and cost savings. However, not all online colleges are created equal. So do your research to find an accredited school with a strong academic reputation like one of the Hidden Gem Colleges in Pennsylvania!


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