These universities are funded primarily through student tuition fees, which are generally higher than those of public universities. Accordingly, private universities generally have better staff-to-student ratios and more income for resources, which may be one reason why they rank higher than the public universities in the country.
All the universities in the prestigious Ivy League group are private universities.
We’ve pulled together the top 100 private colleges in the US, based on data from the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education US College Rankings 2019. Private universities also dominated the top 100 of the overall ranking.
The majority of private universities in the US are not for profit.
The WSJ/THE US College ranking is a more student-centred ranking because of its emphasis on student outcomes and student engagement. The results of the THE US Student Survey of more than 200,000 students are incorporated into the analysis. The full methodology can be found here.
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It’s no surprise that Harvard University topped this list, considering that it also took the top spot in the overall WSJ/THE US College Ranking 2019. Harvard has also been a mainstay at the top of the THE Reputation Ranking for the past six years.
The cost of attending Harvard is high, with tuition fees averaging about $43,000 a year. However the university offers generous financial aid packages for less-advantaged students.
According to the university’s website, it has stepped up financial aid by 75 per cent since 2007, now offering about $170 million per year to students. In fact, 50 per cent of students receive financial aid.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology has more than 500 recognised student activity groups. One of these is the student newspaper, The Tech, which is published in print and online.
MIT also sponsors 31 varsity sports and has one of the broadest NCAA Division III athletic programmes.
MIT has never awarded an honorary degree, nor does it award athletic scholarships. It has only twice awarded honorary professorships, to former British prime minister Winston Churchill in 1949 and author Salman Rushdie in 1993.
Notable alumni of Yale University include US secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, and actress Meryl Streep. In fact, Yale has an impressive group of alumni including five US presidents, 20 Nobel prizewinners and 32 Pulitzer winners.
Yale is famous for its secret societies, including Scroll and Key and Skull and Bones, which only started admitting women in 1991. There are also plenty of student societies that aren’t so secret, such as the mathematics society, the Chinese student society, foosball club and the chamber orchestra.
Columbia University is divided into 20 schools, including three undergraduate schools and graduate schools in law, education and business.
According to New York magazine, Columbia University is the second-largest landowner in New York City, after the Catholic Church.
Students are guaranteed on-campus housing for all four years as undergraduate students.
The California Institute of Technology or Caltech is the smallest university in the top 5, with fewer than 3,000 students. Admissions to the university are rigorous, with only the highest-scoring students being accepted to the institution.
Caltech students are renowned for playing pranks and one of the most well-known was the time they altered the Hollywood sign to read Caltech by covering up parts of the letters.
The majority of students live on campus in university-owned accommodation. Fewer than 20 per cent of students live off campus.
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Top 100 private universities in the US
|Private university rank 2019||WSJ/THE US college rank 2019||University||City||State|
|2||2||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Cambridge||Massachusetts|
|3||3||Yale University||New Haven||Connecticut|
|4||4||Columbia University||New York||New York|
|5||5||California Institute of Technology||Pasadena||California|
|=7||=7||Brown University||Providence||Rhode Island|
|=7||=7||Duke University||Durham||North Carolina|
|9||9||Princeton University||Princeton||New Jersey|
|10||10||University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia||Pennsylvania|
|11||11||Cornell University||Ithaca||New York|
|12||12||Dartmouth College||Hanover||New Hampshire|
|=14||=14||University of Chicago||Chicago||Illinois|
|16||16||Carnegie Mellon University||Pittsburgh||Pennsylvania|
|17||17||University of Southern California||Los Angeles||California|
|18||18||Washington University in St Louis||Saint Louis||Missouri|
|21||21||Johns Hopkins University||Baltimore||Maryland|
|25||26||University of Notre Dame||Notre Dame||Indiana|
|26||27||New York University||New York||New York|
|31||=33||Claremont McKenna College||Claremont||California|
|=35||=39||Case Western Reserve University||Cleveland||Ohio|
|40||47||University of Miami||Coral Gables||Florida|
|42||50||Bryn Mawr College||Bryn Mawr||Pennsylvania|
|43||=51||University of Rochester||Rochester||New York|
|=44||=53||Colgate University||Hamilton||New York|
|=44||=53||University of Richmond||University of Richmond||Virginia|
|46||55||George Washington University||Washington||DC|
|47||56||Tulane University||New Orleans||Louisiana|
|48||57||Davidson College||Davidson||North Carolina|
|49||59||Barnard College||New York||New York|
|50||=62||Wake Forest University||Winston-Salem||North Carolina|
|52||65||Mount Holyoke College||South Hadley||Massachusetts|
|=53||=67||Boston College||Chestnut Hill||Massachusetts|
|=53||=67||Hamilton College||Clinton||New York|
|58||72||Vassar College||Poughkeepsie||New York|
|60||75||Washington and Lee University||Lexington||Virginia|
|65||82||Franklin and Marshall College||Lancaster||Pennsylvania|
|=66||=83||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||Troy||New York|
|69||=87||Rhode Island School of Design||Providence||Rhode Island|
|70||89||Macalester College||Saint Paul||Minnesota|
|71||91||College of the Holy Cross||Worcester||Massachusetts|
|72||92||Connecticut College||New London||Connecticut|
|73||93||Union College||Schenectady||New York|
|74||=94||Occidental College||Los Angeles||California|
|75||98||Worcester Polytechnic Institute||Worcester||Massachusetts|
|=76||=100||Southern Methodist University||Dallas||Texas|
|=76||=100||Trinity University||San Antonio||Texas|
|79||103||Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology||Terre Haute||Indiana|
|=81||=107||Saint Louis University||Saint Louis||Missouri|
|=81||=107||Wheaton College (Massachusetts)||Norton||Massachuetts|
|=86||=112||Syracuse University||Syracuse||New York|
|90||117||University of Denver||Denver||Colorado|
|92||119||Santa Clara University||Santa Clara||California|
|=93||=120||University of the Pacific||Stockton||California|
|=93||=120||Skidmore College||Saratoga Springs||New York|
|=98||=126||Loyola Marymount University||Los Angeles||California|
|=98||=126||Ohio Northern University||Ada||Ohio|
Read more: Best public universities in the US