Students in New York have literally hundreds of schools from which to choose. These include community colleges, universities, technical schools and online institutions. However, the two most prominent systems are The State University of New York and The City University of New York.
The State University of New York, known as SUNY, is a system that includes 64 schools scattered across the state. Member institutions are broken into the following four categories:
- University Centers and Doctoral Degree Granting Institutions
- University Colleges
- Technology Colleges
- Community Colleges
Meanwhile, The City University of New York, often referred to as CUNY, has 25 schools spread throughout New York City's five boroughs. These CUNY schools include:
- Senior Colleges
- Community Colleges
- Graduate Schools
Within these systems, students can easily transfer from community colleges to accredited four-year schools. Many institutions may also accept credits earned at schools outside their system.
In addition to the SUNY and CUNY public university systems, New York has more than 100 independent colleges and universities that are part of The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York. Beyond that, additional schools may operate independently, be affiliated with religious organizations or serve as online colleges for New York.
Best 4-Year Colleges in New York
Our system for determining the best colleges and universities in New York focuses on average degree cost, student services, financial aid statistics, record of student success and access to distance education. Tap the methodology button for more details about our process and read on for our list of the best New York schools.
The University at Buffalo is a flagship school for the State University of New York (SUNY) system. It was founded in 1846, and from humble beginnings has grown into one of the largest and most comprehensive institutions in the state. It maintains three campuses and 13 schools and colleges, including schools of architecture and law, which are rare in the SUNY system.
Students enrolled at the University at Buffalo can choose from around 110 undergraduate degrees and more than 300 graduate, professional and certificate programs. What's more, there is an option to work with UB faculty to create a customized major.
UB also commits itself to helping students graduate in just four years. Finish In 4 is a focused initiative designed to guide students through the right steps to earn their degree without spending extra time.
Another SUNY institution, Stony Brook University has been serving students on its current campus near the Atlantic shore for more than 50 years. Originally intended to train high school math and science teachers, the Long Island institution has since grown to include 15 colleges and schools that cover a wide range of subjects.
With more than 200 undergraduate programs and 140 graduate programs, the university offers a degree plan for just about everyone. SBU also seeks to join the top online colleges in New York, pushing ahead with the Stony Brook Online Learning Development (S-BOLD) initiative to advance its distance education offerings.
More than 25,000 students were enrolled at Stony Brook University in 2015. Nearly 80 institutes and advancement centers are available to help you broaden your approach to your field of study.
The campus of Syracuse University, located in central New York near the Finger Lakes, has housed the university's classrooms and operations since its founding in 1870. It was one of the few private universities in the 19th century to freely admit both men and women, and its notable alumni include women's rights activist Karen DeCrow and Space Shuttle commander Eileen Collins.
Undergraduates at Syracuse can choose from over 200 majors and more than 100 minors. Interdisciplinary work is encouraged here -- a large portion of students choose more than one major or complement their study with a minor concentration.
If you know you plan to go to graduate school after finishing your bachelor's, you may be able to reach your goal sooner than expected. Syracuse offers more than 40 programs that lead to both a bachelor's and a master's degree upon completion.
This private Jesuit, Catholic institution is named for St. Peter Canisius, a renowned ecclesiastical educator and member of the 16th-century Society of Jesus. Canisius College began as a single structure in downtown Buffalo and grew to encompass 37 buildings on 72 acres of land in the north-central city.
Canisius is one of the smaller schools on our list, reporting close to 2,600 undergraduates and 1,100 graduate students in 2017-18. It features three schools -- business, education and arts and sciences -- and boasts a comfortable student-faculty ratio of 11:1.
The academic diversity available in the virtual classroom at Canisius may give it the clout it needs to stand among the top online schools in New York. Although no undergraduate degrees are available online, graduate programs include community health, respiratory care, sport administration, anthrozoology and more.
The existence of Niagara University predates the U.S. Civil War, according to the school's official lore. This Vincentian, Catholic university has its founding pinpointed to the day -- November 21, 1856 -- although its current site near Niagara Falls wasn't secured until several months later.
In keeping with the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, the namesake of the Vincentian tradition, Niagara University emphasizes charitable works and community service. Despite a relatively low total enrollment of approximately 4,000, NU students log more than 50,000 hours of service to local communities each academic year.
What's more, NU has something to offer an often overlooked group of potential students: amateur paranormal researchers. Legend has it that Thomas Hopkins, a Brooklyn student killed in a fire on campus in 1864, still haunts Clet Hall, the first building built at the current site.
This famous New York City institution likely needs no introduction. New York University is consistently named among the top colleges and universities in New York, both in overall academic quality and in terms of specific subjects of study. Its undergraduate programs in finance, marketing and international business, for example, all rank among the best programs nationwide in their subject.
NYU is home to more than two dozen schools, colleges, institutes and academic centers. Notable examples include an Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, the renowned Leonard N. Stern School of Business and one of the oldest law schools in the U.S.
Students who want to get through school in under four years have options here as well. Accelerated programs for undergraduates as well as graduate students provide alternative degree pathways that can cut down on the length of your degree.
Located about 20 minutes south of the shores of Lake Ontario, Rochester Institute of Technology is a privately endowed university that emphasizes experiential learning and career education. Originally established as a liberal arts academy by town namesake Colonel Nathaniel Rochester, technology training became a part of the mission after an 1891 merger with a local technical school.
These undeniably regional beginnings belie the scope of today's RIT. The institution has one of the largest collections of overseas campuses among New York colleges -- four in total, in Croatia, Kosovo, China and the United Arab Emirates -- and it's received international recognition for its advancements in working with deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
RIT offers degree programs at all levels, from associate on up to Ph.D. Its Cooperative Education program finds professional placements for more than 4,400 students annually.
Marist College was initially intended to be a training academy for The Marist Brothers of the Schools, a small Catholic sect dedicated to ministry through the education of young people, but it's grown into a well-respected university that offers numerous traditional degrees. Marist had nearly 50 bachelor's degrees on offer in 2018, along with close to 15 certificates and master's programs.
This Hudson River Valley institution might be one of the best schools in New York for students who prefer a quiet, close-knit campus. Total enrollment came in under 6,700 in 2017, and the main campus in Poughkeepsie reported fewer than 5,400 students in attendance the same year.
Online education is fairly robust at Marist, as well. Undergraduates here can opt to earn certain course credits in an 8-week accelerated format through distance education.
Originally founded in 1861, SUNY Oswego's first mission was the training of primary school teachers. In 1948, however, it became one of the charter members of the State University of New York and began developing into a well-rounded university that offers more than 110 majors, minors, graduate degrees and cooperative education programs.
This north-central New York school may deserve a spot among the best colleges and universities in New York for online students. Its online program features up to 180 individual courses each semester and includes pathways to 10 degrees and certificates.
Oswego also participates in Open SUNY, a system-wide distance education initiative that works to provide a one-stop shop for online degrees from any SUNY institution. Students can tap into more than 140 additional online degree programs from across the state.
More than 100 total degree and certificate plans await students at this mid-sized institution between Rochester and Niagara Falls. The College at Brockport offers bachelor's and master's programs from three academic schools and features an undergraduate student-faculty ratio of 17:1.
Originally founded in 1835 as Brockport Collegiate Institute, Brockport joined SUNY at its founding in 1948. Today, it operates almost 40 academic departments, an Honors College and an innovative experiential and interdisciplinary learning model called Delta College.
Most of the online instruction at SUNY Brockport is restricted to graduate study, with master's degree plans in education, public health, liberal studies and more. One online undergraduate plan, a program that helps working registered nurses upgrade their training to a bachelor's degree, is also available.
Most Popular Degree Programs in New York
Just as there are numerous accredited colleges and universities in New York, there are also plenty of different degree programs. However, between on-campus and online degrees in New York, these are the most popular degrees.
In-Demand Careers in New York
Whether through online course for an online degree, or traditional degree, the point of earning degrees for most people is to get a job after graduation or further your career. With that in mind, you may want to pick a field of study that prepares you for one of these in-demand occupations or consider exploring a new career.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Solar Photovoltaic Installers||104.5%||470||$51,330|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||52.4%||444,880||$29,290|
|Gambling and Sports Book Writers and Runners||39.8%||520||$30,180|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians||36.8%||990||$34,450|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||36.5%||78,890||$119,570|
|Gambling Change Persons and Booth Cashiers||34.8%||590||-|
|Physical Therapist Aides||34%||3,290||$32,200|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||33.9%||5,410||$54,970|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||29.9%||2,880||$63,270|
|Operations Research Analysts||29.8%||6,510||$104,890|
|Surgeons, Except Ophthalmologists||29%||-||$230,890|
|Information Security Analysts||27.9%||7,120||$121,750|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||27.5%||5,030||$97,750|
|Educational Instruction and Library Workers, All Other||27.5%||1,240||$52,000|
|Healthcare Social Workers||27.3%||15,720||$61,470|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||27.3%||11,540||$63,520|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||27.1%||22,350||$130,330|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||26.9%||5,880||$77,060|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in New York
Looking for help with tuition and other education-related costs? New York State offers several financial aid programs to help its residents offset the cost of tuition, whether at campus-based or online colleges. The Tuition Assistance Program, known as TAP, is the largest grant program offered by the state and is need-based financial aid. There are also a number of other grants and scholarship programs including the Excelsior Scholarship for CUNY and SUNY students and the Enhanced Tuition Award which covers students at private, not-for-profit schools outside the SUNY or CUNY systems.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable up to four years if recipient remains in good standing.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
- The State University of New York
- The City University of New York
- The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York
- New York Office of Higher Education
- New York Higher Education Services Corporation
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed March 23, 2018: Our Campuses, University at Buffalo, https://www.buffalo.edu/about_ub/our-campuses.html; UB at a Glance, University at Buffalo, https://www.buffalo.edu/about_ub/ub_at_a_glance.html; Degree Programs, University at Buffalo, https://www.buffalo.edu/academics/degree_programs.html; Finish in 4, University at Buffalo, http://advising.buffalo.edu/fif/index.php; History, Stony Brook University, http://www.stonybrook.edu/about/history/; Online Education, Stony Brook University, http://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/onlineed/; S-BOLD, Stony Brook University, http://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/onlineed/faculty/sbold.html; Centers and Institutes, Stony Brook University, http://www.stonybrook.edu/about/centers-and-institutes/; About, Syracuse University, https://www.syracuse.edu/about/; History, Syracuse University, https://www.syracuse.edu/about/history/; Undergraduate Majors and Minors, Syracuse University, https://www.syracuse.edu/academics/undergraduate-majors-minors/; Canisius at a Glance, Canisius College, https://www.canisius.edu/about-canisius/canisius-glance; About, Canisius College, https://www.canisius.edu/about1; Programs, Canisius College, https://www.canisius.edu/academics/programs; History, Niagara University, https://www.niagara.edu/nu-history/; Enrollment Information, Niagara University, https://www.niagara.edu/enrollment-information/; NU Nuggets, Niagara University, https://www.niagara.edu/nu-nuggets/; Clet Hall, Niagara University, https://map.niagara.edu/map/show/clet-hall; Schools and Colleges, New York University, https://www.nyu.edu/academics/schools-and-colleges.html; Accelerated Studies, New York University, https://www.nyu.edu/academics/accelerated-studies.html; RIT in Brief, Rochester Institute of Technology, https://www.rit.edu/overview/rit-in-brief; History of RIT, Rochester Institute of Technology, https://www.rit.edu/overview/history-rit; About, Marist College, http://www.marist.edu/about/; 1905-1928, Marist College, http://www.marist.edu/about/1905_1928.html; Marist at a Glance, Marist College, http://www.marist.edu/about/glance.html; Distance Learning, Marist College, https://www.marist.edu/professional-programs/distance-learning/courses.html; Fast Facts, SUNY Oswego, https://www.oswego.edu/about/fast-facts; Campus History, SUNY Oswego, https://www.oswego.edu/about/fast-facts/campus-history; Online Learning, SUNY Oswego, https://www.oswego.edu/extended-learning/online-degrees; Open SUNY, State University of New York, http://navigator.suny.edu/content/about; Online Bachelor's Degrees, Open SUNY Online, http://navigator.suny.edu/degrees/?degree_level=bachelor; Facts and Figures, The College at Brockport, https://www.brockport.edu/about/facts/; Academic Profile, The College at Brockport, https://www.brockport.edu/about/facts/academics.html; History of the College, the College at Brockport, https://www.brockport.edu/about/history; Academic Programs, The College at Brockport, https://www.brockport.edu/academics/programs.html#f-online; The Delta College at Brockport, The College at Brockport, https://www.brockport.edu/academics/delta_college/index.html;
- New York University, Overall Rankings, Higher Education, U.S. News and World Report, accessed March 23, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/new-york-university-193900/overall-rankings
- About the Marist Brothers, Marist Brothers, accessed March 23, 2018, https://www.maristbr.com/about-us
- Complete Campus List, The State University of New York, Accessed April 2017, https://www.suny.edu/attend/visit-us/complete-campus-list/
- About CICU, The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York, Accessed April 2017, https://www.cicu.org/about
- SUNY Transfer Policies, The State University of New York, Accessed April 2017, https://www.suny.edu/attend/get-started/transfer-students/suny-transfer-policies/
- Grants, Scholarships and Loan Programs, Higher Education Services Corporation, Accessed April 2017, https://www.hesc.ny.gov/pay-for-college/financial-aid/types-of-financial-aid.html#horizontalTab2
- Colleges & Schools, The City University of New York, Accessed April 2017, http://www2.cuny.edu/about/colleges-schools/
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/