New York is home to many top institutions of higher learning, and the sheer number of colleges in the state can make it difficult to choose the right school. To assist you in your research, we have ranked 25 of the best colleges in New York, highlighting the advantages and unique features of each school. You'll also find information on academic offerings, special enrollment options, and services for students.
Top 10 Colleges in New York
- Columbia University in the City of New York - New York, NY
- Hamilton College - Clinton, NY
- Barnard College - New York, NY
- Colgate University - Hamilton, NY
- Vassar College - Poughkeepsie, NY
- CUNY Bernard M Baruch College - New York, NY
- Cornell University - Ithaca, NY
- Skidmore College - Saratoga Springs, NY
- New York University - New York, NY
- Stony Brook University - Stony Brook, N
New York's status as an economic and cultural center equates to a cost of living far higher than the national average, though the extreme prices in New York City skew the state's overall average. Many areas outside of the New York City metropolitan area offer a cost of living much closer to the national average.
While the state's overall unemployment rate (4% as of October 2019) hovers slightly above the national average, New York boasts a strong economy with leading industries. These include financial services, healthcare, professional and technical services, retail trade, education services, and manufacturing. These industries attract job candidates from around the country, but you can give yourself an edge over the competition by earning a degree from a top college or university.
2020 Best Accredited Colleges in New York
Columbia University in the City of New York
|New York, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 95%||
A private Ivy League college located near Manhattan's Upper West Side, Columbia Universitywas established in 1754, making it the oldest college in New York state and one of the oldest in the country. Consistently ranked among the nation's most prestigious and selective colleges, Columbia counts three U.S. presidents and several Nobel laureates among alumni.
Columbia organizes academics into 20 schools, including three undergraduate schools and several notable graduate schools. The college hosts some of the country's top programs in English, history, nursing, public health, and social work, among other areas. Columbia also sits at the forefront of research in many fields, including neuroscience, medicine, data science, and earth science.
Befitting a reputation as a top national college, Columbia offers comprehensive campus resources and services including the renowned Butler Library, which holds over two million volumes. The college's 33,000 students also benefit from top-notch research facilities and an active campus community.
|Clinton, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 94%||
A private liberal arts college based in Clinton, Hamilton College serves around 1,800 undergraduates each year. The school offers 43 majors in the arts and sciences, including art history, chemical physics, German studies, and public policy. Students can also pursue pre-professional tracks in business, education, engineering, health professions, and law.
Hamilton boasts a reputation for academic freedom, with few mandatory courses in any specific curriculum. Aside from requirements in writing, quantitative/symbolic reasoning, and concentration/major requirements, students have the flexibility to complete any courses that match their personal and professional interests.
Hamilton's academic advisors work closely with learners to ensure they design a curriculum plan that reflects their interests as well as the school's broad liberal arts principles. About two-thirds of all students complete off-campus study through domestic and study abroad programs.
The college also uses a need-blind admissions policy, guaranteeing that all admitted students will receive sufficient financial aid to completely cover tuition and fees.
|New York, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 93%||
A private women's college based in Manhattan, Barnard College was founded in 1889 as an alternative to Columbia University, which did not admit female students at the time. Today, the school has a unique partnership with Columbia, maintaining financial and legal independence but sharing facilities, classes, sports teams, and community aspects such as clubs and Greek life.
Barnard serves undergraduates only, offering liberal arts education to approximately 2,300 learners annually.
Barnard students receive the individualized attention typical of a small liberal arts college combined with the resources of an Ivy League institution. They can also complete courses at several other prestigious New York colleges, including Juilliard, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Manhattan School of Music.
Barnard offers majors in around 50 fields of study, including classics and ancient studies, human rights, music, and urban studies. Learners can also pursue any undergraduate major available at Columbia.
|Hamilton, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 91%||
A selective liberal arts college based in the town of Hamilton, Colgate University enrolls around 3,000 learners annually. Colgate primarily offers undergraduate education along with a respected master's program in teaching.
The college combines academic rigor and extensive campus resources with the intimacy of a small private college. The average class size is 17 students, and the school features a student-to-faculty ratio of 9-to-1.
Undergraduates can choose from 56 majors and several minors, with options including art and art history, astronomy and physics, creative writing, Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, and peace and conflict studies.
Regardless of a student's chosen major, Colgate stresses values of interdisciplinary knowledge and shared intellectual engagement. All learners must complete a liberal arts core that includes courses in legacies of the ancient world, challenges of modernity, communities and identity, global engagement, and scientific perspectives.
|Poughkeepsie, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 91%||
A private, exclusively undergraduate liberal arts college based in Poughkeepsie, Vassar College was founded in 1861 as one of the country's first women's colleges and became coeducational in 1969.
Today, the school serves approximately 2,400 students through bachelor of arts programs in more than 50 areas, including biology, film, Hispanic studies, philosophy, and political science. Degree candidates can also design their own course of study or choose from several multidisciplinary programs.
As a center of progressive, experimental education, Vassar was among the first colleges in the country to offer dedicated courses in subjects such as psychology and drama and was an early proponent of interdisciplinary education. Along with traditional majors, the school offers several interdepartmental programs that combine related fields, such as biology and chemistry or geography and anthropology. Students can also pursue interdisciplinary programs that combine several fields, such as media studies or urban studies.
CUNY Bernard M Baruch College
|New York, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 70%||
Part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, Baruch College serves an enrollment of more than 18,000 students on its Manhattan campus. The school is noted for ethnic and cultural diversity, with a student body representing over 160 countries and speaking 110 languages in total.
The college provides bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs through three schools that cover arts and sciences, business, and public and international affairs. Some of Baruch's numerous degree offerings include business journalism, finance engineering, modern languages, and biological sciences. Students can also pursue several doctoral programs through CUNY's Graduate Center.
A major public college in a global city, Baruch offers a diverse array of research opportunities, internships, and other fieldwork for students both in and out of the classroom. The college's sprawling urban campus hosts several academic centers and institutes, including the Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management, the New York Census Research Data Center, and the Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute.
|Ithaca, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 83%||
A prestigious Ivy League college based in Ithaca, Cornell University serves more than 23,000 students representing all U.S. states and more than 100 countries. Consistently ranked among the top colleges both nationally and internationally, Cornell delivers highly respected programs in many academic and professional fields including architecture, engineering, management, international relations, and creative writing.
Students at Cornell benefit from comprehensive academic offerings including 80 undergraduate majors and more than 100 graduate fields of study. Many programs cross disciplines to adopt approaches from multiple academic fields; for example, Cornell's biological engineering major combines courses from both the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Cornell ranks highly for service-learning opportunities, integrating education with community outreach activities worldwide. As part of its land-grant mission, the university also hosts continuing education and cooperative education programs.
|Saratoga Springs, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 87%||
Another of the state's prestigious undergraduate liberal arts institutions, Skidmore College offers bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in more than 40 fields. Degree candidates can pursue traditional liberal arts programs such as art history, English, political science, and gender studies.
Skidmore encourages interdisciplinary study, and many students graduate with multiple majors. The college also maintains dual-degree engineering programs through agreements with Clarkson University, Dartmouth College, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Skidmore's small size (approximately 2,500 students) creates opportunities less common at many larger colleges, including the chance to participate in faculty research. The school's Summer Faculty Student Research Program enables participants to work alongside faculty in sessions ranging from five to 10 weeks, gaining valuable insights in the classroom and in the field. The program serves students seeking research opportunities for their senior thesis and/or co-authorship credit in peer-reviewed journals.
New York University
|New York, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 84%||
Founded in 1831 by Albert Gallatin, the Secretary of Treasury for U.S. Presidents Jefferson and Madison, New York University has an international reputation for strong academic programs and research activities. Many of NYU's graduate schools rank at the top of their respective fields, including education, law, philosophy, social sciences, and nursing. The college's academic prestige and location attract many of the country's top minds, and NYU counts dozens of Nobel laureates among faculty and alumni.
NYU's academics encompass 10 undergraduate schools and 15 graduate and professional schools, with an enrollment of over 50,000 students split nearly evenly between undergraduate and graduate programs. The arts and sciences represent the college's largest academic division.
NYU also boasts one of the largest research budgets of any college, offering learners the chance to work alongside faculty and across many academic disciplines. The university also provides several bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs entirely online, ideal for those with work and family responsibilities.
Stony Brook University
|Stony Brook, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 72%||
A public college located about 60 miles east of New York City on Long Island, Stony Brook University serves around 26,000 students annually. The university's 12 academic colleges and schools focus on areas such as arts and sciences, business, marine and atmospheric sciences, and social welfare.
Stony Brook offers more than 200 bachelor's degrees, 100 master's programs, and 40 doctoral degrees, including top-ranked programs in nuclear physics, clinical psychology, geometry, and topology.
Students enjoy a variety of experiential learning opportunities, including study abroad programs and fieldwork activities. The school's Office of Global Affairs connects learners to university exchange programs in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and Oceania. Stony Brook's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences also offers the Semester by the Sea program, which connects candidates to marine research opportunities at the Southampton Marine Science Center.
SUNY at Binghamton
|Vestal, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 82%||
One of New York state's major public colleges, SUNY at Binghamton enrolls more than 17,000 students on its Binghamton, Vestal, and Johnson City campuses.
Founded in 1946 as a liberal arts school, Binghamton has evolved into a major research university that hosts over 130 undergraduate programs and over 80 graduate programs. Often classified as a "public Ivy," the college features top-ranked programs in many fields, including nursing and accounting.
Binghamton stresses the value of high-impact learning that combines classroom training with internships, service learning, education abroad, and research experiences. The school offers several initiatives that encourage student research, including the Summer Scholars and Artists Program and the Freshman Research Immersion program.
Students who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher receive automatic consideration for the president’s, provost’s, and dean’s scholarships. Graduate students may qualify for departmental funding such as nonacademic assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships.
University at Buffalo
|Buffalo, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 75%||
Enrolling more than 31,000 students annually, the University of Buffalo is the largest member of the State University of New York system.
As New York state's flagship public institution, UB hosts more than 125 undergraduate programs and over 320 graduate and professional programs. The school consistently ranks as one of the best public colleges in the country, noted for research activity and top programs in audiology, civil engineering, and other subjects.
UB comprises 13 academic schools and colleges, including schools of dental medicine, law, and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. An alliance with Roswell Park Cancer Institute provides students the opportunity to pursue master's and doctoral degrees in cancer research and related fields.
In addition, UB offers a variety of resources that support experiential learning, including an extensive faculty mentorship network and intentional living/learning communities for undergraduates on campus. Learners can also participate in digital workshops that enhance collaboration skills and cultural literacy.
|Schenectady, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 85%||
A private liberal arts institution, Union College educates approximately 2,200 undergraduate students each year. Experiential learning serves as a major component of Union's curriculum, and most students participate in some form of community service or fieldwork.
Union students can choose from more than 50 bachelor's programs, with options in public history, studio fine arts, Jewish studies, astronomy, and geology. Unlike many liberal arts colleges, Union also offers several ABET-accredited engineering programs, including computer, mechanical, electrical, and biomedical engineering.
Though Union does not feature graduate degrees, the school maintains academic partnerships that enable qualified students to pursue dual-degree programs through two institutions. For example, science majors can pursue a BS/MS program through a partnership with Clarkson University's Capital Region campus.
Additionally, the Leadership in Medicine program enables full-time students to earn a bachelor's from Union, a graduate degree in healthcare management from Clarkson, and an MD from Albany Medical College -- all in eight years.
St Lawrence University
|Canton, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 85%||
A private liberal arts college based in the village of Canton, St. Lawrence University provides primarily baccalaureate education to around 2,500 students. The school hosts more than 60 undergraduate majors and minors in the arts and sciences, including Asian studies, conservation biology, creative writing, global studies, and public health. Undergraduates can also pursue several pre-professional programs in fields such as medicine, law, seminary, and dentistry.
St. Lawrence's small size enables the school to offer personalized instruction, thanks to a student-to-faculty ratio of 11-to-1. In addition, the school provides extensive support and community resources, including one of the country's oldest living-learning programs.
The First-Year Program helps freshmen successfully transition to higher learning, grouping incoming students into learning communities that live together and complete a special first-year course together. This class focuses on generally applicable academic skills that prepare students for future learning, such as writing, research, and public speaking.
|Poughkeepsie, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 84%||
Originally a Roman Catholic college, Marist College delivers undergraduate and graduate liberal arts programs to more than 6,400 students on its Poughkeepsie and NYC campuses. Learners can choose from more than 90 majors, minors, and concentrations, including options like public praxis, games and emerging media, Hudson River Valley regional studies, and digital video production.
Marist also offers more than a dozen master's degrees and certificates, including options in museum studies, business analytics, and software development. In addition, the college is slated to open the Marist Health Quest School of Medicine by 2023.
Marist features a strong study abroad program that provides many opportunities for engagement in global studies and research. The college maintains a branch campus in Florence, Italy, where learners can participate in a variety of academic experiences lasting anywhere from a week to an entire school year.
CUNY Queens College
|Queens, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
One of the larger members of the City University of New York system, Queens College serves more than 20,000 students on its 80-acre campus in the Kew Gardens Hills neighborhood. Known for both academic quality and affordability, QC admits applicants from around the world, with a student body that represents over 150 countries.
The school hosts undergraduate and graduate programs in four main divisions: arts and humanities, math and science, education, and social sciences.
Undergraduates can pursue dozens of majors, including actuarial studies, fashion and textiles, labor studies, and Middle Eastern studies. The school's graduate programs include creative writing and literary translation, earth sciences, and applied linguistics. Students can pursue doctoral programs through the CUNY Graduate Center.
QC is also home to the Aaron Copland School of Music, well-known for programs in music performance and music education.
State University of New York at New Paltz
|New Paltz, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 72%||
A public college located about 80 miles north of New York City, the State University of New York at New Paltz provides both undergraduate and graduate education to approximately 7,600 students.
Undergraduates can choose from dozens of majors and minors in the liberal arts and sciences, including subjects like education, art history, business analytics, and creative writing. Students can also pursue cross-disciplinary programs that combine several academic perspectives, such as women's studies or international relations.
New Paltz hosts a wide selection of graduate programs, including English, computer science, business administration, and several education specialties.The college's dual-degree programs combine a bachelor's with a master's curriculum and enable candidates to complete both degrees within five years.
The university also maintains an honors program, limited to approximately 320 students each year. The program fosters dialogue, critical thinking, and multidisciplinary studies.
|Syracuse, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 83%||
A private college based in central New York, Syracuse University enrolls more than 22,000 students annually and offers programs at all academic levels.
Comprised of 13 academic schools and colleges, Syracuse hosts some of the country's top programs in fields such as architecture, fine arts, journalism, library and information studies, and public affairs. The college maintains a national reputation for undergraduate and graduate education and hosts several prestigious research centers and institutes.
Students can choose from more than 200 undergraduate majors and more than 200 graduate programs. The university also offers a number of bachelor's, master's, executive, certificate, and noncredit programs entirely online.
Syracuse is a top college for military veterans. The school's interdisciplinary Institute for Veterans and Military Families is the first academic institute of its kind, drawing together several services and initiatives for current and former members of the armed services.
SUNY College at Geneseo
|Geneseo, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 77%||
A public liberal arts college located in a historic village outside of Rochester, SUNY Geneseo serves around 5,500 students through undergraduate and graduate programs.
Typically ranked among the top members of the SUNY system, the school offers a broad liberal arts curriculum with 50 undergraduate major options, including popular programs in education, social sciences, biology, and business. Learners can also pursue several interdisciplinary majors, such conflict studies and urban studies.
At the graduate level, Geneseo hosts master's degrees in accounting, reading and literacy, and adolescent education. These programs offer flexibility for working students, with courses held primarily in the evenings and many available online.
The accounting program requires applicants to hold an undergraduate degree in accounting and submit GMAT scores. The education programs do not require a specific degree, though students must submit scores from the GRE, MAT, PRAXIS, or an equivalent exam.
|Oneonta, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
Founded in 1891 as a teacher's college, SUNY Oneonta serves around 6,000 students on a campus located halfway between Binghamton and Albany.
The school hosts more than 100 undergraduate majors and minors, including Africana and Latino studies, digital and studio art, dietetics, fashion and textiles, and media studies. Oneonta also offers a smaller selection of graduate degrees, including biology, museum studies, lake management, and several education programs.
The college stresses the value of applied learning experiences, such as internships, study abroad, service learning, and research. Around 75% of all undergraduates participate in at least two such experiences by their senior year. More than 500 students complete local, national, and international internship activities each year.
Oneonta also offers extensive support for research, hosting its own annual undergraduate research conference and funding students' travel to other academic conferences.
CUNY Hunter College
|New York, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
One of the oldest members of the City University of New York system, Hunter College was founded in 1870 as a women's college. Coeducational since 1946, today the school boasts an enrollment of approximately 23,000 students on its campus in the Lenox Hill neighborhood of Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Operating four schools in the arts and sciences, education, health professions, and social work, Hunter offers more than 200 academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Hunter's location in the heart of New York City offers students a unique assortment of educational, cultural, and professional opportunities. The Hunter campus is home to several institutes and centers that facilitate student and faculty research, including the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities, and the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging.
Students can also participate in a variety of internships and service-learning programs both abroad and throughout the New York area.
CUNY Brooklyn College
|Brooklyn, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
Founded in 1931 and a part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system since 1961, rooklyn College provides instruction to around 19,000 students on campus in Brooklyn's Midwood neighborhood. The school offers more than 80 bachelor's, 70 master's, and six doctoral degrees.
Several of Brooklyn College's academic programs stress interdisciplinary study, combining knowledge and perspectives from several fields to address a central theme. For example, the bachelor's program in American studies draws on history, art, and literature to explore issues of American culture and identity.
At the graduate level, the school offers a degree in performance and interactive media arts, which explores the use of technology in varied artistic disciplines. Graduate students can also pursue a two-year bridge program that leads to doctoral study in biomedical science.
Brooklyn College's Honors Academy facilitates accelerated studies in engineering through partnerships with New York University and other CUNY institutions and provides an eight-year BA-to-MD track through SUNY Downstate College of Medicine.
University of Rochester
|Rochester, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
A private college located in western New York state, the University of Rochester enrolls more than 10,000 students in 75 bachelor's and 50 master's and doctoral programs. Despite its size and status, Rochester offers a highly personalized academic experience for learners and maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 10-to-1. The college ranks as a major center of research in many fields, including optics, economics, and chemistry.
The school has a national reputation for the quality of its academics, including top-ranked graduate programs in economics, political science, finance, accounting, and business. The University of Rochester Medical Center comprises schools of medicine and dentistry, three hospitals, a cancer center, and a school of nursing.
Rochester is also home to the Eastman School of Music, which ranks among the top music schools in the country for undergraduates.
With an international student population of around 2,300, Rochester is known for its global programs, including study abroad, research, and exchange agreements with universities around the globe.
SUNY College at Cortland
|Cortland, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
A public college based in central New York state, SUNY College at Cortland serves around 6,800 students and ranks among the smaller members of the State University of New York system.
SUNY Cortland offers more than 100 academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, with over 60 bachelor's degrees and 39 graduate degrees and certificates available. The school divides programs into three major academic divisions: education, arts and sciences, and professional studies.
SUNY Cortland hosts a wide selection of education programs, including options in elementary education, adolescent education, physical education, English as a second language, and teaching students with disabilities.
Undergraduates can also pursue dual-major programs that combine social studies education with related fields such as geography or political science. Education majors who commit to teaching at urban public schools after graduation receive special training and scholarship opportunities.
Farmingdale State College
|Farmingdale, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
Founded in 1912, Farmingdale State College enrolls around 10,000 students from its campus in East Farmingdale on Long Island. The school focuses primarily on applied science and technology, offering a wide selection of associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, engineering technology, and health sciences.
Farmingdale primarily serves undergraduates, though the school does offer one master's degree in technology management.
Most of the college's programs prepare learners for specific professional fields, such as automotive technology, aviation administration, nursing, dental hygiene, and security systems. However, the school offers many minors that explore the humanities, such as gender studies, geography, English literature, and sociology.
Given the school's focus on technical and vocational education, Farmingdale stresses flexibility for working students, with many online programs, a generous credit-transfer policy, and advising services.