Best Colleges in New Jersey

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Though New Jersey may be the fourth smallest state in the U.S., its postsecondary options are comprehensive and varied. As of 2013, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association reported that NJ was home to more than 372,000 students in public postsecondary schools alone. 67 colleges are based in the Garden State, ranging from public and private research universities to community colleges and religiously-affiliated institutions providing both two-year and four-year degrees. With so many factors to consider when selecting postsecondary education, choosing the right school can feel overwhelming. After crunching numbers and sifting data, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in New Jersey, including the top four-year and two-year schools.

Some of the most prestigious four-year universities are located in New Jersey, with students flocking from all 50 states and across the globe to study under world-class professors in historic yet state-of-the-art learning spaces. An IPEDs report found that close to 210,000 undergraduate and 38,000 graduate students take advantage of the many offerings in the state’s urban and rural locations.

Although New Jersey tuition rates for both public and private colleges are above the national average (NJ public tuition averages $11,955, compared to the national average of $8,070, while NJ private tuition averages $31,195, compared to the national average of $24,525), student debt does not necessarily follow suit. As of the 2012-13 academic year, 70% of students graduated with an average debt of $28,109, placing New Jersey 18th in terms of state-to-state student debt.

While two-year degrees propel graduates into some entry-level roles, studies show that individuals with a four-year degree earn close to $150,000 more throughout their careers, on average.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1Princeton University99.453/596%Princeton, NJ

Princeton, founded in 1746, is the fourth-oldest university in the nation. Set on 500 acres in a small community, the private research institution is a member of the prestigious Ivy League and is distinguished among colleges in New Jersey by the focus it gives to undergraduate education. About two thirds of the 8,000-member student body are pursuing their baccalaureate degrees, and they benefit from a 5:1 student to faculty ratio.

Only 6.5% of undergraduates who apply are admitted. 98% of undergraduates live on campus, and they select from 37 academic programs in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. Princeton has the largest endowment per capita in the country, and its list of alumni is full of famous names, including former First Lady Michelle Obama, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and actor David Duchovny. 60 percent of undergraduates receive a form of financial aid.

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2The College of New Jersey84.553/587%Ewing, NJ

TCNJ, located in Ewing, has one of the highest graduation rates of all public universities. The school was founded in 1855 as the state of New Jersey's teacher's college, and has evolved over the years into a top comprehensive institution, with a student body of 7,400. The majority of those enrolled are undergraduates; 95 percent of freshmen live on the 289-acre campus.

TCNJ's seven schools -- Arts & Communication; Business; Education; Engineering; Humanities & Social Sciences; Nursing, Health & Exercise Science; and Science -- offer more than 50 baccalaureate programs. TCNJ has a reputation for faculty-student collaboration and research and is known for strong programs in business, education, engineering, and nursing. It was awarded a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in 2006, an honor granted to less than 10% of the nation's universities. The Lions have an active on-campus life, with title-winning Division III sports programs and more than 200 student organizations.

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3Rutgers University – New Brunswick73.383/579%New Brunswick, NJ

Rutgers is the official State University of New Jersey. The New Brunswick-based public research university is the largest college in New Jersey -- and one of the oldest in the nation. Founded before the United States was formed, Rutgers is one of the nine colonial colleges that predate the American Revolution. The school is a member of the exclusive Association of American Universities. Rutgers has more than 40,000 students enrolled in 18 schools and colleges -- over 32,000 of them undergraduates.

The school offers more than 100 undergraduate majors and has nationally recognized programs in philosophy, geography, geology, mathematics, Latin, and Greek. Freshmen can participate in "Byrne Seminars," small, hands-on classes that are limited to 20 students or less and expose first-year learners to Rutgers' extensive research. The school's list of famous alumni is extensive, including singer/activist Paul Robeson, Nobel-Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, actor James Gandolfini, and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

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4Stevens Institute of Technology73.314/578%Hoboken, NJ

Located across the river from New York, in Hoboken, Stevens Institute is one of the nation's oldest tech schools. The private research university is named for the nation's "first family of inventors," who left a bequest that endowed the school. When it was founded in 1870 it was the first school dedicated to mechanical engineering in the United States.

Undergraduates make up less than half of the 6,600 enrolled students, and they select from 34 bachelor degree programs. The 290-member faculty encourages collaboration, creating an "interdisciplinary, student-centered, entrepreneurial environment." The school emphasizes technical training, design projects, internships, and research in industries including finance, energy, cybersecurity, defense, homeland and maritime security, health care, STEM education, and urban and coastal resilience. Stevens is one of only two universities in the country to offer entrepreneurship training to freshmen. An accelerated five-year master's plan is available.

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5Rowan University71.314/572%Glassboro, NJ

Rowan, located in Glassboro (about 20 minutes from Philadelphia), is a public research institution serving 16,000 students. Founded as a teacher's college, it has developed into a university with a reputation for excellence in engineering, education, health care, and business. The school's 13,000 undergraduates earn degrees in 74 baccalaureate programs on the historic, brick-clad main campus or at satellite locations in Camden and Stratford. About a third of undergraduates live on-campus.

In the past decade the university has added a medical school, a school of biomedical science, and acquired an osteopathic institute. The school is among the best colleges in New Jersey -- and nationally -- for military friendliness; for its commitment to sustainability, and for the avenue of "upward mobility" it provides its students. Campus life is enriched by dozens of student organizations and 16 Division III sports teams.

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6Ramapo College of New Jersey68.693/573%Mahwah, NJ

Ramapo College, located in the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains, is a public liberal arts institution in New Jersey's system of higher education, and its smallest school. The school serves 6,000 students and has a close-knit community. Ramapo has articulation agreements and partnerships with bigger colleges in New Jersey, including Rutgers, Caldwell University, Lake Erie College of Medicine, and Seton Hall. Because of these arrangements, qualified freshmen gain guaranteed admission to Seton Hall's School of Law upon completion of their baccalaureate degree. Most first-year students live on campus, and 87% continue their education at Ramapo after their freshman year.

Ramapo's five schools provide students access to more than 539 course offerings and 36 academic programs. The average class size is 23, allowing students to develop relationships with the college's faculty. The university's school of Business has been accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

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7Rutgers University – Newark68.413/561%Newark, NJ

Rutgers-Newark is part of the larger Rutgers system. The former University of Newark joined Rutgers in 1946. Rutgers-Newark is a public institution of "high research activity," according to Carnegie.

More than 12,000 students are enrolled in the 38-acre campus in University Heights, and the student body has been deemed the most diverse in the nation. Many students are commuters -- the school only has 1,280 on-campus residents. Learners select from 45 baccalaureate degree programs at Rutgers-Newark's seven different undergraduate and professional schools. More than 60% of the student body studies at the College of Arts and Sciences, and they enjoy a student to faculty ratio of 13:1. A select few gain admission to the school's Honors College, an intensive program that prepares students for the next step in their education with small seminars and research activity.

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8New Jersey Institute of Technology67.523/554%Newark, NJ

NJIT is a public research institution located in Newark's University Heights neighborhood. The campus has doubled in size in the last decade, building on 130 years of polytech history. About 2,200 of the school's 11,000 students, including 50% of freshmen, make their home on-campus. The rest commute or study online.

Undergraduates pursue degrees in 50 academic fields at the college of engineering, the college of architecture and design, the college of science and the liberal arts, the school of management, college of computing, and the Honors College. The school's Enterprise Development Center is New Jersey's largest high tech incubator and one of the biggest in the nation. The New Jersey Innovation Institute, a think tank partnering with government and industry, is based at NJIT. The school is known for affordability among New Jersey colleges. NJIT offers master's and doctoral programs.

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9Stockton University61.523/565%Galloway, NJ

When Stockton welcomed its first class in 1971, students attended classes in an Atlantic City hotel. Today, the main campus is in Galloway, within the bounds of the Pinelands National Reserve. Stockton calls itself New Jersey's "Distinctive Public University," and it was established to provide the education of a high-end, private liberal arts college to South Jersey students at an affordable price.

Stockton's approach to education is interdisciplinary, and the school's 8,800 students select from 50 different academic fields. Programs include business, education, nursing, environmental and marine science, and tourism, which uses the school's own seaside hotel, Seaview Resort, in its training. About 3,000 students live on campus, and they participate in 130 official clubs and organizations, including the Student Senate. More than 90% of the faculty has terminal degrees. 88% of the school's graduates are employed or in graduate studies.

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10Rutgers University – Camden60.693/563%Camden, NJ

Rutgers-Camden, the smallest school in the Rutgers University system with just 6,100 students, expands the State University of New Jersey into the Greater Philadelphia area. The school was founded when the South Jersey School of Law and the College of South Jersey joined Rutgers in 1950; RUC is a public research institution with a focus on the liberal arts.

Rutgers-Camden offers 36 undergraduate majors, and an intimate 10:1 student to faculty ratio. The College of Arts and Sciences, which delivers programming in the humanities, natural sciences, social science, and fine arts, is the largest academic unit at Rutgers-Camden. During the winter semester, the traditional curriculum pauses to give students a three-week window to pursue internships and do focused research. In 2016, RUC renewed its partnership with the University of Havana, which provides research and exchange opportunities. Famous alumni includes politician Maria Rodriguez-Gregg and writer Daniel Nestor.

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11Montclair State University55.934/563%Montclair, NJ

Montclair State, a public research institution, is the second-largest of all colleges in New Jersey with 21,000 students. Undergraduates make up two thirds of the student body, and about 5,000 of them live on the school's 252-acre campus in the town of Montclair. The school provides undergraduates with access to 54 majors, 60 concentrations, and 61 minors. Class sizes are kept to an average of 23 students.

Montclair was founded as a normal school, and its education department continues to be among the best in New Jersey. The university is home to the New Jersey School of Conservation, located in Stokes State Forest. Montoclair is becoming known for the fine arts, theater, music, and fashion studies available through its College of the Arts. Many programs can be accelerated to include a teaching certification. Famous alumni includes baseball great Yogi Berra, actor Bruce Willis, and poet Allen Ginsberg. The school's commitment to community involvement has won national recognition.

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12Drew University54.904/569%Madison, NJ

Drew used to be a seminary and now has about 2,000 students enrolled in 30 undergraduate degree programs. More than 90% of students live on campus. Drew is known for its close-knit community, where faculty are mentors and students learn by doing. The student to faculty ratio is 10:1.

Majors at Drew include economics, psychology, business, theatre, and political science. Undergraduates can partake in a variety of educational opportunities at the Charles A. Dana Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti, the Drew Summer Science Institute, the Center for Civic Engagement, the Center for Holocaust/Genocide Studies, and the Center on Religion, Culture, and Conflict. The school hosts a full slate of "New York City Semesters," which take undergraduates to Wall Street, the United Nations, and famous art, theater, and media institutions. Drew is home to the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, a professional theater company, and is known as one of the best colleges in New Jersey for theater.

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13Seton Hall University51.454/567%South Orange, NJ

Seton Hall, founded in 1856, is one of the nation's leading Catholic universities. It's campus is 58-acres and resides in South Orange, New Jersey, just 14 miles from Manhattan. The private university provides 5,000 undergraduates with an education in over 90 fields of study. Service is important at Seton Hall; students donate more than 40,000 hours of their time to the community every year.

Seton Hall is considered among the best colleges in New Jersey and the nation. The school gives students with slightly lower than average high school GPAs (what they call "B" students) an opportunity to study at the university. Seton is nationally known for its business and law programs, and has been recognized for the internships it presents to students. Nursing, biology, finance, and general liberal arts studies are among the most popular undergraduate majors. Eighty percent of freshmen live on campus, where they can participate in Greek Life, 25 intramural sports, and join more than 130 official clubs and groups. New Jersey governor Chris Christie, sports announcers Dick Vitale and Bob Ley, slugger Mo Vaughn, and dozens of NBA stars are among its famous alumni.

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14Saint Peter’s University51.313/552%Jersey City, NJ

St. Peter's is a small, private, four-year, Catholic Jesuit college in Jersey City. The school is one of 28 institutions of higher learning in the country run by the Society of Jesus, and the only one among New Jersey colleges. St. Peter's is located on an urban, 30-acre campus, just two miles from New York City. More than 3,400 students are enrolled, including a diverse group from 29 states and 39 countries. The vast majority of students are undergraduates, and only 34% of them live on campus.

St. Peter's offers 60 degree paths and enriches student education through study abroad, research with faculty, honors programs, and internships. The Washington Experience places qualified upperclassmen into internships in their fields within the nation's capital. The most popular majors include business, health care professions, biology, Homeland Security, and criminal justice. The school offers minors, associate, master's, and doctorate programs.

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15Kean University46.903/550%Union, NJ

Kean is the third-largest public university in New Jersey, and it's largely a commuter school. More than 15,000 students attend classes on the main campus in Union or the satellite campus in Hillside; only 1,700 students live on campus. Kean has a long tradition of teaching teachers, and it produces more educators than any of the other colleges in New Jersey. Undergraduate programs are offered in more than 50 fields of study.

Kean's commitment to education is seen through its New Jersey Center for Science Technology and Mathematics, where the next generation of biology, physics, calculus, and algebra teachers can learn best practices in STEM education. The school is also noted for its strong programs in the humanities, particularly history. Kean is home to the Liberty Hall Museum, which contains a trove of papers and memorabilia from the American Revolution. Student life includes Division III athletics, 33 fraternities and sororities, and three game rooms on campus.

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16Caldwell University46.623/551%Caldwell, NJ

Caldwell is a Catholic school devoted to the liberal arts. The core curriculum is heavy on the humanities, social sciences, mathematics, and the physical and biological sciences. Caldwell gives its 2,200 students a well-rounded education.

The schools undergrads can select from 29 degree programs. the most popular are business, psychology, and education. The school's Center for Excellence for Teaching is known among colleges in New Jersey for innovation in education. Caldwell devotes many of its resources to the study of autism. A variety shortened degree programs are offered, called "Power Degrees." This includes bachelor's degrees in business and psychology that can be completed in three-years and a bachelor's-to-master's in business administration and accounting that can be completed in five-years. Nursing has an accelerated program and students in other disciplines can design their own fast-track degree with approval. About 40% of undergraduates live on campus.

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17Monmouth University45.724/564%West Long Branch, NJ

Monmouth is a private, liberal arts university in West Long Branch, New Jersey, with a focus on experiential education. The student body of 6,300 includes 4,700 undergraduates. Monmouth focuses on small classes, and caps them at 25 or 35, providing a 13:1 student to faculty ratio.

Students select from 32 baccalaureate degrees and can participate in studies outside the classroom in Monmouth's five centers of distinction: the Center for the Arts, the Monmouth Polling Institute, the Institute for Global Understanding, the Kislak Real Estate Institute, and the Urban Coast Institute. Business, education, and Homeland Security are among the most popular majors. MU is known for its software engineering program and its music industry concentration. It's the only GRAMMY museum affiliate school east of the Mississippi, giving students access to exclusive internships, research programs, and educational initiatives. It has the only Peace Corp Prep program among New Jersey colleges.

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18Georgian Court University44.283/549%Lakewood, NJ

GCU is a private, Catholic university founded and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy. The entire campus is a National Historic Landmark, famed among colleges in New Jersey for its architecture, statuary, and gardens. GCU began as a college for women, with co-ed graduate classes, and went fully co-educational in 2013. It continues to have a "special concern" for women, stressing equality in all facets of life; women still represent over 75% of the student body.

Three colleges -- the school of arts and sciences, the school of education, and the school of business and media -- provide GCU's 1,500 undergraduates with more than 30 degree options. 92% of faculty have terminal degrees in their fields. The student to faculty ratio is 12:1, and the most popular areas of study include psychology, nursing, and business. GCU's focus on leadership is represented through its programs in Women in Leadership Development and Emerging Leaders. These programs use mentoring, seminars, and networking to help students find their potential. About 70% of students live off campus.

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19Thomas Edison State University43.663/540%Trenton, NJ

Thomas Edison State is the only college in New Jersey designed specifically for adults. The Trenton-based institution was founded in 1972 with the purpose of providing degree programs for non-traditional, self-directed students. All courses are delivered using distance-learning methods, whether it be through online classes, guided study, e-pack, or prior learning assessments. The school pioneered a "flash-track" delivery, which puts all course contents on a flash drive and doesn't require constant internet access. The average age of the school's 17,500 undergraduates is 35.

TESU's fives colleges offer more than 100 degree programs. Students can transfer up to 80 credits from a 2-year school and 120 from a 4-year program. The school has won national recognition for its use of technology in educational programs including psychology, sociology, and social sciences. The New Jersey State Library is an affiliate of the school.

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20New Jersey City University41.103/534%Jersey City, NJ

New Jersey City prides itself on offering the lowest tuition of any four-year, public university in the state. The school's 10,000-member student body consists almost entirely of commuters -- 97% of students live off campus. The university's four schools offer 41 undergraduate degrees, the most popular degrees are early childho 100 degree programsod education and music.

NJCU is the only school in the state to offer a four-year fire science and professional security degree.The professional security degree prepares students for careers with the FBI, CIA, and other intelligence agencies. NJCU is a member of the National Student Exchange, a consortium of 200 colleges across North America, allowing students to pursue their Jersey City degree while studying elsewhere. The school features a small business development center, it provides confidential business counseling and training for entrepreneurs. Short-term individual and couples counseling is available for free to the school's students.

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21Fairleigh Dickinson University – College at Florham40.974/558%Madison, NJ

Students on Fairleigh Dickinson's Florham campus get the feel of a small, private, liberal arts college, but have access to all the features of a global university. The 187-acre grounds were designed by famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, and include gardens, a central fountain, and a collection of specimen trees. Florham is a residential college with 80% of its 3,000 students currently at the undergraduate level.

Despite being part of the larger Fairleigh Dickinson system, Florham has its own Division III athletic teams -- the Devils -- and its own academic specialties, focusing on the liberal arts and sciences. The pharmacy program is the first among New Jersey colleges to be associated with a private university. Students have access to many degree programs. Recreational activities include a wide array of intramural sports, Greek life, a campus theater, the Florham opera, and a national service fraternity.

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22Rider University37.724/567%Lawrenceville, NJ

Rider, founded as a private business school in 1865, moved to its current location in the Trenton suburb of Lawrence Township in 1959, and merged with Westminster Choir College in 1992, giving it a second campus in Princeton. (A shuttle service connects the two campuses.) The student body of 5,000, is comprised of over 4,000 undergrads; more than 70% of undergrads and 90% of freshmen live on campus.

Undergrads can select from 67 degree programs in business, education, counseling, and leadership. Most of the liberal arts and sciences are based at the Lawrenceville campus; Westminster is largely focused on music and performing arts, and has won national acclaim for its curriculum. The most popular majors at Rider include elementary education, psychology, accounting, and business administration. Ninety-seven percent of Rider's faculty hold terminal degrees. Westminster's Talcott Library has an extensive collection of scores and music-related books.

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23Pillar College36.834/550%Newark, NJ

Pillar is a private, four-year Bible college in Newark and the only accredited evangelical school among New Jersey colleges. Pillar is affiliated with the Christian enclave of Zarephath, an unincorporated community of 30-some people north of Princeton, where the Pillar of Fire International church had its communal home.

Academics at the school are church based, and include degree programs in Biblical studies, business, elementary education, intercultural communication, counseling psychology, family ministry, music, and youth ministry. Pillar has an online school, and it offers accelerated and dual degree options. Accreditation is through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The school offers advising and mentoring services, tutoring services, career advice, and more. Students have the opportunity to participate in intramural sports, student government, and spiritual development. This includes a student-chapel which teaches through a christian-worldview. Pillar has one master's program in counseling.

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24College of Saint Elizabeth35.934/554%Morristown, NJ

St. Elizabeth is a private, Catholic liberal arts school in Morristown; it was founded by the Sisters of Charity. It was established in 1899 as a women's college; men were admitted to the day program in 2015. Named for the first American to be sainted, the college is known for educating working adults. The school emphasizes service among its 1,200 students.

St. Elizabeth's 200-acre campus is home to a Greek style amphitheater. Many fields of study are open to undergraduates and the college hosts a wide array of online classes. Accelerated-degree and dual-degree programs are available, allowing students to earn a degree quicker. The school encourages students to study away -- domestically and overseas -- and sponsors everything from intensive language immersion programs to brief exchanges. Several centers of distinction are located on campus, including the Center for Catholic Women's History, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education, and the Geraldine Doyle Reardon Center for Volunteerism and Service-Learning.

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25Fairleigh Dickinson University – Metropolitan Campus35.663/547%Teaneck, NJ

New Jersey's largest private university, Fairleigh Dickinson, bridges the communities of Hackensack and Teaneck. The school has satellite campuses across New Jersey; a campus in Vancouver, British Columbia, and a marine biology station in the Dominican Republic. FDU believes in global education and requires undergraduates to participate in distance learning.

FDU has 8,500 undergraduate students, but still manages to keep class sizes low, the average is 18. Degrees in more than 100 academic disciplines are available, and each one has an honors program. FDU's hospitality, engineering, business, sports management, Homeland Security, and integrative studies have received national recognition. The school's entrepreneurial studies program won accolades among New Jersey colleges. FCU allows students to combine undergraduate and graduate educations; learners can earn a master's degree in five-years. Campus life includes 100 clubs and organizations, the Division I sports teams, and national fraternities and sororities.

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Known as county schools, New Jersey boasts 19 community colleges with over 60 campuses spread throughout the state. Students attending these institutions account for nearly half the overall student population, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Of these 161,000 students, enrollment is split evenly between part-time and full-time study.

County schools are a great option for students looking to lessen the burden of student debt typically incurred at a four-year institution. Many have partnerships or Guaranteed Admission Program (GAP) agreements, with a number of four-year schools allowing students to make seamless transitions to a bachelor’s degree program.

A report by the Community College Research Center found that for students who complete an associate degree before moving into a bachelor’s program, the economic benefit totals almost $50,000 over 20 years. With New Jersey being ranked the fifth most expensive state in America, those extra funds can go a long way.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1Raritan Valley Community College83.161/540%Branchburg, NJ

Founded in 1965, Raritan was first among community colleges in New Jersey to be sponsored by two different counties. Originally known as Somerset County College, the Branchburg-based institution took its current name when it became the official school of Hunterdon County as well. Raritan has more than Raritan, from accounting to nursing to web developing. Over 70% of students are enrolled in programs designed to transfer to a four-year school; the remainder are on a career-oriented path. Many classes can be taken online.

Raritan has been nationally recognized for environmental sustainability, for community service, and for its diversity initiatives. The school is a local hub, with a 1,000-seat regional theater and a planetarium. Its state-of-the-art Science Center includes the Institute for Biotechnology Education. A partnership with Rutgers University allows Raritan students who earn an associate degree to pursue their bachelor's in a variety of fields -- liberal arts, criminal justice, political science, psychology, and social work -- transferring up to 60 credits.

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2County College of Morris73.891/542%Randolph, NJ

Located in Randolph, CCM has one of the highest combined transfer and graduation rates of all community colleges in New Jersey. Its graduates also are among the top 25 nationwide in terms of community college alumni who earn the highest salaries. CCM is the only community college in New Jersey to be named a National Center of Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

The college offers more than 50 associate degree and certificate programs, along with honors courses that provide students with another level of academic rigor. CCM holds more than 125 transfer agreements with other institutions to ease the process of earning a bachelor’s degree. Over the last several years, CCM graduates have transferred to more than 200 colleges and universities across the country, including Brown, Cornell, Rutgers, and Yale.

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3Mercer County Community College70.111/533%West Windsor, NJ

Established in 1966, MCCC was set up to serve the students of Mercer County, and that's largely who attends today -- county residents make up two-thirds of the 11,000-member student body. But MCCC is more worldly than that. In fact, it has more international students than most New Jersey community colleges with over 70 countries represented. The school is a mix of the green and the urban -- Mercer's woody main campus is located next to a public park; its satellite is the newly expanded James Kerney Campus in downtown Trenton. The school has an open admission policy.

Mercer provides its students with more than 75 different associate programs. A partnership with Rutgers lets MCCC students work towards baccalaureate degrees, and the school also has dual-degree agreements with four other New Jersey colleges, including Rutgers, Rider, The College of New Jersey, Montclair, and New Jersey Institute of Technology; students are guaranteed transfer admission to all of them. More than 35% of MCCC graduates move on to four-year programs.

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4Warren County Community College65.262/547%Washington, NJ

Founded in 1981 by the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education, WCCC is located in Washington Township. The school operated as a "College Without Walls" for several years before putting down roots on its current main campus. It's enjoyed steady growth since, adding new wings to its building to accommodate more and more students. A second campus was opened in Phillipsburg in 2011, and today enrollment is around 1,800.

Like other two year colleges in New Jersey, WCCC offers dozens of associate and certificate programs, many of which are designed to be easily transferable to four-year programs. Those interested in continuing on to earn their bachelor's can do so right at WCCC, thanks to a partnership with Felician College. Students follow an articulated sequence of classes and graduate with a BA in one of four of WCCC's most popular majors: business, criminal justice, education, or nursing. Students can attend classes at either campus, study online, or mix the two. For added flexibility, WCCC has accelerated, weekend "PowerPack" classes. Courses run all summer long.

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5Brookdale Community College65.051/539%Lincroft, NJ

With more than 13,000 students spread across all its locations, Brookdale is one of the biggest community colleges in New Jersey. The school has facilities in Hazlet, Freehold, Neptune, Long Branch, and Wall Township, in addition to its main campus in Lincroft. Online education is handled by BCC's Innovation Center.

Students have access to more than 74 fields of study, and the majority of students are enrolled in transfer programs. Even more options are available through the New Jersey Coastal Communiversity, a consortium of schools led by Brookdale, including Georgian Court University, Montclair State University, New Jersey City University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Rutgers, which gives BCC students access to bachelor's and master's degree programs in business, education, public safety, IT, liberal arts, and health sciences. Admission to BCC is open to anyone over 18 -- even those without a high school diploma. A new Academic Tutoring Center is available to provide assistance to students. The campus is home to the Monmouth Museum, the Brookdale Performing Arts Center, and Brookdale Public Radio, an NPR affiliate.

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6Ocean County College61.892/546%Toms River, NJ

Ocean County College is a public, two-year school in Toms River, not far from the Jersey Shore. Almost 9,000 students attend on the main campus, at the Southern Education Center in Manahawkin, and at a dozen other locations spread around Ocean County. The average age of enrolled students is 23.

Like many other New Jersey community colleges, OCC has articulation agreements with many four-year schools -- including Rutgers, St. John's, The College of New Jersey, Thomas Edison State University, the University of Maryland, and Colorado State -- helping students seamlessly move into a baccalaureate program. It also has a bachelor's-bridge partnership with Kean University, and is a member of the NJ Coastal Communiversity, an eight-college consortium that allows students to take classes at each school. The school believes in global outreach. It has a strong study abroad program, and is also home to a Center for Middle Eastern Studies. New Jersey's most famous son, Bruce Springsteen, briefly attended OCC before pursuing a musical career.

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7Rowan College at Burlington County60.842/542%Pemberton, NJ

Rowan College forged a partnership with Burlington County College in 2015. The four-year school would lend its name to the community college and its students would benefit from a direct pathway to a baccalaureate degree. The arrangement also called for a sprucing up of BCC's main campus in Mount Laurel. It was win-win, especially for the school's 9,000 students. In 2016, RCBC became the first of New Jersey's junior colleges to offer a junior year, which allows students to earn an associate, stay one more year, and then transfer to Rowan to complete their BA or BS.

RCBC offers dozens of degrees in the liberal arts, health sciences, and STEM disciplines to a student population that is 85% local. The average age is 25. (More than 20%t of county high schoolers end up at Burlington.) RCBC has a pipeline straight to Rowan, but it also has articulation agreements with other schools, and, like the best junior colleges in New Jersey, it is part of the statewide transfer agreement, which allows for easy transitions from associate to baccalaureate degree programs at other NJ colleges. Administrators recommend students visit NJ Transfer to check the requirements of the institutions they're considering.

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8Middlesex County College59.581/535%Edison, NJ

One of the largest two year colleges in New Jersey, Middlesex County College has 12,000 students who are attending for credit. But there are nearly twice as many who are taking non-credit classes. With locations in Edison, New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, and digital classrooms online, the school serves a large audience. The student body is split in half between full- and part-time students, and about 70% are enrolled in a transfer program.

MCC offers 88 degree programs, the most popular of which are liberal arts, business, health, and the protective services. Graduates regularly move on to four-year programs, commonly at Kean University, Rutgers University, Montclair State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Columbia University, New York University, and the College of New Jersey. They can also earn their bachelor's right at Middlesex -- the school hosts classes in nursing taught by faculty from Kean and Felician College, and a national security studies degree taught by professors from Jersey City University. MCC's Continuing Education department provides many classes for non-traditional learners and seniors and career training for those looking to change jobs.

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9Rowan College at Gloucester County59.582/544%Sewell, NJ

Formerly known as Gloucester County College, Rowan College at Gloucester County is one of the nation's fastest-growing two-year schools. Based in the town of Sewell, RCGC was born of a 2014 partnership between GCC and Rowan College. Still run as a community college, the school now offers conditional dual enrollment between the two schools, giving its 9,500 students a direct route to a bachelor's degree. Other partnerships with Fairleigh Dickinson and Wilmington University allow students to earn advanced degrees without leaving campus, and articulation agreements with Rutgers, Drexel, Stockton College, and Neumann University make transferring easy.

RCGC offers professional certification, degrees in ​allied health, nursing, business, liberal arts, criminal justice, the sciences, physical education, and recreation, and is home to fire and police academies. The school's main campus in Edison is a community hub with more than five miles of walking trails, an art gallery, common gardens, and county services. A daycare is available for the children of students.

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10Bergen Community College54.742/532%Paramus, NJ

Bergen was founded in 1965 to meet the need for higher education in New Jersey's most populous county. Today, the public, two-year college serves more than 32,000 students, over half of whom are enrolled in courses for credit, From its main campus in Paramus and learning centers in Hackensack and Lyndhurst, BCC is among the most comprehensive of New Jersey community colleges, offering 142 degree and certificate programs.

The campus in Paramus was built on the site of an old golf course, giving it a pastoral feel, and much of the action takes place there. In addition to administrative offices and classrooms, the grounds are home to the Anna Maria Ciccone Theatre, the School of Continuing Education, and the Moses Family Meeting and Training Center. The Phillip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack offers English as a Second Language and adult-ed programming; Bergen at the Meadowlands, in Lyndhurst, has a business incubator as well as credit-course curriculum. Students can earn "Credit by Exam" by passing proficiency tests of prior learning, and also accumulate credits for work experience. BCC has articulation agreements in place with dozens of schools in New Jersey and beyond.

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11Sussex County Community College53.262/543%Newton, NJ

One of the smallest two year colleges in New Jersey, Sussex County Community College is set on 167, scenic, rolling acres in the rural town of Newton, not far from the New York border in Jersey's northeast corner. Founded in 1981, it has a total enrollment of about 2,700 students, who pursue degrees in 19 different academic areas or further their careers with 30 professional certificates and 24 corporate and community education programs. Average class size is 16. Most students are from Sussex County, though some come from other parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The AA in liberal arts is by far the most popular degree, followed by business and criminal justice.

SCCC partners with Felician University to bring a baccalaureate program to campus -- students follow a curriculum in their major and work their way towards a BA. The school also runs an Entrepreneurial Center, a Business Learning Center, and a public safety training academy for students interested in entering the world of first responders. Every year, SCCC picks a "College Novel," a piece of fiction that the whole community shares and discusses. The Skylanders are members of the National Junior College Athletic Association and participate in soccer, basketball, baseball, and softball.

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12Passaic County Community College49.472/524%Paterson, NJ

PCCC is perhaps the most diverse of all New Jersey community colleges. Dating back to the 1970s, the school operates four campuses throughout Passaic County, in the New York Metropolitan Area. It provides more than 60 degree programs and community and continuing education to more than 13,000 students. It offers online, day, night, and weekend classes for utmost flexibility. Some courses are run in conjunction with Rutgers' School of Health Related Professions.

The most popular associate degrees include criminal justice, business administration, humanities, psychology, and nursing. PCCC's Wayne-based Public Safety Academy trains students to become cops, firefighters, and EMTs. The school's Paterson Community Technology Center helps area residents with computer needs, offering classes for free or a nominal fee. PCCC's Poetry Center has won national recognition for its programming, from the Distinguished Poet's Series to its Paterson Poetry Prize. The school's Career Coach briefs students on potential vocations, from salaries and growth opportunities to daily duties.

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13Essex County College49.051/521%Newark, NJ

Located along three city blocks in the University Heights neighborhood of Newark, Essex County College bills itself as an "open-door community college". Perhaps it means the back door, because ECC transfers more students to its neighbors, Rutgers, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology than any of the other New Jersey community colleges. In addition to the main campus, the school also a center in West Caldwell, and it runs the police academy in Cedar Grove. Through all these facilities, more than 48 majors, certificates, and community-ed option are available to ECC's 25,000 students.

ECC's diverse community has led to some unique centers of distinction. The school is home to an Africana Institute, the Urban Issues Institute, and it's one of the few community colleges around with a Phi Theta Kappa chapter, which is the honor society of two-year schools. Dozens of student organizations are available to students, from the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting to the Writing Club.

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14Salem Community College39.581/537%Carneys Point, NJ

SCCC was founded as a technical school in 1958 and has grown to become one of the best community colleges in New Jersey. Located in the South Jersey town of Carney's Point, which sits across the Delaware River from the state of Delaware, SCCC is the only institution of higher education in the county. More than 1,500 students pursue 40 degrees in the liberal arts, business, nursing, and tech on the main campus and at three off-site locations. Most are enrolled full-time and the vast majority are from neighboring towns.

SCCC has articulation agreements with eight universities: Chestnut Hill College, Strayer University, Excelsior College, Thomas Edison State College, Kaplan University, Wesley College,
Savannah College of Art & Design, and Wilmington University, which allows students to begin earning their bachelor's while still in a two-year program. This option is available for a dozen of degree programs. SCCC has a remarkable number of students enrolled at its Samuel H. Jones Glass Education Center, where they study in the very specialized field of glass art and scientific glass technology. The school ranks very highly in outside assessments of all New Jersey community colleges.

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15Hudson County Community College37.682/523%Jersey City, NJ

Hudson County includes Jersey City, which is where HCCC is located. The school serves "one of the most densely populated and ethnically diverse" regions of the country, and it has enjoyed record enrollment in recent years. The student body has doubled since 1996 and now numbers more than 9,000 -- 97% of whom are in one of the school's degree programs.

HCCC is perhaps best known for its culinary arts and hospitality management program, one of two in the New York/New Jersey area to be accredited by the prestigious American Culinary Federation Accrediting Commission. The school features a Culinary Arts Conference Center, where students learn baking and restaurant management, and it has an articulation agreement with Fairleigh Dickinson College that allows students to earn a cooking-related bachelor's while at HCCC. The Center for Business and Industry runs many specialized programs and exposes students to area business, and HCCC also partners with other New Jersey community colleges to aid non-traditional students in becoming teachers. And the college's Community Education Division has programs designed to help area women become self-sufficient and learn life skills.

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If you’re thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in New Jersey, continuing reading to learn more about living in the Garden State.

Attending college in New Jersey can be an exciting undertaking, not only because the state offers so many cultural, social and historic amenities, but also for its proximity to other major cities. Public transportation between New Jersey and New York City is extensive and frequent, and other services can easily take students to locations throughout the New England area. Whether living on a stretch of the state’s 130-mile coast line or enjoying the urban setting of Newark, there are terrains and paces of life suited to every student.

All of these benefits do come with a price tag: on-campus students at Rutgers University pay an additional $11,710 per academic year for room and board, while an off-campus room in the area can range from $569 to $1122, according to a 2015 estimate.

Regional Spotlight: Central New Jersey

  • Major Cities: New Brunswick, Trenton, Middletown, Woodbridge, Middlesex
  • Attractions: Six Flags Great Adventure, Jersey Shore, Monmouth Park Racetrack, Gateway National Recreation Area
  • Cost of Living: Middlesex
  • Popular Schools: Rutgers-New Brunswick, Princeton University Monmouth University, The College of New Jersey

Regional Spotlight: North New Jersey

  • Major Cities: Newark, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Paterson
  • Attractions: Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Prudential Center, Ellis Island, Liberty State Park
  • Cost of Living: Newark
  • Popular Schools: Berkeley, Montclair State University, Rutgers, University of North New Jersey
Best Colleges in New Jersey of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Princeton University Princeton, NJ
2 The College of New Jersey Ewing, NJ
3 Rutgers University - New Brunswick New Brunswick, NJ
4 Rutgers University - Newark Newark, NJ
5 Ramapo College of New Jersey Mahwah, NJ
6 Rutgers University - Camden Camden, NJ
7 Rowan University Glassboro, NJ
8 Stockton University Galloway, NJ
9 Montclair State University Montclair, NJ
10 New Jersey City University Jersey City, NJ
11 Drew University Madison, NJ
12 Monmouth University West Long Branch, NJ
13 College of Saint Elizabeth Morristown, NJ
14 Seton Hall University South Orange, NJ
15 Georgian Court University Lakewood, NJ
16 Saint Peter's University Jersey City, NJ
17 Caldwell College Caldwell, NJ
18 Rider University Lawrenceville, NJ
19 Kean University Union, NJ
20 William Paterson University of New Jersey Wayne, NJ
21 Centenary College Hackettstown, NJ
22 Bloomfield College Bloomfield, NJ
23 Felician College Lodi, NJ
Best Community Colleges
Rank School Location
1 Assumption College for Sisters Mendham, NJ
2 County College of Morris Randolph, NJ
3 Salem Community College Carneys Point, NJ
4 Brookdale Community College Lincroft, NJ
5 Raritan Valley Community College Branchburg, NJ
6 Warren County Community College Washington, NJ
7 Mercer County Community College West Windsor, NJ
8 Ocean County College Toms River, NJ
9 Middlesex County College Edison, NJ
10 Sussex County Community College Newton, NJ
11 Rowan College at Gloucester County Sewell, NJ
12 Bergen Community College Paramus, NJ
13 Cumberland County College Vineland, NJ
14 Rowan College at Burlington County Pemberton, NJ
15 Atlantic Cape Community College Mays Landing, NJ
16 Union County College Cranford, NJ
17 Passaic County Community College Paterson, NJ
18 Essex County College Newark, NJ
19 Camden County College Blackwood, NJ
20 Hudson County Community College Jersey City, NJ