Top Ten Ranked Public Colleges & Universities in New York State

New York has a great variety of public colleges and universities that are highly ranked for academic quality. In terms of value, most are in a similar price range from about $20,000. for tuition and board for in-state students to approximately $30,000. for out-of-state students.

The State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) systems operate over 50 colleges and universities, including highly specialized medical and other professional institutions, as well as a variety of community colleges throughout the state. While most students at the CUNY schools tend to come from the New York City area, there’s no reason why you can’t travel from elsewhere in the state and live on the campus of one of these quality schools.

This list focuses on four-year liberal arts colleges and universities that offer a variety of degree options for undergraduates. Many also provide a good number of master’s degree options.

Some Realities of Public Colleges

I’m a parent of two students – one who attended an expensive private college in Boston and one who is currently attending a SUNY school. I can tell you that while I’m very happy with the SUNY school, it’s also true that some of the services are not quite as lavish as one receives at a private university. At a state school, the student is a bit more responsible for making sure he or she is taking all the courses needed to complete a major, and it can take a bit more time and effort to get in to talk to an administrator when a problem comes up. However, with the cost of private college skyrocketing, this seems a good trade off to get the great value that public universities can provide.

The List

Methodology is always an issue when it comes to rankings.This list of schools is amalgamated from the major rankings published in recent years. As the costs of public schools across the state is roughly similar, these are the schools that have consistently scored well for academic quality relative to price. As a lifelong New Yorker who attended college here in t he state, I’ve also applied some of my background knowledge from the many people I’ve know who’ve attended or worked at these schools, and others who have hired their graduates. Graduation rates and other statistics below are from the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Most of these schools offer a very wide variety of majors. I’ve tried to list examples of the most popular ones here, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t see your chosen area of study. You’ll probably find your desired major listed on the school’s website. (click for a list of nursing master’s degrees schools)

SUNY Geneseo

Located in the smallish town of Geneseo in the northwestern part of the state, this SUNY branch is a classic liberal arts school offering 48 undergraduate majors and 6 master’s programs in everything from accounting to theater. In terms of admissions, the schools claims to be the most selective college in the SUNY system, though 48% of applicants are accepted.

  • In 2010, Parade Magazine named Geneseo to its “A-List” of 20 small public schools in the U.S. (it has about 5,400 students).
  • In the closely watched U.S. News rankings, SUNY Geneseo got stellar ratings as the #10 regional university in the north and the #2 public school in the north – it was the top SUNY school ranked in both those categories.
  • Kiplinger’s has called it the #11 best value among public colleges in the entire country.
  • Princeton Review in 2012 included in it’s annual guide of “Best 377 Colleges” in America.

Some of the most popular majors at SUNY Geneseo are:

  • Accounting
  • Biology
  • Business
  • Education
  • English
  • Psychology

Some of the more specialized degree majors offers at the school include:

  • Computer Science
  • Languages
  • Mathematics
  • International Relations

Two keys to SUNY Geneseo’s high ranking are its 4-year graduation rate of 69% and 6-year graduation rate of 81%. It’s student body is 57% female.

Total cost (tuition and living expenses) are $20,548 for in-state students and $29,54 for out-of-state students.

More info on SUNY Geneseo

SUNY Binghampton

SUNY Binghampton, located in the town of Vestal not far from the border with Pennsylvania, has grown rapidly from it’s founding in 1946 into a large liberal arts and research institution with almost 15,000 students. It has schools of art & sciences, education, nursing, management, engineering and public affairs, and draws about 60% of it’s students from the New York City area. It actually admits a small percentage of applicants than Geneseo: 40%.

SUNY Binghampton has received high ratings from several sources:

  • The Fiske Guide to Colleges named it a “Premier Public University in the Northeast.”
  • Forbes has placed it at #31 on the list of “Best Buy” schools in America.
  • Princeton Review rates Binghampton at #6 on its list of “Best Values in Public Universities.

Popular majors at SUNY Binghampton incude:

  • Accounting
  • Business
  • Economics
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Nursing
  • English
  • Psychology
  • Social Sciences

The school has a 4-year graduation rate of 66% and a 6-year graduation rate of 77%. It’s one of the few SUNY schools with an enrollment that tilts towards men – 53% of the student body is male.

Total costs of attendance are $21,026 for in-state students and $29,136 for out-of-state students.

More info on SUNY Binghampton

Baruch College of City University of New York (CUNY)

About 80% of Baruch’s undergrads study business, which is appropriate given that the school was named after New York financier Bernard Baruch when it was founded in 1919 (though the business school within Baruch is called the Zicklin School). Located between midtown and downtown on East 25th Street, the school, along with several other CUNY schools, rank as well or better than many SUNY schools. In the New York job market particularly, Baruch enjoys a good reputation.

Like state schools, CUNY charges less to in-state students. Tuition and fees at Baruch are currently $5,910 for in-state versus about $15,000 for out-of-state. There are dorms available for only a small percentage of students at Baruch.

Baruch is frequently ranked at the top of the CUNY school system.

  • U.S. News & World Report ranks Baruch as the top CUNY school for undergrads.
  • Forbes places it at #19 in America’s Best College Buys.

Popular majors at Baruch all have a business slant:

  • Accounting
  • Business Administration
  • Investment Banking
  • Sales & Marketing

A tremendous variety of other majors are offered outside of business. Some example:

  • Chemistry
  • Dietetics
  • Health Management
  • Biotechnology
  • Digital Music
  • Mechanical Engineering

Baruch has a relatively low 4-year graduation rate of 36%, a likely result of it’s strong commitment to educating working adults. Its 6-year graduation rate is 63%.

Baruch is on the higher end of pricing for public schools in New York State, though it is still drastically less expensive than a comparable private school. Total cost of tuition and board is $25,308. for in-state students and $31,218 for out-of-state students.

More info on Baruch College of City University of New York (CUNY)

SUNY New Paltz

New Paltz, a fairly charming village about an hour and a half north of New York City by car, is home to this university of about 7,700 students that offers liberal arts degrees across a wide spectrum of majors. The school is selective, admitting just 37% of applicants, and its student body is 64% female, one of the most female-heavy groups in the SUNY system. New Paltz is mainly focused on undergraduate education. The setting is picturesque, but be prepared to hear many Long Island accents on campus.

SUNY New Paltz has gained quite a few high ratings in recent years.

  • Kiplinger’s ranks the school as one of the 100 best values among 4-year public schools for providing quality education affordably. The magazine also ranks New Paltz #55 among best values in all public colleges.
  • U.S. News & World Report ranked it 7th among top northeastern public regional schools offering master’s and bachelor’s degree programs.

Popular majors at SUNY New Paltz include:

  • Accounting
  • Art Teacher Education
  • Business Administration
  • Communication Studies
  • Education
  • Finance
  • Journalism
  • Performing Arts
  • Visual Arts
  • Speech
  • Psychology

The school has a 4-year graduation rate of 45% and a 6-year graduation rate of 69%.

Total cost of attendance is $19,908 for in-state students and $28,958 for out-of-state students.

More info on SUNY New Paltz

Hunter College of CUNY

Hunter, like Baruch, is a familiar name in New York City. It offers a variety of liberal arts degrees, but has a particularly large arts program in dance, film, music and theater (the SUNY school probably best known for visual arts is in Purchase, about 45 minutes north of the city). Hunter has very limited student housing – most of its students commute to class. The school is quite selective – just 25% of applicants are accepted.

The student body is 66% female.

  • Hunter is the second highest CUNY school in the U.S. News & Report rankings. It holds the #38 slot among Best Regional Universities in the North.
  • Forbes ranks the school #428 among all schools in the U.S.
  • The American Council of Trustees and Alumni ranks Hunter as one of only 7 schools in the U.S. that get an “A” for “making sure students learn what they need to know.”

Popular majors at Hunter College include:

  • Accounting
  • Communication Studies
  • Nursing
  • Political Science
  • Sociology

Hunter offers a very wide range of other majors, some quite unique, including:

  • Bioinformatics
  • Chinese Adolescent Education
  • Physics
  • Physical Therapy
  • Playwriting
  • Social Work
  • Statistics

Hunter’s 4-year graduation rate is 20%, while it’s 6-year graduation rate is 46%.

Total cost of attendance is $19,321. for in-state and $25,231 for out of state.

More info on Hunter College of CUNY

CUNY Queens College

Located in Flushing, amidst the vast expanse of Queens County, this school has a tremendously diverse student body, culled from all the ethnic and economic strata of New York. Founded in 1937, Queens College has grown into an institution with 16,550 students and a 77 acre suburban campus that includes, unlike some other CUNYs, a real on-campus dormitory. It holds just 500 students, but does provide at least some options for students who come from elsewhere in the state. Over 100 undergraduate degree programs are offered across arts, humanities, math and science, and a variety of masters programs are also offered, including several in education.

  • Forbes rates Queens College #29 on the list of America’s Best College Buys.
  • U.S. News & World Report ranks it 7th among northeastern regional universities with bachelor’s and master’s programs.
  • Princeton Review ranks Queens among its Best 376 Colleges and as one of the top colleges in the northeastern U.S.

Popular degree programs at Queens College include:

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Elementary Education
  • Finance
  • Political Science
  • Sociology
  • Certificate Programs in Education and Library Science

Degree programs are also offered in more specialized areas of:

  • Comparative Literature
  • Media Studies
  • Computer Science
  • Neuroscience
  • Business Administration
  • Religious Studies

The school has a 4-year graduation rate of 26%.

Total cost of attendance per year is $23,449. for in-state students and $29,359. for out-of-state.

More info on CUNY Queens College

CUNY Brooklyn College

Brooklyn College, founded in 1930, is, like several public schools in the New York City area, well known for it’s highly diverse student population. The school’s website trumpets the fact that over 100 languages are spoken on it’s26 acre campus in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn. It’s one of the top 10 schools in the U.S. for graduating African Americans with bachelor’s degrees, and gets top honors for graduating minority schools in general with both bachelor and master’s degrees.

National Center for Educational StatisticsFor new high school graduates, the school offers a summer “bridge program” called “First College Year” to prep students for college study. All undergrads are required to take a group of 11 “core” courses that provide a broad background in the arts and sciences.

  • Brooklyn College is included in the Princeton Review’s “376 Best Colleges in The United States.”
  • Called a “Best Northeastern College” by Princeton Review
  • Ranked #55 among “Regional Universities North” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #14 among “Regional Public Universities North” by U.S. News & World Report.
  • In 2009, Princeton Review called the school one of “America’s Top Fifty Best Value Public Colleges.”

Popular undergrad majors at the school include:

  • Accounting
  • Audiology
  • Business Administration
  • A variety of Education majors
  • Health Sciences
  • Political Science
  • Radio and Television

The college offers many master’s degree programs, with a particular emphasis on preparing teachers.

Brooklyn College’s 4-year graduation rate is 22%, and it’s 6-year graduation rate is 48%.

Total cost of attendance for in-state students is $22,486. For out-of-state students it is $28,396.

More info on CUNY Brooklyn College

SUNY Fredonia

SUNY Fredonia, in the far west reaches of New York State, is a full scale liberal arts university that offers degrees across many majors. It has a particularly strong reputation is one of the state’s most cutting edge schools for music, but also offers many more traditional career-focused degrees.

Founded in 1826, it has about 5,300 students on it’s large (266 acre) rural campus (much of the architecture is modern – designed by I.M. Pei). It’s a small-town environment on Lake Erie, where the winters can be very cold and snowy. The city of Buffalo is about an hour’s drive away. It was originally a teacher’s college that specialized in training for music educators. Music remains a very keynote program at the school. The school offers 30 undergrad and 15 master’s degree programs. Enrollment is 56% female. Student generated comments about the school on forums are exceptionally positive about this school.

SUNY Fredonia also has a “Lifelong Learning” department that offers a variety of programs to older students. Some are focused on personal enrichment while others cover career topics like health care and information technology. There are also both credit and non-credit courses offered online.

Among the accolades SUNY Fredonia has received:

  • Ranked #8 in Kiplinger’s “Best Values In Public Colleges.”
  • #65 in Best Values among all colleges by Kiplinger’s.
  • Ranked #14 among “Top Public Universities in the North” by U.S. News & World Report

Popular majors at SUNY Fredonia include:

  • Audiology
  • Business Administration
  • Early Childhood or Elementary Education
  • Music
  • Health Sciences
  • Media Arts
  • Psychology
  • Radio and Television

Other majors of interest:

  • Acting
  • Spanish
  • Photography
  • Pre-Veterinary
  • Pre-Optometry
  • Econmics
  • Geochemistry
  • Software Development
  • Criminal Justice
  • Engineering

SUNY Fredonia has a 4-year graduation rate of 44% and a 6-year grad rate of 63%.

The total cost of attendance is $20,218. for in-state and $29,268. for out-of-state students.

More info on SUNY Fredonia

CUNY City College (CCNY)

Founded in 1847, City College is the oldest CUNY school. It’s campus, which features a beautiful series of old neogothic buildings, lies far uptown in the neighborhood of Manhattanville, which some would say is actually part of Harlem. That location was once a problem, but it’s less so today, as Harlem is one of the more improved neighborhoods in the city. The area is primarily Hispanic & Latino, with a relatively small white population. The location is not far north of Columbia University, which is centered in the Morningside Heights. But Columbia is about to arrive in CCNY’s neighborhood with a very large series of new buildings on a 17 acre plot. A big plus: an express subway can get you from 125th street near CCNY to midtown Manhattan in just a few minutes.

CCNY has a long history as a ticket to a better life for New Yorker’s looking to move up from humble beginnings. Famous alumni who took that track include former Secretary of State Colin Powell, screenwriter Paddy Cheyevsky, actors Edward G. Robinson, Zero Mostel and Eli Wallach and polio vaccine inventor Jonas Salk.

Today CCNY, which has about 12,000 students, is nationally known as a top drawer science school, and it has invested heavily in two new science buildings recently, as well as a new building for architecture study. Engineering is always a strong specialty here.

  • #61 among Best Colleges/ Regional Universities in the North by U.S. News & World Report.
  • #62 among Master’s Universities in the North, also by U.S. News & World Report
  • #39 among American colleges overall by Forbes

Popular majors at CCNY include:

  • Architecture
  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Communication Studies
  • Computer Science
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Nanotechnology
  • Psychology

13 doctoral programs are offered, and there is a very unique 7-year program in biomedical education designed to train students to go on to medical school or become physician’s assistants.

CCNY has a 4-year graduation rate of 6%, and a 6-year graduation rate of 40%.

The total cost of attendance is $24,641 for in-state and $30,551 for out-of-state students.

More info on CUNY City College (CCNY)

SUNY Oswego

Oswego has a student body of 8,500 on it’s rural, 700 acre campus on Lake Ontario, north of Syracuse. Along with SUNY Fredonia, the school is located squarely in the middle of upstate New York’s snow belt (hockey is very big here). The school, which was founded back in 1861, was once a teacher’s college. It is now a broad based liberal arts school with over 100 academic programs leading to bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as certificates in varied specialty. Oswego has colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Business, Communication and Education.

The school takes a strong interest in fostering a very education-focused lifestyle for students – all full-time undergrads who are under 21 must live on campus unless they live with their parents or are married. It also has a wide range of fraternities and sororities. The school also has satellite campuses in Syracuse and in Phoenix, NY.

Popular majors at SUNY Oswego include:

  • Business Administration
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education (many specializations)
  • Marketing
  • Radio and Television
  • Meteorology (quite a few TV meteorologists have come from the school)

Other majors offered include:

  • Art Education
  • Graphic Design
  • Biochemistry
  • Cinema & Screen Studies
  • Finance
  • Human Resource Management
  • Insurance & Risk Management

Oswego has won high rankings in a variety of categories:

  • Washington Monthly calls it one of the to 50 public master’s level universities for contributing the public good.
  • Called an “A-Plus School for B Students” buy U.S. News & World Report, a measure of how good the school is at maximizing the performance of struggling students.
  • #16 among “Best Public Universities in the North” by U.S. News & World Report
  • The school’s graduate school of business has been singled out as one of the top 294 business schools in the U.S. by Princeton Review

SUNY Oswego has a 39% 4-year graduation rate and a 6-year graduation rate of 57%.

Total cost of attendance is $12,020. for in-state students and $30,070. for students from out-of-state.

More info on SUNY Oswego

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