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.
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.
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.
Explore more top universities in the US
Best universities in the United States
Best liberal arts colleges in the United States
Best universities in California
Best universities in New York
Best universities in Washington DC
Best universities in Los Angeles
Best public universities in the United States
Top 5 private universities in the US
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From a waiter working in Singapore to becoming a Harvard graduate
A day in the life of a Harvard student
Graduate employability: top universities in the United States ranked by employers
The 10 most beautiful universities in the US
Video: how I got into Stanford University as a low-income international student
Why the US is a unique study experience for international students
Top 100 private universities in the US
|Private University Rank 2022||US College Rank 2022||University||City||State|
|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|
|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|
|16||16||Columbia University||New York||New York|
|17||17||Washington University in St Louis||Saint Louis||Missouri|
|19||19||University of Southern California||Los Angeles||California|
|21||21||Carnegie Mellon University||Pittsburgh||Pennsylvania|
|25||26||New York University||New York||New York|
|26||28||University of Notre Dame||Notre Dame||Indiana|
|31||34||Claremont McKenna College||Claremont||California|
|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|
|48||=61||Wake Forest University||Winston-Salem||North Carolina|
|49||63||University of Richmond||Richmond||Virginia|
|51||65||Vassar College||Poughkeepsie||New York|
|52||66||Davidson College||Davidson||North Carolina|
|54||68||Bryn Mawr College||Bryn Mawr||Pennsylvania|
|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|
|62||84||Franklin & Marshall College||Lancaster||Pennsylvania|
|65||89||Macalester College||Saint Paul||Minnesota|
|66||90||Loyola Marymount University||Los Angeles||California|
|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|
|74||101||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||Troy||New York|
|75||102||Skidmore College||Saratoga Springs||New York|
|77||106||Trinity University||San Antonio||Texas|
|78||107||Illinois Institute of Technology||Chicago||Illinois|
|=80||=109||Connecticut College||New London||Connecticut|
|84||113||Saint Louis University||Saint Louis||Missouri|
|=86||=115||Colorado College||Colorado Springs||Colorado|
|=88||=117||College of the Holy Cross||Worcester||Massachusetts|
|=88||=117||Syracuse University||Syracuse||New York|
|91||121||Worcester Polytechnic Institute||Worcester||Massachusetts|
|=96||=128||University of Denver||Denver||Colorado|
|100||134||Union College||Schenectady||New York|
Explore the best private universities in the US using Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education’s US College Rankings data