2016 Most Affordable Colleges in Pennsylvania

Scroll down to see our top-ranked colleges in Pennsylvania, loans and scholarships for Pennsylvania students, and advice on how to save money going to college in Pennsylvania.

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Ad This search widget accesses a list of schools that help sponsor this site by paying a small fee for student inquiries. They are all accredited not-for-profit institutions. Some may be included in our rankings but it is not related to their participation as an advertiser. In general, evaluating as many schools as possible will help you find the best fit.

Searching for a cheaper college education in Pennsylvania? Keep your options open. Public universities like Bloomsburg and Slippery Rock—part of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE)—are always strong contenders. But smaller Pennsylvania schools like Cedar Crest and Saint Vincent may be just as affordable. Once you’ve explored our profiles, learn what you might receive in state financial aid. For example, the Ready to Succeed Scholarship (RTSS) helps pay for tuition, fees and living expenses.

How to Transfer College Credits in Pennsylvania

College students in Pennsylvania often find that it’s easy to transfer college credits. Pennsylvania offers a 30 credit transfer framework, as well as a statewide program to program articulation agreement that facilitates the transfer of associate’s degrees. Plus, with the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center, it’s simple for students to identify degrees and courses that will transfer within the state.

Pennsylvania’s Transfer Credit Framework has a menu of 49 different courses in general education. Students can select up to 30 credits from this framework, and then transfer them toward degree requirements for Pennsylvania’s more than 30 participating colleges and universities. This framework allows students to earn the equivalent of a full year of study that will transfer to almost any other program in Pennsylvania.

The Statewide Program to Program Articulation makes it possible for students to seamlessly transfer associate’s degrees to bachelor’s degrees. These programs offer direct pathways into majors at four year colleges and universities. Students can use the statewide program to program database to find out which associate’s degrees will lead to bachelor’s degrees in a particular study area. Students who are accepted into a bachelor’s degree program with this pathway will have a junior standing and at least 60 credits applied toward graduation.

Students can search for individual course equivalencies on the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center website. There, you’ll find courses that transfer to and from colleges and universities in PA TRAC.

State Financial Aid for Pennsylvania Students

The place to begin your search for state money is the website of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). PHEAA has a rundown of all the major Pennsylvania grants and loan schemes, advice on federal aid and a handy Interactive Pennsylvania Student Aid Guide. You can also use its free financial calculators to draw up your college budget and get the latest on college fairs in your area.

To be eligible for most Pennsylvania state aid packages, you must be a Pennsylvania resident attending an eligible postsecondary institution. Whatever else you do, complete an application for the PA State Grant! First of all, you may qualify for a generous grant that you never have to pay back. Second of all, some Pennsylvania financial aid programs (e.g. RTSS) will not consider you without it.

Considering a loan to finance your education? Check out MySmartBorrowing.org, a free interactive tool created by PHEAA. It allows you to estimate how much you may need to borrow in student loans (based on career choice, individual college costs and savings) and compare up to 4 different scenarios of career + college to see which decision will make the most financial sense.

Pennsylvania Student Grants

Blind or Deaf Beneficiary Grant

Summary: As its title would suggest, this grant provides financial aid to blind or deaf students attending a postsecondary institution. It’s not a big one—the maximum award amount cannot exceed $500 per year. The grant can replace your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) but cannot exceed your cost of attendance. Funds are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Eligibility: You must:

  • Be a Pennsylvania resident
  • Supply written documentation to PHEAA showing that you have been evaluated and are eligible to receive benefits from the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) or supply documentation from your physician regarding your visual and/or hearing impairment
  • Be enrolled at least half-time in a postsecondary institution and maintain satisfactory academic progress

How to Apply: File your FAFSA, complete the separate Blind or Deaf Higher Education Beneficiary Grant Application Form and mail the form & additional documentation to PHEAA.

Partnerships for Access to Higher Education (PATH) Grant

Summary: If you receive a scholarship/grant from a participating PATH Partner (e.g. a County Community Foundation), PHEAA will match the money on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to the annual maximum amount. PATH grants cannot exceed $2,500 per year.

Eligibility: You must:

  • Be nominated by a participating PATH Partner from which you received a scholarship/grant for the academic year by September 30
  • Have received a PA State Grant for the semester or quarter for which you have been nominated to receive a PATH grant
  • Demonstrate financial need for a PATH grant (as determined by the postsecondary institution)
  • Be enrolled as an undergraduate, at least half-time in a PA State Grant–approved postsecondary institution in Pennsylvania and maintain satisfactory academic progress

How to Apply: File your FAFSA and contact a participating PATH Partner in your area about scholarships/grants.

Pennsylvania (PA) State Grant

Summary: The PA State Grant is the biggest and best known state aid program. It’s based on financial need—the amount of money you receive will depend on your financial situation (e.g. parents’ annual income) and the type of school you choose to attend in Pennsylvania (i.e. public or private). Most grants are in the range of $1,500-$4,000 per year.

A few things to note… The PA State Grant is only intended for undergraduate students; Summer State Grants are also available. The grant may be used at eligible institutions in Delaware, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia. Finally, PHEAA has a lot of answers to PA State Grant FAQs.

Eligibility: You must:

  • Be a Pennsylvania resident, as stipulated in the Pennsylvania State Grant law
  • Be a high school graduate as stipulated in the Pennsylvania State Grant law (includes GED recipients)
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Attend a postsecondary school approved by PHEAA
  • Be enrolled at least half-time (i.e. at least six semester credits but less than 12 semester credits per semester, or the equivalent)
  • Be unconditionally admitted and enrolled in an approved program of study of at least 2 academic years in length
  • Be enrolled in a program of study where at least 50% of the total credit or clock hours needed for completion of the program are earned through classroom instruction
  • Have made satisfactory academic progress (as defined by PHEAA)
  • Not have already earned a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent
  • Be of satisfactory character (e.g. not be incarcerated)
  • Not have received the maximum number of Pennsylvania State Grants permitted
  • Not be in default or pending default on an educational loan (this also applies to any program where the award has been converted to a loan and the loan is in a default status)

How to Apply:  File your FAFSA by the deadline & follow the link for the PA State Grant Form directly from your FAFSA confirmation page. Print, sign, and mail the last page of your PA State Grant Form to PHEAA. Missed the link? Go to the American Education Services (AES) website to complete the State Grant Form (SGF).

Pennsylvania Chafee Education and Training Grant

Summary: This grant is given to Pennsylvania undergraduate students aging out of foster care who are attending an eligible postsecondary institution. The maximum award in 2016 was $4,750, and the award amount cannot exceed your cost of attendance (COA) minus any other financial aid you receive.

Eligibility: To qualify as a foster care youth, you need to:

  • Be eligible for services under Pennsylvania’s John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program
  • Be identified as a youth in foster care or a youth discharged or adopted from foster care after age 16
  • Be a new applicant participating in the Chafee Program prior to your 21st birthday, or be a renewal applicant who has not reached your 23rd birthday by July 1 of the upcoming academic year in which Chafee funds will be awarded

You must also:

  • Be a Pennsylvania resident
  • Be enrolled as an undergraduate, at least half time in a college or career school that is approved by the U.S. Department of Education for Title IV student assistance programs
  • Demonstrate financial need for the grant (as determined by the postsecondary institution)
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress
  • Not be in default on a federal student loan

How to Apply: File your FAFSA, complete the separate Pennsylvania Chafee Education and Training Grant Program Application and mail the application to PHEAA.

Pennsylvania Targeted Industry Program (PA-TIP)

Summary: PA-TIP gives need-based awards to students enrolled in short-term programs that are not eligible for PA State Grant funding. Those short-term programs must be in the career areas of energy, advanced materials and diversified manufacturing or agriculture and food production.

A PA-TIP award is the equivalent of the maximum PA State Grant award or 75% of your total direct educational costs after gift aid and employers aid (whichever is less). Award money can be used to pay for tuition, books, fees, supplies and specific living expenses. Even students who have completed a bachelor’s or graduate degree are still eligible to apply.

Eligibility: You must:

  • Be a domiciliary of Pennsylvania
  • Have a high school diploma, GED, or recognized home school certificate.
  • Be enrolled at a PAT-TIP participating institution
  • Be enrolled in an approved program of study that is at least 10 weeks but less than two academic years in length (students attending non-profit institutions must be enrolled at least half-time in an approved program; all other students must be enrolled full-time)
  • Have financial need as determined by the program guidelines and certified by the school
  • Not be in default or pending default on an education loan or owe a PA State Grant refund
  • Not be receiving a PA State Grant for the program of study
  • Not be considered an incarcerated student

How to Apply: File your FAFSA, complete the separate PA-TIP Student Application Form and mail the form & additional documentation to PHEAA. If you’re a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces who was honorably discharged, you’ll need to supply a copy of the DD214 form.

Pennsylvania Student Scholarships

Ready to Succeed Scholarship (RTSS)

Summary: RTSS awards are given to high-achieving college students (i.e. a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or more) whose annual family income does not exceed $110,000. Scholarships can be up to $2,000 for full-time students and $1,000 for part-time students; the minimum award is $500. Award money can be used to cover tuition, books, fees, supplies and living expenses.

Students are nominated by a participating postsecondary institution when the school checks on their academic progress for the Pennsylvania State Grant Program. Funding is limited and scholarships are made on a first-come, first-served basis—even eligible nominees may miss out. PHEAA has answers to RTSS FAQs.

Eligibility: You must meet the PA State Grant eligibility requirements (except for the financial need stipulation). What’s more, you won’t be eligible until you file your FAFSA and submit a PA State Grant application. You must also:

  • Have completed at least one academic year (at least 24 semester credits or the equivalent) by the time that the school checks your academic progress for the PA State Grant program.
  • Demonstrate outstanding academic achievement by attaining a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.25
  • Have a family income that does not exceed $110,000

How to Apply: File your FAFSA, complete your PA State Grant application and contact your college’s Financial Aid Office to confirm that you meet the requirements for RTSS for the upcoming year. Then work like blazes to get that GPA of 3.25 or better!

Pennsylvania Student Loans & Repayment Programs

Pennsylvania Bar Foundation – PA IOLTA Board Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)

Summary: This LRAP is aimed squarely at attorneys working for IOLTA-funded civil legal services organizations. In return for 12 months of service at one of these organizations, participating attorneys receive a one-year loan that can be used to repay debts incurred for undergraduate and law school education costs and bar exam study.

This one-year loan is “forgiven” at the end of each year if eligibility requirements have been met. Participating attorneys can apply for—and receive—up to ten, one-year loans over their tenure in qualified employment. However, the amount of loan assistance depends on the available funding and the number of qualifying attorney applicants.

Eligibility: As an attorney, you must:

  • Be licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania or be permitted to practice law under Bar Admission Rule 311
  • Have a valid Pennsylvania Supreme Court-identification number
  • Be in good standing and practice law as an employee of an IOLTA-funded organization

In addition:

  • Your total gross salary may not exceed $66,000 at the time of application (however, if your annual net debt service is greater than or equal to 10% of your current annual gross salary, you may apply regardless of the annual gross salary cap).
  • Your amount of educational debt (based on loans from commercial and government lending institutions, as well as university or other private institutional loans associated with law school and undergraduate educational debts) must be greater than or equal to the amount of the LRAP grant.
  • Your qualifying educational debt must be in satisfactory repayment.

How to Apply: Complete the online WebGrant Application.

Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program (LRP)

Summary: This LRP provides funds for education loan repayment to PCPs (doctors, nurse practitioners, dentists and other eligible practitioners) who agree to work in federally designated Pennsylvania Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and other underserved Pennsylvania communities for a period of two years.

Physicians and dentists can receive up to $100,000 for a full-time work commitment and up to $50,000 for half-time; other practitioners can receive up to $60,000 full-time and up to $30,000 half-time.

Eligibility: In addition to be an eligible PCP (see above), you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or U.S. national
  • Participate (or be eligible to participate) as a provider in the Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program, as appropriate
  • Meet discipline and speciality-specific education, training and licensure requirements
  • Complete a full-time or half-time term of primary care health service at an LRP-approved practice site

How to Apply: Complete the separate PA Primary Care Loan Repayment Program Web-based Application. Your employer must also submit a Loan Repayment Practice Site Application, which must be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, before your application will be considered.

Education Assistance for Pennsylvania Military & Veterans

Children of POW/MIA Soldiers

Summary: PHEAA has a special state grant for the children of any soldier in the U.S. Armed Forces who has been declared as a Prisoner of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA). The maximum award amount is $1,200, which can be used for tuition and fees; availability is dependent on state funding.

Eligibility: You must be a resident of Pennsylvania. In addition, your MIA or POW parent must have:

  • Served on active duty after January 31, 1955
  • Been a resident of Pennsylvania for at least the 12 months before serving on active duty
  • Not deserted, defected to the enemy, or been discharged under conditions other than “honorable”

How to Apply: File your FAFSA and call PHEAA 1-800-692-7392 (toll-free) to request a POW/MIA Application.

Educational Gratuity Program

Summary: This program provides financial assistance to children of honorably discharged veterans who have service-connected disabilities and served during a period of war or armed conflict or children of veterans who die or died in service during a period of war or armed conflict. Surviving veterans must have a 100% permanent and total service-connected disability rating by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Award amounts are up to $500 per term/semester for up to four years. Educational gratuity payments are paid directly to the educational institution, not to the student.

Eligibility: As a dependent, you must:

  • Be between the ages of 16 and 23
  • Live within Pennsylvania five years prior to application
  • Attend a school within Pennsylvania
  • Demonstrate financial need

How to Apply: Contact the County Veterans Affairs Director in your county.

Pennsylvania National Guard Education Assistance Program (EAP)

Summary: The EAP provides tuition assistance for students who agree to a service commitment with the Pennsylvania National Guard (PNG) for a period of 6 years. If you fail to honor the service commitment, you must repay your total EAP award amount, plus interest.

Maximum award amounts depend on your status:

  • Full-time Undergraduate Students: Either actual tuition charged for the full-time course of study, or 100% of tuition charged to a Pennsylvania resident studying full-time at a state-owned university, whichever is less
  • Part-time Undergraduate Students: Either actual tuition charged for the part-time course of study, or two-thirds of the full-time tuition charged to a Pennsylvania resident at a state-owned university, whichever is less
  • Part-time Graduate Students (or those who already hold a bachelor’s degree): Either one-half of the actual tuition charged for the part-time course of study, or one-third of the full-time tuition charged to a Pennsylvania resident at a state-owned university, whichever is less

Eligibility: In addition to fulfilling your six-year PNG service commitment, you must:

  • Be a resident of Pennsylvania
  • Be enrolled in a degree- or certificate-granting program of study at an approved Pennsylvania institution

How to Apply: Current members of the Pennsylvania National Guard should contact the readiness NCO at your unit of assignment. Aspiring National Guard members should contact the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Contact the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) for more information on education benefits for veterans and active military.

Additional Support for Pennsylvania Students

Pennsylvania State Work-Study Program (SWSP)

Summary: The state of Pennsylvania runs a separate work-study program independent of federal work-study initiatives. Eligible students who participate in SWSP gain relevant work experience and earn money for higher education costs at the same time.

You may work up to 40 hours per week under the program. Award amounts can be up to $4,000 during the academic year and up to an additional $4,000 during the summer term. (Note: award amounts are the maximum amount of earnings an employer may submit to PHEAA for reimbursement. However, your employer may choose to pay you more than that!)

You can search for a SWSP job on the PHEAA website or try to find your own employer. Employers who don’t yet participate in the SWSP program need to complete a New Employer Application. PHEAA also has answers to some SWSP FAQs.

Eligibility: You must:

  • Be a Pennsylvania resident for at least 12 consecutive months before you file the FAFSA (excluding any time you were enrolled in a Pennsylvania postsecondary school)
  • Be enrolled at least half-time in a PHEAA-approved higher education institution in a program of study that is at least 2 years long
  • Be an undergraduate student who is eligible for a PA State Grant or be a graduate student who still has financial need after gift aid has been applied
  • Be able to benefit from a career-related work experience
  • Not be in default or pending default on an education loan or owe a PA State Grant refund

How to Apply: File your FAFSA, complete the separate Pennsylvania State Work-Study Application and mail the application to PHEAA.

Postsecondary Educational Gratuity Program (PEGP)

Summary: The PEGP waiver is only available to the children (birth or adopted) of individuals who lost their lives protecting the citizens of Pennsylvania. Those individuals include:

  • Police officers, firefighters, rescue and ambulance squad members, corrections employees and active National Guard members who have died in the line of duty since January 1, 1976
  • Sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, National Guard members or other individuals who were on federal or state active military duty and died after September 11, 2001 as a direct result of performing his/her official duties

PEGP provides a waiver for tuition, fees, and on-campus room and board costs charged by eligible Pennsylvania postsecondary institutions. However, the waiver applies only to charges that remain after all other grants (federal, state, and outside scholarships) have been taken into account.

Eligibility: You must:

  • Be a resident of Pennsylvania
  • Be the child—by birth of adoption—of a qualifying individual (see above)
  • Be 25 years of age or younger when you apply
  • Have already applied for available scholarships, as well as state and federal grants
  • Be enrolled at a Pennsylvania community college, state-owned institution or state-related institution as a full-time undergraduate student pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree

How to Apply: File your FAFSA, complete the separate PEGP Application and mail the application, a certified copy of your birth certificate or adoption record and a copy of your letter of admission to PHEAA.

Cheaper College Living in Pennsylvania

It’s an extraordinary challenge paying for college and taking care of regular responsibilities. If you’re struggling to cover basic bills, talk to the folks at Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services (DHS). You may already know about DHS programs like SNAP (food stamps), CHIP and Medicaid, but the DHS also offers temporary cash assistance, affordable energy assistance programs (e.g. LIHEAP) and child care benefits. Use their Compass website to apply for benefits.

Alternatively, you can call 2-1-1 (7 days a week) or visit of the website of Pennsylvania 211. 211 is a free service that connects low-income residents to health, housing and other human service resources. You can ask 211 counselors for advice on practically anything—finding cheap child care, getting rent assistance, locating job training programs, seeking rehab treatment, etc.—and they’ll connect you to the right organizations. We’ve also listed a number of county-specific social service organizations in our city sections below.

On-Campus Housing

In general, on-campus housing is usually more expensive than renting or staying at home. Most Pennsylvania universities are generous enough to admit this—you’ll usually find a side-by-side comparison of expenses in the Rates section of your school’s website. You can also use the budget calculators on Yahoo.com and CalcXML.com to compare on-campus costs (meal plans, dorm fees, etc.) with off-campus bills (groceries, utilities, etc.).

On the other hand, living in a dorm means you’re not responsible for commuting costs, room furnishings and utilities. If you’re extremely lucky, you’ll find that your university has set aside certain dorms/residence halls for affordable housing or family living. For instance, Wilson College’s Single Parent Scholar Program provides on-campus housing year-round to single parents and their children.

It also pays to remember that you may have little choice in your decision. For example, unless they are enrolled as a commuting student, all freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors at York College are required to live on campus. Allegheny College has a similar on-campus living requirement.

Worried that your financial aid package won’t cover living expenses? Talk to your school’s residential life/housing coordinator or the Financial Aid Office about your choices. You may be eligible for private/institutional scholarships or work-study programs that will pay for room and board. For example, IUP’s Living-Learning Scholarship specifically covers on-campus housing costs.

Off-Campus Housing

Even in big cities like Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, students often choose to rent in order to save money. In fact, with certain community colleges and commuter schools like Peirce College, off-campus housing may be your only option.

When that happens, the first place to start—oddly enough—is your university’s housing website. A lot of schools have pages or sites devoted to off-campus living, with advice, links and resources. Examples include UPenn’s Off-Campus Housing Search, PSU’s Office of Off-Campus Living and Penn College’s Off-Campus Living & Commuter Services.

But you don’t have to stop here. Along with searching for cheap apartments/rooms on Craigslist, you can try websites such as ApartmentGuide.com, CampusRent.com and MyApartmentMap.com. These allow you to target affordable housing listings around your specific school. If a crisis hits or you’re evicted, the Pennsylvania Homeless Shelter Directory includes emergency shelters and transitional housing opportunities.

Utilities

When you’re renting, utility payments—especially heating and electricity bills—can really add up. Before you sign any rental agreement, it’s important to know what utilities you’re responsible for and what your landlord is willing to cover. Ask for a monthly estimate of utility bills and/or talk to former renters to get a sense of how much money you need to set aside.

If you’re already struggling with utilities, don’t give up. The DHS administers the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides financial assistance to needy households for home energy bills, but utility companies are also ready to help. Initiatives like Hardship Funds, the Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Program (CARES) and the Customer Assistance Program (CAP) are all aimed at low-income customers. Check out the comprehensive list of Pennsylvania energy assistance programs from the Public Utility Commission (PUC) or ask your utility company what programs are available.

Medical & Dental

In search of affordable medical care? Visit your college’s student health center and talk to its medical professionals. You won’t be surprised to hear that big universities tend to have more services than smaller schools and community colleges. For instance, UPenn’s Student Health Services offers sports medicine, acupuncture and massage; PSU’s University Health Services is equipped to perform x-rays and ultrasound. But you’ll find basic care such as immunizations, testing and preventative health at practically any institution.

When this doesn’t work, you can try your neighborhood. Both NeedyMeds.org and FreeClinicDirectory.org have useful lists of Pennsylvania community clinics and health centers that offer free/affordable medical care. The same procedure applies to mental health situations. Talk to your student health center first. If that fails, the DHS has a Mental Health Services section, with links to its Human Services Provider Online Directory. In the case of emergencies, call a crisis hotline in your Pennsylvania county or the National Mental Health Crisis/Suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Finding cheap dental care can be more challenging. Unless your student health center has a dentist on staff (most don’t), you’re going to have to look beyond it. One option is to try the nearest university dental school. Since dental schools are training dentistry students, they’re often eager to attract patients. For example, the Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry offers reduced fees and a discount to Temple University students. Or you may wish to search for free and low-cost clinics in your community on FreeDentalCare.us: Pennsylvania.

Child Care

Affordable child care can make or break a college education plan. Many schools in Pennsylvania offer daycare, including Lehigh University, Pennsylvania State University, and University of Pennsylvania, among others. Contact schools to ask whether they provide discounts or assistance for low-income students. For example, PSU offers a Student Parent Child Care Subsidy Program to qualifying parents..

If your school doesn’t have daycare, the DHS (using Compass) has a useful Online Child Care Provider Search database. You can choose to filter your choices by the Keystone STARS rating. This program rates child care providers on various quality standards, including state regulations for safety and a kid-friendly atmosphere.

Don’t forget, too, that you may be eligible for state benefits. For example, Pennsylvania’s Child Care Works program is run by the Child Care Information Services (CCIS) office in your county. This subsidy is intended for low-income parents who need help paying child care bills while they work or attend an education program. The Child Care Works helpline is 1-877-4-PA-KIDS. Pennsylvania’s Promise for Children website also has an excellent list of Pennsylvania Child Care Assistance Programs and Scholarships.

Transportation

Transportation expenses will depend a lot on your choice of campus (rural vs. suburban vs. urban) and your responsibilities (e.g. part-time jobs, child care pick-ups, housing location, etc.). But it’s still worth taking a look at the Transportation or Commuter section on your university’s website. Schools cram these pages with information on free campus buses, rideshare and car pool programs, parking facilities, bike routes and more.

And they’ll always point if your student ID entitles you to free transportation on city networks. For example, UPitt students ride Port Authority buses and trolleys fare-free with their Panther Card. A number of Pennsylvania schools—including UPenn, Temple and Drexel—participate in SEPTA’s University Pass (discount transit) program. National networks like Amtrak and Greyhound also offer cheap student deals.

Food

Please don’t miss out on meals in order to afford college! Even if you don’t qualify for SNAP benefits (food stamps), you have alternatives. For example, a number of Pennsylvania schools, (e.g. PSU, Wilson, Penn College, MCCC, etc.) have opened food pantries on campus. You’ll find a list of them on the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA) Members page.

If your university has nothing, try your neighborhood. FoodPantries.org has a directory of Pennsylvania Food Pantries and HomelessShelterDirectory.org has a similar database of PA soup kitchens, pantries and food banks. New moms or moms-to-be might also want to see if they qualify for the Pennsylvania WIC Program. WIC provides supplemental nutrition, breastfeeding support and healthy foods to qualified candidates.

SEE ALSO: our Encyclopedic Guide to Saving Money as a College Student.

Find Support in Your Area

College in Philadelphia on a Budget

Like any major city, Philadelphia has its expensive neighborhoods and its cheaper areas. According to Sperling’s Best Places, utility, grocery and health costs are all above the national average but housing is a great deal better than New York or the West Coast. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is the nation’s sixth-largest public transit system and there’s a lot of entertainment and nightlife. General info for residents can be found on the City of Philadelphia website.

Where to Go for Help in Philadelphia

Maybe you already live in Philadelphia and think college is out of your budget. Maybe you need a little bit of assistance with other parts of your life (e.g. groceries, child care, housing, etc.). Maybe you just want some practical financial advice. If any of the above are true, one of these Philly organizations may be able to help.

  • BenePhilly Centers offer one-on-one counseling—over the phone or in-person—to residents who need information about state benefits (e.g. food stamps, energy assistance, etc.). There are six walk-in centers throughout Philadelphia; the toll-free number is 844-848-4376.
  • Philadelphia’s Share Food Program works with a variety of local partners to provide emergency food relief, below-retail food packages, affordable produce and family dinners. Learn more about its programs.
  • Philadelphia Futures caters to low-income, first-generation-to-college students. Kids receive personalized college guidance, placement and retention services, academic help and financial resources. Its College Connection program is especially tailored to help juniors in high school negotiate the process of getting into college.
  • The Urban League of Philadelphia (ULP) has all kinds of youth & education programs designed to prepare students for college and help them navigate the financial aid system. Check out ULP’s Community Scholarships program, which includes scholarship money, support services and a College Internship Fair.
  • Diversified Community Services, Inc. (DCS) is a neighborhood-based non-profit offering a hand to residents of Point Breeze and surrounding communities. Programs includes affordable housing, child care initiatives and energy assistance.

We’ve only picked a few examples. For more ideas, try searching by category (e.g. education, food, etc.) in SERVE Philadelphia directory of volunteer organizations or the directory of Philadelphia, PA non-profits on CharityBlossom.org.

College in Pittsburgh on a Budget

Pittsburgh is a cheaper city than Philadelphia across the board. Some residents complain about the lack of public transportation options, high utility bills and the weather, but the cost of housing is traditionally low. That’s good news for renters. The population is skewing younger, and you’ll find plenty of affordable entertainment venues and restaurants. Just keep in mind heating costs during the chilly winters. General info for residents can be found on the City of Pittsburgh website.

Where to Go for Help in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has plenty of non-profit organizations that are geared towards helping aspiring college students. What’s more, other organizations are more than ready to offer assistance with bills and issues (e.g. child care) so you can focus on your goal of a degree.

  • North Hills Community Outreach (NHCO) serves individuals and families across northern Allegheny County. They offer a huge range of programs to low-income residents, including a food pantry, emergency assistance, seasonal sharing, affordable car ownership, financial literacy and free legal advice. Their Education Assistance program provides education grants to students with financial need for any college-related expense (including child care and transportation).
  • The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh was established to enable African Americans to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights. Its Education & Youth Development Department can help with internships, college preparation, year-long activities for African American high school boys and technology training.
  • Neighbors in Need provide grants to folks who are going through a crisis or need urgent services (e.g. avoid foreclosure), but are ineligible to receive help from existing non-profits. It also offers a limited number of scholarships for Pittsburgh students to take an intensive summer SAT preparation course.
  • Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh helps Pittsburgh residents with emergency needs, housing & homeless assistance, healthcare for the uninsured, counseling and more.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. To find a specific service, you may want to search by category (e.g. education, food, etc.) in the directory of Pittsburgh, PA non-profits on CharityBlossom.org.

College in Allentown on a Budget

Allentown may not be a huge college city, but it has plenty going on for Lehigh, Muhlenberg and Cedar Crest students. Like Pittsburgh, most cost of living indices are near the national average and housing costs are nice and cheap. (One thing to note—many Allentown colleges have a residency requirement for freshmen and sophomore years.) The city is served by a public system (LANTA) and downtown nightlife usually has affordable options. General info for residents can be found on the City of Allentown website.

Where to Go for Help in Allentown

It takes a village to create an affordable college education in Pennsylvania. If you’re a low-income Allentown resident with dreams of a degree, there are a number of non-profit organizations that can help you achieve your goals.

To find a specific service, try searching by category (e.g. education, food, etc.) in the directory of Allentown, PA non-profits on CharityBlossom.org.

School Rankings

1

Holy Family University

Founded in 1954 by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Holy Family University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a Catholic university composed of four academic schools: Arts and Sciences; Nursing and Allied Health Professions; Business Administration; and Education. Institutional grants or scholarships are provided to 99% of full-time beginning undergraduates, with students receiving an average award of $12,902. Holy Family Scholarships are merit-based awards available to all incoming students and range between $2,500 and $15,000 per year. The school also offers two different institutional grants: Holy Family Grants, which range between $200 and $14,500 per year, and Holy Family Athletic Grants, which range between $1,000 and $36,780 per year.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 96.0

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

2,658 Students

2

Saint Vincent College

A 200-acre campus with fewer than 1,800 students, Saint Vincent College offers close to 50 undergraduate majors and 10 graduate programs. First-year students with excellent academic backgrounds are considered for the following merit-based scholarships: Chancellor's Scholarship ($20,500 per year), Presidential Scholarship ($18,500 per year), Deans' Scholarship ($16,500 per year), and the Faculty Scholarship ($15,500 per year). Transfer students may be eligible for grants that range from $13,000 to $15,000 per year. Students who are planning to pursue careers in childhood or early learning education can apply for the Fred Rogers Scholarship ($2,500 per year). The Aurelius Scholarship (administered through the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government) and the First Generation Grant both award $2,000 scholarships each per year.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 95.9

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

1,829 Students

3

Pennsylvania Highlands Community College

Pennsylvania Highlands Community College is a two-year college located in Johnstown, Pennsylvania that offers associate degree programs, certificates, and diplomas. Pennsylvania Highlands Community College has transfer agreements in place with many four-year universities and colleges. There are many scholarships available to Pennsylvania Highlands Community College students such as the Pennsylvania Highlands Community College Supporting Success Scholarship, the Huntingdon Hope Scholarship, the Break Barriers, Invent Your Future Conference Scholarship, and many more, all of which have their own requirements and specifications. The Federal Work Study program is also available for students who want to work part-time on campus.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 95.8

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

2,470 Students

4

Waynesburg University

For the 2014-2015 academic year, Waynesburg University awarded more than $36 million in financial aid to over 90 percent of its students. The average freshman financial assistance package is $18,356. The following Achievement Awards are available for first-year students with excellent academic credentials: AB Miller Scholarship ($15,000/year), Presidential Honor Scholarship ($12,000/year), Waynesburg Honor Scholarship ($10,000/year), and the University Scholarship ($9,000/year). Students who do not qualify for these awards, but who show academic promise, are considered for the Waynesburg Opportunity Award ($6,000/year). Transfer students may be eligible for two awards - the Transfer Honor Scholarship ($8,000/year) or the Transfer Scholarship ($6,000/year). Out-of-state students who qualify for an Achievement Award may still be considered for the State Scholarship, for an additional $2,000/year.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 95.7

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

2,039 Students

5

Cedar Crest College

Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Cedar Crest College is a private liberal arts women's college. Ceder Crest offers an interest-free payment plan called the EZ Pay Payment Plan, which allows student to make monthly payments online. There are many scholarships available including the Cedar Crest Scholarship which is awarded to the winner of the annual Scholarship Competition. Merit scholarships such as the Presidential Scholarship, Trustee Scholarship, Founders Scholarship, Dean's Scholarship, and High School Achievement Scholarship are available. Other scholarships include the Latina Leadership Partner Scholarship and Girl Scout Scholarships. There are over a dozen work-study positions available for students who wish to pursue them.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 95.3

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

1,531 Students

6

Lycoming College

Lycoming College has two academic scholarship programs (the Trustee Scholarship and the Faculty Scholarship) that each award $22,500 per year to qualified first-year students. Students can increase this amount to $24,000 if they participate and do well during the interview process. Additional merit scholarships include the Dean's Scholarship ($19,000-$21,500) and the Lycoming Scholarship ($17,000). Transfer students are considered for scholarships with award amounts ranging from $18,000 to $24,000, based on the recipient's GPA. Promising students who do not qualify for any of the above-mentioned scholarships are still considered for the Third Century Award ($12,000 per year). Talent scholarships for music, art, theater, creative writing, and digital media communication are also available. Each talent scholarship is worth up to $3,000 a year.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 95.2

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

1,353 Students

7

Cairn University

Cairn University is Christian institution that offers degrees in the fields of divinity, liberal arts and sciences, business and leadership, education, music, social work, and Christian counseling. The University provides financial aid to 100% of full-time beginning undergraduates, with all of these students receiving some institutional gift aid. First-year and transfer students are eligible for merit scholarships and grants, with awards of up to $15,000 per year. Graduate students are eligible for scholarships and grants, such as the Graduate Need-Based Grant, the Christian School Educator's Scholarship (50% off graduate Education Programs) and the Master of Divinity Scholarship (50% off the Master of Divinity Program). The Church Matching Scholarship (up to $1,000 per year) is available to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 95.1

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

1,058 Students

8

Geneva College

Geneva College awards more than $12 million in scholarships and grants each year from its own college fund, in addition to almost $13 million in federal, state, and private loans and grants. The average freshman financial assistance package is $20,779. Thirty-three percent of beginning first-year students for the 2013-2014 academic year qualified to receive the Pell Grant, with the average grant amount coming to $3,693. Students with excellent academic backgrounds are eligible for the following scholarships: Pro Christo Scholarship ($15,000/year), Founders Scholarship ($13,500/year), Alumni Scholarship ($12,000/year), and the Northwood Award ($7,500/year). Transfer students are considered for the Tower Scholarship, which awards $10,000/year. Students who are affiliated with certain denominations or worship communities can apply for the Affinity Grant (up to $3,000/year).

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 94.9

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

1,717 Students

9

Butler County Community College

Butler County Community College is a two-year institution with an enrollment of over 13,000 students, making it the second largest community college in Kansas. The College offers financial aid to 72% of first-year students, including institutional scholarships, federal grants, federal loans and work-study. Institutional scholarship opportunities include academic scholarships, foundation scholarships, technical scholarships and activity/athletic scholarships. Academic scholarships provide awards that range from $500 per year to full in-state tuition, including the cost of books. The College also offers BCC Access Scholarships to students who have not been enrolled in high school or college for over 12 months and are not eligible for grants. These awards cover tuition for up to six credit hours. Additionally, Federal Work Study positions allow students to work up to 20 hours per week.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 94.6

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

3,570 Students

10

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

In addition to the rolling hills, forests and glacial lakes that surround the campus in western Pennsylvania, Slippery Rock University also offers ts students a wide selection of interesting and relevant undergraduate and graduate programs. The Board of Governor's Scholarship awards up to the cost of in-state tuition for admitted freshmen who are Pennsylvania residents and who meet the other criteria of the program (minority status, financial need, excellent academic performance, leadership qualities, STEM major, etc.). The following scholarship programs automatically consider academically outstanding freshmen: SRU Merit Scholarship (up to $1,250/year), President's Scholarship ($1,750/year) and the SRU Honors Program Scholarship ($1,500/year).

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 94.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

8,495 Students

11

Millersville University of Pennsylvania

Founded in 1855, Millersville University of Pennsylvania is a public liberal arts university that offers over 50 undergraduate degrees and 20 master's degrees. The majority (86%) of full-time beginning undergraduates receive financial and 15% receive institutional grants or scholarships. The average amount of institutional gift aid awarded to first-year, full-time students is $3,624. Incoming freshmen are eligible for several university scholarships, including the Clarence Schock Foundation Scholarship, which provides an award of $6,600 over the course of four-years. Additionally, female students can apply for scholarships through the American Association of University Women or the Millersville University Women's Giving Circle. State and federal grants are also available, including the Pell Grant, which is provided to 31% of undergraduate students.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 94.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

8,047 Students

12

University of Pittsburgh-Bradford

Starting out as a two-year college in a renovated building with 143 full-time students, the University of Pittsburgh Bradford now occupies 317 acres in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains and has more than 1,600 students. The Panther Scholarship for PA Students awards qualified in-state freshmen $5,500/year; qualified in-state transfer students receive $3,000/year. Non-Pennsylvania residents may be eligible for the Panther Scholarship for Out-of-state Students ($11,000/year for entering freshmen, and $9,500/year for transfer students). Incoming freshmen from Allegheny, Cattaraugus or Chautauqua Counties in New York State may qualify for Go Beyond NYS Award, which allows them to pay in-state tuition rather than out-of-state tuition. Transfer students from Pitt-Titusville can apply for the Panther Scholarship for Pitt-Titusville Students Relocating to Pitt-Bradford.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 94.4

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

1,499 Students

13

Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania is the largest comprehensive university in Northeastern and Northcentral Pennsylvania and was ranked 95th in US News & World Report's 2015 list of top universities in the Northeast. Institutional grants or scholarships are awarded to 6% of full-time beginning undergraduates, and the school awards over $2 million dollars in scholarships each year. Bloomsburg University Scholarships are primarily reserved for currently enrolled full-time undergraduate students and are awarded based on grades and extracurricular activities, rather than financial need. New freshman can apply for the Mitrani Scholarship, which is renewable for three additional years and is based on academic excellence.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 94.4

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

9,998 Students

14

Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus

Indiana University of Pennsylvania is a research-focused institution that offers 132 undergraduate degree programs, 52 master's programs and 12 doctoral programs. IUP offers financial aid to 89% of full-time beginning undergraduates and institutional gift aid to 15% of these students. Institutional scholarship opportunities include the Sutton Scholars Program ($2,000 per year) and the Promising Scholars Program ($1000 to full-tuition), both of which are reserved for incoming freshmen. Students are also eligible for scholarships within their specific department or school. Grant opportunities for IUP students include the Federal Pell Grant, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant ($200 to $3,000 per year). In addition, many students are awarded need-based employment through Federal Work Study.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 93.8

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

14,534 Students

15

Mansfield University of Pennsylvania

Mansfield University of Pennsylvania is a public university that ranked 131st in U.S. News & World Report's 2016 list of the best universities in the northern United States. The University awards financial aid to 95% of full-time beginning undergraduates, and institutional gift aid is awarded to 30% of these students. Incoming freshmen are automatically considered for scholarships based on SAT scores, class rank and high school GPA. Returning students are also eligible for scholarships, such as the $1,000 Academic Performance Scholarship, the $1,000 Joseph Maresco Leadership and the Alumni Association Student Leadership Scholarship. Additionally, students are eligible for state and federal grant opportunities, like the Federal Pell Grant (up to $5,500 per year) and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant ($400 to $1,000 per year).

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 93.6

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

2,752 Students

16

East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania

One of 14 institutions in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, East Stroudsburg University offers its students 56 undergraduate and 24 graduate degree programs. Qualified beginning students are automatically considered for the Award for Competitive Excellence (ACE Scholarship), which covers full tuition cost for four years. Both freshmen and transfer students are considered for the Out-of-State Tuition Award. Based on the 2015-2016 tuition rate, this scholarship currently has a maximum value of $3,530 per year, or $14,120 for four years. Students who are the first in their family to go to college, are eligible for the William and Hilda Brown Annual Scholarship. The amount of the award depends on the student's financial need as determined by his or her FAFSA.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 93.6

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

6,819 Students

17

Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

Established in 1871 as the Cumberland Valley State Normal School and charged with the task of training teachers for the state, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania has outgrown this original mandate and now offers more than 100 undergraduate and 57 graduate programs in addition to degrees in education. Incoming freshmen who are Pennsylvania residents and who graduated as valedictorian or salutatorian of their high school class, are considered for the Board of Governors Valedictorian Scholarship and the Board of Governors Salutatorian Scholarship, respectively. Both scholarships cover the full cost of tuition. For the 2013-2014 school year, 31 percent of Shippensburg students received the Pell Grant, with the average amount coming to $4,078.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 93.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

7,355 Students

18

California University of Pennsylvania

California University of Pennsylvania is one of 14 schools in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education and offers over 100 undergraduate majors and 50 graduate programs. Most full-time, first-year students at Cal U can expect financial aid, with 92% receiving aid of some form. Undergraduate students are eligible for institutional scholarships, such as the full-tuition Board of Governor's Scholarship, the Cal U Institutional Scholarship and the Presidential Scholarship ($1,000 to $4,000). Graduate students are eligible for Cal U foundation scholarships, as well as scholarships from the foundation of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Undergraduate students are also eligible for state grants, federal grants and athletic grants-in-aid. Federal Pell Grants, for example, are awarded to 39% of undergraduate students, with the awards ranging from $626 to $5,775 per year.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 93.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

7,978 Students

19

Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Clarion University in Clarion, Pennsylvania was founded in 1867 as Carrier Seminary of Western Pennsylvania and didn't become a higher education institution until the 1920s. Students at the university can expect to receive financial assistance, with 91% receiving some form of financial aid. Institutional grants or scholarships are provided to 8% of full-time beginning undergraduates, state and local government grants or scholarships are provided to 47% and federal grants to 43%. Institutional scholarships are provided to 600 students each year and most of these scholarships come from private funds through the Clarion University Foundation.

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

CAG Score 93.3

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

5,712 Students

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