Best private universities in the United States 2022

Explore the best private universities in the US using Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education’s US College Rankings data 

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September 21 2021
Best private universities in the United States


Many of the US’ highest-ranked universities are classified as private universities, including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Yale University.

These universities are funded primarily through student tuition fees, which are generally higher than those of public universities. Accordingly, private universities usually have better staff-to-student ratios and more income for resources, which may be one reason they rank higher than the country’s public universities.

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All the institutions in the prestigious Ivy League group are private universities.

We’ve pulled together a list of the top 100 private colleges in the US, based on data from the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education US College Rankings 2022. Private universities also dominated the top 100 of the overall ranking.

A number of liberal arts colleges including Williams College, Amherst College and Pomona College have also entered the top 100 private universities in the US.

The majority of private universities in the US are not-for-profit operations.

The WSJ/THE US College Ranking is a more student-centred ranking because of its emphasis on student outcomes and engagement. While previously we have used results from the US Student Survey for the ranking, we were unable to conduct a survey in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, we have used data from the 2019 survey to inform this year’s ranking. The full methodology can be found here.

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Top 5 private universities in the US

1. Harvard University

It’s no surprise that Harvard University tops this list, considering that it also took the top spot in the overall WSJ/THE US College Ranking 2022. Harvard has also been a mainstay at the top of the THE Reputation Ranking for the past nine 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, and is now offering about $170 million a year to students. In fact, 50 per cent of students receive financial aid.

2. Stanford University

Stanford University was founded in 1885 by Jane and Leland Stanford, in the heart of what is now Silicon Valley.

In total, companies founded by Stanford affiliates and alumni generate more than $2.7 trillion in annual revenue, which would be the 10th largest economy in the world. These companies include Google, Nike, Netflix, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Instagram and Charles Schwab. 

Stanford counts 19 Nobel laureates within its community today, as well as numerous famous alumni in the worlds of art, social sciences, business, politics, humanities, media, sports and technology. 

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The 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 to author Salman Rushdie in 1993. 

4. Yale University

Notable graduates of Yale University include former US secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, and actor Meryl Streep. In fact, Yale has an impressive group of alumni including five US presidents, 20 Nobel prizewinners and 32 Pulitzer prizewinners. 

Yale is famous for its secret societies, including Scroll and Key and Skull and Bones, which started admitting women only in 1991. There are also plenty of student societies that aren’t so secret, such as the mathematics society, Chinese students’ society, foosball club and the chamber orchestra. 

5. Duke University

Duke University is a private research university in Durham, North Carolina. The university was founded by Methodists and Quakers in 1838. It was originally located in the town of Trinity before moving to Durham in 1892.

The original campus was rebuilt in a Georgian architectural style and is now known as East Campus, after the 1930 addition of West Campus, Gothic in style and home to the impressive Duke Chapel tower.

There are 10 schools and colleges; the oldest is Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, founded in 1859, and the youngest is the Nicholas School of the Environment, established just 25 years ago.

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Top 100 private universities in the US

Private University Rank 2022 US College Rank 2022 University City State
1 1 Harvard University Cambridge Massachusetts
2 2 Stanford University Stanford California
3 3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge Massachusetts
4 4 Yale University New Haven Connecticut
5 5 Duke University Durham North Carolina
6 6 Brown University Providence Rhode Island
7 7 California Institute of Technology Pasadena California
8 8 Princeton University Princeton New Jersey
=9 =9 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore Maryland
=9 =9 Northwestern University Evanston Illinois
11 11 Cornell University Ithaca New York
12 12 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia Pennsylvania
13 13 Dartmouth College Hanover New Hampshire
14 14 The University of Chicago Chicago Illinois
15 15 Vanderbilt University Nashville Tennessee
16 16 Columbia University New York New York
17 17 Washington University in St Louis Saint Louis Missouri
18 18 Rice University Houston Texas
19 19 University of Southern California Los Angeles California
20 20 Emory University Atlanta Georgia
21 21 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
22 22 Amherst College Amherst Massachusetts
23 23 Williams College Williamstown Massachusetts
24 25 Pomona College Claremont California
25 26 New York University New York New York
26 28 University of Notre Dame Notre Dame Indiana
27 29 Swarthmore College Swarthmore Pennsylvania
28 30 Tufts University Medford Massachusetts
29 31 Wellesley College Wellesley Massachusetts
30 32 Georgetown University Washington DC
31 34 Claremont McKenna College Claremont California
32 35 Carleton College Northfield Minnesota
33 =36 Haverford College Haverford Pennsylvania
34 38 Bowdoin College Brunswick Maine
35 39 Smith College Northampton Massachusetts
36 =40 Middlebury College Middlebury Vermont
37 42 Boston University Boston Massachusetts
38 =43 Wesleyan University Middletown Connecticut
39 49 University of Miami Coral Gables Florida
40 50 Barnard College New York New York
41 51 Case Western Reserve University Cleveland Ohio
=42 =52 Colgate University Hamilton New York
=42 =52 University of Rochester Rochester New York
44 =55 Mount Holyoke College South Hadley Massachusetts
45 57 Boston College Chestnut Hill Massachusetts
46 =58 Hamilton College Clinton New York
47 =61 Lehigh University Bethlehem Pennsylvania
48 =61 Wake Forest University Winston-Salem North Carolina
49 63 University of Richmond Richmond Virginia
50 64 Bates College Lewiston Maine
51 65 Vassar College Poughkeepsie New York
52 66 Davidson College Davidson North Carolina
53 67 Scripps College Claremont California
54 68 Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania
55 =69 Grinnell College Grinnell Iowa
56 71 Tulane University New Orleans Louisiana
57 72 George Washington University Washington DC
58 73 Washington and Lee University Lexington Virginia
59 74 Santa Clara University Santa Clara California
60 77 Lafayette College Easton Pennsylvania
61 =81 Bucknell University Lewisburg Pennsylvania
62 84 Franklin & Marshall College Lancaster Pennsylvania
63 86 Northeastern University Boston Massachusetts
64 88 Pitzer College Claremont California
65 89 Macalester College Saint Paul Minnesota
66 90 Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles California
67 92 Reed College Portland Oregon
68 93 Kenyon College Gambier Ohio
69 94 Southern Methodist University Dallas Texas
70 95 Occidental College Los Angeles California
71 96 University of the Pacific Stockton California
72 98 Whitman College Walla Walla Washington
73 =99 Dickinson College Carlisle Pennsylvania
74 101 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Troy New York
75 102 Skidmore College Saratoga Springs New York
76 =104 Trinity College Hartford Connecticut
77 106 Trinity University San Antonio Texas
78 107 Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago Illinois
79 108 Rhodes College Memphis Tennessee
=80 =109 Connecticut College New London Connecticut
=80 =109 Howard University Washington DC
82 111 Brandeis University Waltham Massachusetts
83 112 Oberlin College Oberlin Ohio
84 113 Saint Louis University Saint Louis Missouri
85 114 Denison University Granville Ohio
=86 =115 Colorado College Colorado Springs Colorado
=86 =115 Drexel University Philadelphia Pennsylvania
=88 =117 College of the Holy Cross Worcester Massachusetts
=88 =117 Syracuse University Syracuse New York
90 120 DePauw University Greencastle Indiana
91 121 Worcester Polytechnic Institute Worcester Massachusetts
=92 =122 Gettysburg College Gettysburg Pennsylvania
=92 =122 Seattle University Seattle Washington
=94 =126 Babson College Wellesley Massachusetts
=94 =126 Spelman College Atlanta Georgia
=96 =128 University of Denver Denver Colorado
=96 =128 Simmons University Boston Massachusetts
=96 =128 Villanova University Villanova Pennsylvania
99 132 Bentley University Waltham Massachusetts
100 134 Union College Schenectady New York


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