It was a border state in the Civil War and in many ways, it remains a crossroads of American economy and culture. Maryland is part of the beautiful Chesapeake Bay region, home to renowned natural beauty. It’s also one of the most densely populated states in the country, with roughly six million residents who call it home. Maryland boasts the highest median household income of any state, thanks to a highly diversified economy that ranges from manufacturing to agriculture to biotechnology.
The variety in Maryland’s economy is due in part to the state’s colleges and universities, which represent a key factor in Maryland’s continuing growth and success. The highly-ranked University System of Maryland (USM) includes twelve higher education institutions and supports nearly 165,000 students across the state. The faculty of USM universities garner almost $1.3 billion every year in research grants and contracts, representing an important cornerstone of the state’s economic development.
The Maryland institutions outside of USM are no less prestigious: they include some of the most highly ranked research universities in the nation, such as the United States Naval Academy and Johns Hopkins University.
Whether prospective college students are seeking a large, nationally ranked university in a major metropolitan area, the community atmosphere of a small, rural college, or anything in between, Maryland has no shortage of great options for higher education. We’ve also ranked the Top Online Schools in Maryland as well.
What are the best colleges in Maryland?
Our methodology for the following ranking is based on two main factors: institutional excellence and return on investment for students. We measure institutional excellence through data points including student-to-faculty ratio, the test scores of incoming students, endowment size, graduation rate, and more. For the return on investment evaluation, we consider the amount of financial aid available, average tuition costs, student indebtedness after graduation, and expected early career salary for graduates. We pull information from PayScale, the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS database, individual college websites, and U.S. News & World Report to compile an accurate, comprehensive ranking of higher education institutions.
See our rankings methodology page.
United States Naval Academy
College Choice Score: 100
The United States Naval Academy, as the undergraduate college for the American naval service, is a highly prestigious school with competitive admissions standards and rigorous academic programs. Students at the Naval Academy are active-duty midshipmen during their four-year tenure, and will graduate with bachelor of science degrees and commissions as ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps.
USNA offers 25 undergraduate majors with an emphasis on STEM fields. Some academic tracks are similar to degrees in civilian colleges, such as English, Physics, and Economics, while others, like Oceanography, Naval Architecture, and Ocean Engineering, are more specifically geared towards a Navy career. Named #1 in Top Public Schools by U.S. News, the USNA provides renowned academic opportunities in all of its degree programs. Top majors at USNA include:
- Systems Engineering
- Political Science
Students who are accepted at the United States Naval Academy will begin their college experience the summer before their first semester with a program called the Plebe Summer. This seven-week indoctrination program introduces new students to the foundations of seamanship, navigation, and small arms handling, as well as the principles of self discipline, moral character, and leadership that will enable every entering student to be an outstanding officer by the time they graduate.
Johns Hopkins University
College Choice Score: 90.11
With an acceptance rate of just 11.4%, Johns Hopkins University is among the most competitive colleges in the region. Johns Hopkins is a world-class research institution with a 140-year heritage of intellectual curiosity and scholarly excellence. Students at Johns Hopkins can pursue more than 240 programs in social and natural sciences, music and the arts, business, engineering, the humanities, international studies, education, and the health professions.
The internationally acclaimed faculty at Johns Hopkins lead a diverse array of academic programs. Tracks are available in every field of study from Jazz Performance to Organizational Leadership to History of Science, Medicine & Technology. Among the most popular majors are the following:
- Public Health
- Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering
- International Relations and Affairs
The 21,000 full- and part-time students at Johns Hopkins University study on 140 acres of urban campus. Most undergraduates attend the Homewood Campus, while graduate students attend three other campuses in and around the city of Baltimore. The university boasts an 8:1 student-faculty ratio, and 73% of classes have fewer than 20 students. 20% of students come from countries other than the United States, and 193,000 JHU alumni now live and work in 175 countries worldwide, making Johns Hopkins an international community of motivated and passionate scholars.
University of Maryland, College Park
College Choice Score: 88.46
As the flagship institution for Maryland’s higher education network, the University of Maryland, College Park offers a dynamic range of opportunities and experiences for its students. Ranked Number 8 as a Best Value College by Kiplinger, and Number 10 in Entrepreneurship for Undergraduates by the Princeton Review, University of Maryland-College Park is a regional and national leader in academics, athletics, and the arts.
University of Maryland, College Park provides degrees in over 90 fields across 12 different colleges, as well as 107 master’s programs and 83 doctoral programs. Incoming freshmen can participate in the Living and Learning program, which enables students with similar passions and interests to share residence halls and classrooms and encourages meaningful collaboration with like-minded peers and faculty. Some of the most popular majors at University of Maryland, College Park include the following:
- Biology/Biological Sciences
The on-campus Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research emphasizes the importance of providing students with the tools and resources to create new knowledge and have an impact on their academic field as soon as they arrive at UMCP. The university’s 1,250-acre campus sits just four miles north of Washington, D.C. and is home to over 800 student clubs. Among the 38,000 students, all 50 states and 118 countries are represented, making the College Park campus an environment that’s diverse in cultures, ethnicities, ideologies, and intellectual interests.
Loyola University Maryland
College Choice Score: 85.52
Loyola University Maryland provides an intellectually rigorous education rooted in Jesuit Catholic tradition. Students at Loyola can pursue majors and minors in over 40 different academic fields, with programs available for Comparative Culture & Literary Studies, Computer Science, Visual Arts, Operations Research – Mathematics, Finance – Business Administration, and many other areas of study. With a focus on academic, spiritual, and personal growth, Loyola provides extensive service and hands-on opportunities both in the local Baltimore community and abroad.
In addition to 25 graduate programs and 30 undergraduate majors, Loyola offers over 200 clubs and organizations as well as study abroad programs and exchanges in 24 countries, including France, Australia, El Salvador, China, Thailand, and many more. The variety of opportunities available at Loyola means that students are able to customize their college experience. Popular majors at Loyola include:
- Social Sciences
- Biological and Physical Sciences
Loyola University Maryland’s 12:1 student-faculty ratio means that students will enjoy personalized attention and support on their academic journey. Over 95% of Loyola graduates are employed, pursuing a higher degree, or completing a year of service within nine months of graduation. Accounting for financial aid, Loyola is in the top 7% of over 1,300 ranked colleges and universities for return on investment in PayScale.com’s 2016 College ROI Report. 79% of Loyola’s students graduate within four years, which is a compelling 20 to 30 points higher than the national average.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
College Choice Score: 79.70
University of Maryland, Baltimore County is a public research university comprised of 13,000 students and over 500 full-time faculty members, bound by a common mission to combine teaching, research, and service to benefit the citizens of Maryland and the surrounding region. A commitment to social responsibility and lifelong learning are the defining aspects of this Honors University. UMBC was featured in the Princeton Review’s “Colleges That Pay You Back” guide as a school that does an exceptional job of balancing high-impact education and affordability.
Whether students are looking to pursue a career in the arts, social sciences, engineering and information technology, humanities, sciences, or business, UMBC offers academic tracks for nearly every intellectual interest. Forty-eight majors, 38 minors, and 25 certificate programs are available, with plenty of opportunities for cross-disciplinary study and innovative research. Top majors at UMBC include:
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences
- Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services
- Social Sciences
UMBC’s 500-acre campus is about 45 minutes away from Washington, D.C. The proximity to the nation’s capital is especially important for students in the school’s prestigious public policy graduate program. Nearly 20 NCAA Division I America East Conference varsity teams, 250 student organizations, and almost 20 sororities and fraternities provide ways for UMBC Retrievers to connect with each other, pursue their passions, and serve the community.
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
College Choice Score: 72.62
Founded in 1890 as a land-grant institution, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore is a historically black college with a reputation for exceptional learning and engagement opportunities. With a total enrollment just under 4,500 students, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore provides a tight-knit community atmosphere where students can learn to excel as leaders in their chosen fields.
The five schools at UMES provide a strong, holistic education for every student, whether they study at the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences; the School of Business and Technology; the School of Education, Social Sciences, and The Arts; the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions; or the School of Graduate Studies. Popular undergraduate degree programs at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore include:
- Criminal Justice
- Exercise Science
- Human Ecology
UMES offers a number of unique centers and clinics that create innovative research and collaboration opportunities for its students. One of these is the Coastal Ecology Teaching and Research Center (CETRC), which works closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is located at Assateague Island (six miles from the Chesapeake Bay and 30 miles from the Atlantic Ocean). UMES is also a lead institution for the Center for Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST), which fosters partnerships between numerous higher education and research institutions and is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
College Choice Score: 71.94
Named one of the top 100 Best Values in Public Colleges by Kiplinger, Towson University offers an extensive network of partnerships with both private and public organizations to foster opportunities for research, internships, and career growth for its students. The main TU campus is located eight miles north of Baltimore, less than an hour from Washington, D.C., and 120 miles from New York City, while five off-campus locations provide learning opportunities all across the state of Maryland.
Over 100 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs are available at Towson, including 64 undergraduate majors, 46 master’s programs, and four doctoral degree programs. Special programs and resources are available for veteran and international applicants. Some of the most popular majors among TU’s 22,000 students include the following:
- Art + Design
- Business Administration
- Mass Communication
Each year, Towson awards over $23 million in scholarships and grants to its students across seven colleges, including the Honors College. The university has a 59.2% acceptance rate, and is home to 19 NCAA Division I athletic teams (13 women’s sports and six men’s sports). Students at Towson can take advantage of the school’s 800 study abroad opportunities, 7,000 internships, and 300 clubs and organizations. Towson sponsored over $18 million in research during 2015, securing its place as a leading research institution in the mid-Atlantic region.
College Choice Score: 70.23
The mission of Salisbury University emphasizes the importance of active citizenship, gainful employment, and lifelong learning for each of its students. The relatively small student body — close to 8,700 in total — helps the university focus on its goal of providing virtually every student with the resources to undertake research or experiential learning with a faculty mentor during their time at SU.
Students at Salisbury University can pursue 14 graduate and 43 undergraduate fields of study, with strong programs available in liberal arts, sciences, business, nursing, education, and social work. High-achieving students can apply to the Honors College, which allows access to small classes, individualized research projects with faculty members, and participation in one of four freshmen Honors Living Learning Communities. Top majors at Salisbury include:
- Kinesiology and Exercise Science
- Biology/Biological Sciences
- Business Administration and Management
The 82 percent retention rate at Salisbury indicates that the majority of incoming freshmen are happy to find themselves a home among SU’s community of motivated students and experienced faculty. 88.5 percent of undergraduates are full-time students and 40 percent live on 182 acres of rural campus, meaning that Salisbury is a great place for students who are looking for the classic undergraduate experience.
Frostburg State University
College Choice Score: 67.26266867
Named 2016 Public Institution of the Year by America’s largest academic internship program, The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, Frostburg State University combines a high level of affordability with outstanding options for hands-on learning and practical experience. The campus, located on 260 acres in Frostburg, Maryland, is home to about 5,300 students, and it’s just five to 20 minutes away from recreational opportunities like hiking, biking, skiing, boating, and swimming in the area’s numerous parks and wilderness areas.
At the undergraduate level, Frostburg offers 48 distinct degree programs and over 80 specialized programs of study. Sixteen degree programs are available for students at the graduate level, and the school also offers a doctorate in education. Some of the most popular academic tracks for undergraduates at Frostburg include:
- Business Administration and Management
- Registered Nursing
- Liberal Arts and Sciences
Frostburg’s students benefit from small class sizes and individualized learning opportunities, with 84% of classes having fewer than 30 students. The university has a 43.8% minority undergraduate enrollment rate, ensuring a campus that is diverse in ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds. Since 2013, Frostburg has been one of just 80 schools in the country to serve in NASPA’s Lead Initiative, a program to develop civic learning and democratic engagement among students; the university now serves as Lead Consulting Institution for the initiative.
University of Baltimore
College Choice Score: 66.20
Founded in 1925, the University of Baltimore has grown to become a well-established urban anchor institution in the state of Maryland. The university focuses on serving the needs of a diverse range of students, including career changers, first-generation college students, working adults, and others whose family or personal needs require a more flexible approach to education than a traditional university can offer.
Students at the University of Baltimore participate in an array of research institutes and clinics, including the Human Trafficking Prevention Project at the School of Law, Ampersand Institute for Words & Images at the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Sustainable Cities Initiative, a pilot program based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and led by UB’s College of Public Affairs. UB offers 24 undergraduate programs and 30 graduate programs. The most popular majors include:
- Criminal Justice
- Health Services Administration
- Animation, Interactive Technology, Video Graphics and Special Effects
Forty-eight percent of UB’s 5,600 students are enrolled full-time while 52 percent are enrolled part-time. There are no dorms or dining plans at UB, encouraging flexibility and independence for students. The student-faculty ratio is 15:1. Incoming undergraduate students will be automatically considered for up to $28,000 in merit scholarships for a four-year enrollment, reaffirming the university’s commitment to quality, affordable education.
Maryland Institute College of Art
College Choice Score: 65.19
A private university with nearly 200 years of experience under its belt, the Maryland Institute College of Art provides exceptional education for the next generation of leaders in art and design. With an emphasis on the implementation of cutting-edge technology to prepare students for the realities of the 21st century, MICA’s philosophy is grounded in its world-class faculty and innovative curriculum.
Students from 49 states and 65 countries are enrolled in the numerous programs of study offered at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Available academic tracks range from bachelor’s degrees in art education, fine arts, design, and electronic media to general liberal arts programs, professional studies degrees, and non-credit programs. Among the 18 undergraduate majors available at MICA, some of the most well-known are the following:
- Humanistic Studies
- General Fine Arts
- Product Design
As the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art in the nation, MICA continues to build on its reputation as a leading institution in art education. The college has been ranked among the top 10 MFA programs in the visual arts (including #3 in Graphic Design, #3 Sculpture, and #4 in Painting/Drawing) by U.S. News & World Report. Studio concentrations are available in experimental fashion, game arts, sequential art, printmaking, sustainability and social practice, filmmaking, sound art, and many more specialty areas.
College Choice Score: 64.35
Founded in 1893, Hood College has a long tradition of preparing students to meet personal, professional, and global challenges through a strong liberal arts education. The campus is located in the picturesque and historic town of Frederick, Maryland, and serves just shy of 2,500 total students. The small university atmosphere provides an abundance of opportunities to form relationships and build effective collaborations with peers and faculty.
Hood offers 33 majors for undergraduates, as well as a student-designed major that allows the student to customize their own program of study. Seventeen master’s degrees, 12 post-baccalaureate certificate programs in education, and a program leading to a doctorate in organizational leadership or doctorate in business administration are also available. Top undergraduate majors at Hood College include:
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences
- English Language and Literature
Students in STEM fields will benefit from the on-campus Hodson Science and Technology Center, a $20 million research facility that focuses on providing meaningful integration of classroom lectures, hands-on lab work, and advanced scientific research. The five on-campus residence halls include Honors Housing for the community of Hood Honors College scholars, as well as three language residences for students of French and Spanish. With an average class size of 15 and a student-faculty ratio of 11:1 for undergraduates, Hood is a great choice for students who value a small community atmosphere and a personalized college experience.
Coppin State University
College Choice Score: 60.92
In 1900, Coppin State University was founded as a school to train African-American elementary school teachers. Since then, it has grown into a prestigious liberal arts college with programs in the arts and sciences, teacher education, nursing, graduate studies, and continuing education. As a historically black institution, Coppin has a strong cultural history and emphasizes the importance of providing students in Baltimore with the tools to have a positive impact in their fields, both in their community and around the world.
The 33 undergraduate degree programs, 11 master’s degree programs, and one doctoral program (Nursing) available at Coppin cover a wide range of academic fields, including the sciences, the arts, and teacher education. Numerous unique certificate programs and minors, such as Investigative Sciences, Forensic Investigations, Policing Strategies, and Urban Recreation, are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some of the most well-known undergraduate programs at Coppin include:
- Early Childhood Child Care and Early Childhood Education
- Entertainment Management
- Health Sciences
- Urban Arts
Coppin highlights the importance of providing higher education opportunities for nontraditional students. Among CSU’s roughly 3,400 total students, 75% have children and/or dependents. 61% are first-generation college students, while 71% are working adults with young families. Attentive to the needs of its student body, Coppin provides a suite of flexible scheduling options, including numerous online degree programs as well as evening and weekend classes.
Bowie State University
College Choice Score: 60.68515743
Bowie State University is the oldest historically black institution in Maryland, and among the ten oldest in the nation. With a focus on technology, business, education, and related disciplines, Bowie offers a supportive academic environment for students of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Since its founding in 1865, Bowie has continued to build on its heritage and has earned its place as a leader in teacher education and technological fields.
Twenty-two undergraduate programs and 38 master’s, doctoral, and advanced certification programs make up the academic catalog at Bowie. The 5,600 students at BSU also have the option of pursuing a variety of unique concentrations (including Animation & Motion Graphics, Digital Cinema & Time-Based Media, Marketing, and Broadcast and Print Journalism) and 14 specialty certificates (including a Graphics & User Interface Certificate, an Information Systems Analyst Certificate, and an Addictions Counseling Certificate). Top majors at the university include:
- Criminal Justice
- Computer Science and Computer Technology
Working in conjunction with NASA, Bowie manages a satellite operations control center on the campus. The university also boasts an all-Steinway Fine and Performing Arts Center with a full complement of the latest technology for digital media and music production. Situated on 300 wooded acres, the campus includes seven residence halls and is located within easy reach of both Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Morgan State University
College Choice Score: 60.64
Morgan State University recently celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding. Today, the university focuses on serving a student body that is diverse in racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Morgan State offers programs of study in a wide variety of professional fields, including engineering, business, architecture, the arts and sciences, teacher education, social work, and hospitality management. Notably, MSU awards more bachelor’s degrees to African-American students than any other Maryland college.
An array of both liberal arts and technical programs are available for students seeking bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. Numerous graduate degrees and post-baccalaureate certificates are available through fully online programs, including a Master of Business Administration (MBA), a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (MSEE), and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Sustainable Urban Communities. Among Morgan State’s 45 undergraduate degrees, some of the most popular are the following:
- Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services
- Social Sciences
The urban setting of MSU’s 143-acre campus provides living and learning space to 7,700 students, 35% of whom are out-of-state students. MSU has been designated as Maryland’s Public Urban University, meaning that it is responsible for meeting the specific needs of students, citizens, and organizations throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area. As a result, students can expect to find plentiful opportunities for service and community outreach through the university’s ties to the surrounding region.