Maryland is a relatively small state, but the variety of college experiences available to Maryland students is sizeable. Whether you prefer a large campus in a big city or a more intimate school in a laid-back town setting, one of the best traditional or online colleges in Maryland is likely to have what you're looking for.
The University System of Maryland (USM) administrates 12 colleges and universities in the Old Line State, including the main and satellite campuses of the state's flagship public university. Schools in the state system participate in a series of agreements with Maryland's community colleges, allowing students in certain programs to streamline the university transfer process. The USM articulation system, or ARTSYS, serves as an umbrella program to help transfer students plan their path to a university degree.
In order to figure out which ones among the dozens of Maryland colleges could be called the best, we collected a ton of National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data and analyzed it with our in-house methodology. Factors such as affordability, flexibility, student success and more helped shape our approach to ranking the top 10 schools in the state. Read on to find out who made the cut.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Maryland
We took National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data on affordability, student success, distance education availability and other important benchmarks and calculated which Maryland schools stood out above the rest. Read on to find out which institutions are the best colleges and universities in Maryland. After, be sure to check out our rankings for the top community colleges in Maryland, too.
Founded in 1856 as Maryland Agricultural College, the flagship institution of the University System of Maryland features today's second-largest enrollment figure among all Maryland colleges. The student body at the University of Maryland, College Park numbers near 40,000 -- a statistic to keep in mind if you thrive in a bustling campus environment.
Despite such a large student population, the student-teacher ratio here is just 17:1, right around the national average. Degree program offerings at UMCP include more than 200 programs, including 90+ undergraduate majors and over 100 graduate study plans.
Both faculty and students at UMCP have earned awards for their scholarly work and other achievements. The university is home to fewer than 17 Fulbright Scholars, and the faculty includes three Nobel laureates, two Pulitzer prize winners and recipients of three Emmy and two Tony awards.
Located in Towson, a suburb of Baltimore, Towson University is another of the top schools in Maryland by enrollment. A total of more than 22,000 students are pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees from Towson's six academic colleges.
Students looking to earn a graduate degree or certificate via online courses have quite a few options to choose from at Towson. Online degree programs include Master of Science (M.S.) plans in kinesiology, nursing and applied information technology. Post-baccalaureate certificates are available in a range of fields, including interactive media design, software engineering and autism studies
There's also one point of pride at Towson that not many institutions can claim. The university's competitive dance team is one of the best in the nation, winning their 18th National Dance Alliance (NDA) championship in 2018.
Johns Hopkins University established itself as the first research university in the U.S. at its founding in 1876, and the esteemed Baltimore institution has done everything in its power to live up to that legacy. Nearly 70 percent of undergraduates here engage in some form of research, and no other school in the country is awarded more federal research and development funding
The largest student body among private Maryland universities can be found here -- more than 24,000 in 2018 -- with approximately three-fourths of that number pursuing graduate degrees. Despite the sheer number of students here, the undergraduate student-faculty ratio is just 10:1.
Johns Hopkins also deserves a place among the top colleges and universities in Maryland for online graduate study. More than 50 fully online master's degrees are available, with an additional 20 hybrid plans.
The Baltimore County location of the University of Maryland earned a special distinction in 2017: the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) ranked it among the top two percent of all universities worldwide. Johns Hopkins and UMCP were the only other top Maryland colleges to land so high on the world rankings.
This medium-sized university just outside the Baltimore Beltway features a total student body of around 13,600, with more than 11,000 undergraduates and close to 2,500 graduate students. Bachelor's degree offerings here number close to 50, and more than 40 graduate and undergraduate certificates are available for either full- or part-time students.
Arts and cultural events are an important part of student life at UMBC. The campus houses two art galleries, features two professional dance companies and maintains state-of-the-art facilities for its theater, dance and music departments.
Initially founded as a two-year teacher's college, Salisbury University grew quickly into bachelor's degree authorization and now offers accredited degree programs for undergraduates, graduates and post-grads. More than 40 undergraduate majors are available for the student body of over 8,700, and doctoral programs are available in education and nursing.
SU works to provide affordable education for its students, and its efforts have been recognized by numerous national collegiate rating agencies. Kiplinger's Best College Values lists the Salisbury institution among its top 100 schools, for one, and Money magazine names SU on its Best Colleges For Your Money list for 2017.
Science and health care majors dominate the list of most popular undergraduate degrees at SU. Biology was the No. 1 degree by enrollment in fall 2016, with nursing and exercise science taking the other two spots in the top three.
McDaniel College is a private liberal arts institution located in Westminster, about 40 miles northeast of Baltimore. It's a relatively small institution, reporting around 3,000 enrolled students in 2016, which helps maintain a comfortable ratio of 11 students per faculty member and an average class size of just 15 students.
The undergraduate curriculum at McDaniel has its basis in the liberal arts and sciences and is designed with enough flexibility to let students fill a large portion of their schedule with courses that suit their interests and ambitions. The institution is more residential than most, as well -- more than 80 percent of McDaniel students live in on-campus housing.
McDaniel also offers a unique opportunity for students hoping to study abroad in Europe. The college maintains a satellite campus in Budapest, Hungary, where all stateside financial aid awards still apply.
As another small, private liberal arts institution among the best Maryland colleges, Loyola University Maryland has a student-faculty ratio more than 30 percent better than the national average. The institution was founded in downtown Baltimore in 1852 and moved to its current location north of the city center in the 1920s.
The approximately 4,100 undergraduates at Loyola can choose among 23 Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) programs, six Bachelor of Science (B.S.) plans and half a dozen subject-specific bachelor's degrees in business and engineering. Subjects of graduate study include business, education, psychology, theology and data science.
Loyola identifies as a Catholic university, but the institution welcomes students of other faiths. The Jesuit tradition focuses its instruction on the liberal arts and sciences, although two courses on Christian/Catholic theology are required in the core curriculum.
Frostburg State University is one of the smaller institutions by enrollment in the University System of Maryland, with a total population of fewer than 5,400 students, but its three academic colleges still offer plenty of educational opportunity. Nearly 50 undergraduate subjects of study are available here, including some exotic programs like animal behavior, ethnobotany and adventure sports management.
FSU may also belong among of the best schools in Maryland for online degrees, according to nationwide education ranking agencies. Its online graduate programs in business and education are well-regarded nationally, and it offers a rare online master's degree in recreation and parks management.
The distance education catalog here also features a helpful program for registered nurses (RNs) hoping to advance their career. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N) degree can be earned fully online if you've already had RN training.
The origins of Stevenson University lie within the Catholic Church. It was founded as an all-female medical secretary's college by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, but it split from the Church in 1967 and now operates as an independent, secular institution. The Owings Mills campus has admitted both men and women since 1972.
The success of students from its pre-professional programs is a point of pride at Stevenson. Graduates with preparatory degrees in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, physical therapy and veterinary medicine were accepted into their advanced programs at a nearly 90 percent rate.
Stevenson is also one of the top online colleges in Maryland, offering more than 30 bachelor's, master's and certificate programs. Online programs in certain disciplines may even help you accelerate the process of earning both a bachelor's and a master's degree.
St. Mary's College of Maryland styles itself as Maryland's public honors college, boasting the affordability, accessibility and diversity of a public institution with the high academic standards and small-school feel of more expensive and exclusive private schools. Total enrollment in 2017 tallied fewer than 1,700 students, and the student-faculty ratio is 10:1.
Academics at St. Mary's focus on undergraduate programs, with just one of graduate degree on offer -- a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) available through a dual-level bachelor's and master's program in the field. The most popular B.S. and B.A. degrees here are biology, economics, English, political science and psychology.
The institution's home of St. Mary's City is steeped in history from its nearly five centuries of existence. It served as the state's first capital and features faithful recreations of architecture, sea travel and civic life from colonial Maryland.
Most popular degree programs in Maryland
Having an idea of the most popular study plans can help you get a picture of the educational priorities in force in your state, which may inform your own path through college. Here's a list of the top campus-based and online bachelor's degree programs in Maryland.
In-Demand Careers in Maryland
Matching up your schooling to the needs of a high-demand industry can give you certain advantages on the career market after graduation. Check out this list of the top careers in Maryland and find out which subjects of study are most likely to help you get ahead in the workforce.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Ophthalmic Medical Technicians||28.2%||950||$44,950|
|Physical Therapist Aides||27.1%||1,540||$27,170|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||26.8%||1,880||$55,070|
|Medical Secretaries and Administrative Assistants||26.6%||10,680||$40,540|
|Surgeons, Except Ophthalmologists||26%||590||$278,720|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||25.6%||700||$63,810|
|Obstetricians and Gynecologists||24.7%||460||$211,430|
|General Internal Medicine Physicians||24.5%||1,140||$203,270|
|Occupational Therapy Aides||24.1%||130||$35,150|
|Pile Driver Operators||22.6%||50||$50,730|
|Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists||22.2%||830||$75,540|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Maryland
The Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) provides an assortment of grants and scholarships to students who are official residents of the state. Here are just a few of the plans available to qualifying students:
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable up to three years if recipient reapplies and maintains a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable up to eight years.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Reapplication required for renewal.
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed April 18-19, 2018: History and Mission, The University of Maryland, https://www.umd.edu/history-and-mission; Rankings and Fast Facts, The University of Maryland, https://www.umd.edu/rankings-and-fast-facts; About TU, Towson University, https://www.towson.edu/about/; TU at a Glance, Towson University, https://www.towson.edu/about/ataglance/; Off-Campus & Online Graduate Programs, Towson University, https://www.towson.edu/academics/graduate/programs/offcampus.html; TU dances to 18th national title, Towson University, https://www.towson.edu/news/2018/danceteamtitle.html; About Us, Johns Hopkins University, https://www.jhu.edu/about/; Get The Facts, Johns Hopkins University, https://apply.jhu.edu/discover-jhu/get-the-facts/; Academics, Johns Hopkins University, https://www.jhu.edu/academics/#!/programlevel=masters&format=online; About UMBC, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, https://about.umbc.edu/; UMBC Undergraduate Admissions Fast Facts, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, https://undergraduate.umbc.edu/quicklinks/fast-facts.php; History, Salisbury University, http://www.salisbury.edu/about/history.html; Academic Programs, Salisbury University, http://www.salisbury.edu/academics/degrees.html; About, McDaniel College, https://www.mcdaniel.edu/information/about; Fact Sheet, McDaniel College, https://www.mcdaniel.edu/images/uploads/misc/McDaniel_Profile_Sheet_General_20161.pdf; The McDaniel Plan, McDaniel College, https://www.mcdaniel.edu/undergraduate/the-mcdaniel-plan; University Profile, Loyola University Maryland, https://www.loyola.edu/about/university-profile; Core Curriculum, Loyola University Maryland, https://www.loyola.edu/department/academic-advising/students/first-year/core-curriculum; Spiritual Life, Loyola University Maryland, https://www.loyola.edu/admission/undergraduate/life-at-loyola/spiritual-life; FSU Facts and Rankings, Frostburg State University, https://www.frostburg.edu/why-fsu/fsu-facts.php; Academics, Frostburg State University, https://www.frostburg.edu/academics/index.php; Online Degree Programs and Courses, Frostburg State University, https://www.frostburg.edu/online/degree-programs-and-courses/; University History, Stevenson University, http://www.stevenson.edu/about/university-history/; About, Stevenson University, http://www.stevenson.edu/about/; Home Page, Stevenson University, http://www.stevenson.edu/; Academics, Stevenson University Online, Stevenson University, http://www.stevenson.edu/online/academics/; About, St. Mary's College of Maryland, http://www.smcm.edu/about/; Key Facts, St. Mary's College of Maryland, http://www.smcm.edu/about/key-facts/; Master of Arts in Teaching, St. Mary's College of Maryland, http://www.smcm.edu/mat/;
- Institutions, University System of Maryland, accessed April 18, 2018, https://www.usmd.edu/institutions/
- 21 Liberal Arts Colleges With the Lowest Student-Faculty Ratios, U.S. News and World Report, Jordan Friedman, April 19, 2016, accessed April 18, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2016-04-19/21-liberal-arts-colleges-with-the-lowest-student-faculty-ratios
- World University Rankings, Center for World University Rankings, accessed April 18, 2018, http://cwur.org/2017.php
- Kiplinger's Best College Values, Kiplinger, accessed April 18, 2018, https://www.kiplinger.com/tool/college/T014-S001-kiplinger-s-best-values-in-public-colleges/index.php
- MONEY's 2017-18 Best Colleges Ranking, Money, accessed April 18, 2018, http://new.money.com/money/best-colleges/rankings/best-colleges/
- Frostburg State University, Best Online Colleges, U.S. News and World Report, accessed April 19, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/frostburg-state-university-162584
- FAQ, Historic St. Mary's City Maryland, accessed April 19, 2018, https://hsmcdigshistory.org/about/faqs/
- Agreements Between USM and Community Colleges Ease Transfer for Maryland Students, University System of Maryland, accessed March 27, 2017, http://usmh12.usmd.edu/newsroom/news/114
- Overall Rankings, Johns Hopkins University, U.S. News and World Report, accessed March 27, 2017, https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/jhu-2077/overall-rankings
- State Financial Assistance Programs & Applications, Maryland Higher Education Commission, accessed March 27, 2017, http://mhec.maryland.gov/preparing/Pages/FinancialAid/descriptions.aspx
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/