The 10 Best Colleges in New York
New York earns the “most popular” superlative in Money’s most recent Best Colleges rankings — the state is home to the largest number of ranked campuses on our list.
The highest scorers in that group include a tech school, two Ivy League colleges and an urban public university known for its accessibility. Four of the top 10 are in New York City, the state’s economic hub.
Money’s annual college ranking aims to highlight the colleges where students get a quality education for a comparatively affordable price. We look at graduation rates and average earnings after college, plus how much typical families pay and borrow to attend. (You can read a full explanation of how we rank colleges here.)
Because most students attend a college relatively close to home, we also break down our analysis by geography. For many New York residents, staying “close to home” could also mean going to college in several neighboring Northeast states. But the Empire State has a diverse roster of high-value higher education institutions to choose from on its own.
To make our list of top New York colleges, we pulled from the more than 600 colleges on our main ranking, as well as the colleges on our separate selective colleges list. Read about the top 10 colleges below
1. Cornell University
- Estimated price with average grant: $29,100
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Median earnings for recent graduates: $91,180
An unusual public-private hybrid, Cornell has a unique position in the Ivy League. New York State residents can enroll in its colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Industrial and Labor Relations, or Human Ecology, and pay about $20,000 a year less than the tuition charged by the rest of the university. The university’s private side includes the highly respected College of Arts & Sciences, as well as architecture and hotel administration programs that are considered leaders in their respective fields.
2. Columbia University
- Estimated price with average grant: $23,400
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Median earnings for recent graduates: $89,870
Columbia’s Manhattan location gives students access to countless internships, not to mention an endless supply of entertainment. Not that students have all that much free time: The first two years of study at Columbia, during which all students must dive into the school's celebrated Core Curriculum, can be especially challenging.
3. Hamilton College
- Estimated price with average grant: $25,300
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Median earnings for recent graduates: $74,300
This private college has an “open curriculum,” meaning students don’t have to follow a strict order of courses and prerequisites. Instead, students design personal education goals under the guidance of an academic advisor. Hamilton students get plenty of work experience, too — the college says more than 80% of graduating seniors leave with at least two internships under their belt.
4. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
- Estimated price with average grant: $26,400
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Median earnings for recent graduates: $64,100
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, founded back in 1859, is a small college in New York City's artsy East Village that focuses specifically on art, architecture and engineering. Cooper Union was founded with a free-tuition mission but ended that policy about a decade ago. However, it still gives each student a half-tuition scholarship, and officials say the college is on track to restore its free-tuition model by the end of the decade.
5. CUNY Bernard M Baruch College
- Estimated price with average grant: $4,100
- Graduation rate: 66%
- Median earnings for recent graduates: $67,100
Named after financier Bernard M. Baruch in 1953, Baruch still has a money-related focus decades later. Accounting, finance and marketing are the most popular undergraduate programs, with about three-quarters of its 15,000 undergraduates studying in the college's well-known Zicklin School of Business.
6. SUNY Maritime College
- Estimated price with average grant: $19,500
- Graduation rate: 66%
- Median earnings for recent graduates: $84,400
SUNY Maritime is a bit more relaxed in tone than some other seven maritime colleges in the U.S., perhaps because students have the option to pursue a "civilian" track that doesn't require them to wear a uniform or adhere to military-style rules. Virtually all grads are able to find work within a few months of graduation, and their typical salaries are well above average, according to Money's data.
7. Clarkson University
- Estimated price with average grant: $32,000
- Graduation rate: 76%
- Median earnings for recent graduates: $81,600
Clarkson was named to honor a local entrepreneur in upstate New York, and the campus still attracts plenty of self-starters. One out of five alumni, for example, has held positions as a CEO, owner or other senior executive of a business.
8. Binghamton University
- Estimated price with average grant: $20,100
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Median earnings for recent graduates: $72,900
In the past seven decades, this New York public university has grown from a small regional school into a research university with a variety of nationally recognized programs. It scores well in Money’s rankings for getting students to graduate on time, with nearly three-quarters of freshmen earning a degree within four years — well above the national average for public universities.
9. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- Estimated price with average grant: $42,900
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Median earnings for recent graduates: $93,400
Although renowned for its science, engineering and mathematics programs, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has focused on expanding its humanities, arts and communication departments in recent years. The private college is known for its co-op programs, which offer six- to eight-month periods of full-time, paid work experiences related to a student’s major.
10. Union College
- Estimated price with average grant: $39,700
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Median earnings for recent graduates: $71,060
Greek life has historically played an important role at this central New York private college, where six national fraternities were founded between 1825 and 1847. That’s still true today, but in a bid to introduce a new system that includes all students, the private college also created the Minerva Program a few years ago. As freshmen, all students are assigned to one of the seven houses, which serve as an academic and social hub for members.
Sources: U.S. Department of Education, Money/Witlytic calculations and Peterson’s. Graduation rates include first-time and transfer students. Median earnings for recent graduates are the earnings 10 years after enrolling, as reported in the federal College Scorecard.
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