The City College of New York has a storied history: Originally called the Free Academy, it was founded in the 1800s to educate underprivileged students and the children of immigrants. Centuries later, CCNY still prides itself on effecting social change. Its president says the Manhattan campus is "a place where all people are welcome, protected, and celebrated."

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The school serves nearly 12,000 undergraduate students, most who are New York residents. CCNY has a strong reputation for results and mobility, helping its graduates move up income brackets. And the school is quite affordable; the average annual cost is about $5,000, far less than the national median for four-year schools.

Students can pick from a variety of majors, including anthropology, earth and atmospheric sciences, engineering and music, and they can cram for exams with the help of the largest library system of all the City University of New York schools. Outside of class, students can participate in 14 NCAA Division III teams and more than 100 clubs, among them an esports club, stock market club, and Humanizing Homelessness club.