The 50 Best Value Colleges and Universities in New York for 2021

Amanda Push picture
Amanda Push Contributing Writer
Updated June 14, 2021

Are you ready to find your fit?

When most people think of New York, they think of New York City - specifically all the tourist attractions, cultural events, and art venues the city has to offer. But what many people don't realize is that New York is home to some of the best value colleges available in the United States. From top private schools like Columbia and Cornell to the many top quality public school choices within the CUNY and SUNY systems, New York has no shortage of universities worth considering.

New York state offers plenty of cheap universities and colleges for students who don’t want to spend an arm and a leg while earning their degree. The best part about enrolling in one of the cheap universities in New York is that there are college and university options for everyone. Whether your goal is to become a musician, an artist, an engineer, a scientist, an academic, or something in between, this state offers affordable options for your degree. 

Once you narrow down the options and find the best fit for your needs, you’ll be on your way to  earning your degree — and may even see a high return on your investment after you graduate if you obtain employment in this state. The national average for salaries in all occupations was roughly about $56,310 as of May 2020, but the average salary was much higher in New York. As of May 2020, the average salary in New York was about $67,850 — so about $11,000 higher per year than the national average.

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The 50 Best Value Colleges and Universities in New York for 2021

  1. United States Merchant Marine Academy

    Kings Point, NY



    Smart investors know that no other accredited university in New York can rival the United States Merchant Marine Academy when it comes to cost-effectiveness. Because it is a federal service academy, there is no tuition charge to attend the USMMA (although there may be some fees for books or living expenses). But that doesn't mean it offers a free ride. In fact, USMMA students pay dearly in hard work and sweat as they toil through the most challenging academic program of any US service academy. And on the back end, graduates are expected to thank their government by serving in the armed forces - either five years of active duty or eight years in the reserves.

    • Graduation rate: 80%
    • School status: Public
    • Tuition cost: $1,095
    • Number of programs offered: 6 programs
    • City location: Kings Point, New York
    • Admission requirements: 2.5 GPA
    • Contact: (516) 726-5800
    • Website/program link:
  2. Columbia University in the City of New York

    New York, NY



    With its Ivy League status and its penchant for producing successful alumni, few would argue that Columbia isn't one of the best universities in New York, much less the world! Students who attend Columbia can have high expectations for their time on campus - and beyond. For starters, the university claims more than 80 Nobel laureates among its faculty, staff, and alumni, ensuring that majors of every discipline have access to brilliant minds that can help them forge their own paths to success. And succeed indeed; a full 95% of Columbia undergrads complete their degree on time.

    • Graduation rate: 95%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $61,671
    • Number of programs offered: 384 areas of study
    • City location: New York, New York
    • Admission requirements: Varies based on program
    • Contact: (212) 854-1754
    • Website/program link: 
  3. Cornell University

    Ithaca, NY



    Of all the top universities in New York, few rival the name recognition and prestige of Cornell. The school boasts a bevy of famous alumni, from beloved science personality Bill Nye to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice of the Supreme Court. But for an indication of performance, look at the present, not the past (so they say). Of course, Cornell has plenty going for it in the here-and-now, too! The school is particularly active in research and supports an incredible range of academic institutes and labs. Chief areas of investment include medicine, engineering, and agriculture. In fact, there are nearly two-dozen research programs dedicated exclusively to food, farming, and nutrition studies!

    • Graduation rate: 95%
    • School status: Private 
    • Tuition cost: $59,282
    • Number of programs offered: 100 academic departments
    • City location: Ithaca, New York
    • Admission requirements:
    • Contact: (607) 255-2000
    • Website/program link:
  4. Hamilton College

    Clinton, NY



    To understand Hamilton College's appeal, you need only look at its promise to incoming students: "study what interests you, be accepted for who you are, and prepare to be the person you were meant to become." A progressive, liberal arts college, Hamilton is in the business of breaking down boundaries and encouraging its learners to think outside of the box. Its "open" curriculum gives students the unprecedented flexibility to pursue their interests, regardless of their major (or concentration, in Hamilton speak). This is also one of the best New York colleges for writing; despite the lack of official requirements, all undergrads must take at least three writing-intensive courses to bolster their communication skills.

    • Graduation rate: 93%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $58,510
    • Number of programs offered: 61 areas of study
    • City location: Clinton, New York
    • Admission requirements: 4.0
    • Contact: (315) 859-4011
    • Website/program link:
  5. Webb Institute

    Glen Cove, NY



    If you're interested in engineering but have never heard of the Webb Institute, now is the time to learn. This innovative institution - inarguably one of the most unique on our top universities in New York ranking - offers just one academic degree program! That is, all Webb students receive a double major in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. So while it may cater to an extremely small crowd, Webb offers a perfect opportunity for future marine engineers who want to study in a focused environment among like-minded thinkers. What's more, Webb applicants can apply for a host of special scholarships that could reduce - or even eliminate - the cost of tuition.

    • Graduation rate: 81%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $52,880
    • Number of programs offered: 2 programs
    • City location: Glen Cove, New York
    • Admission requirements: SAT score of 1410; ACT score of 31
    • Contact: (516) 671-8355
    • Website/program link:
  6. Colgate University

    Hamilton, NY



    Now we depart the hustle and bustle of NYC and spend most of the remainder of the best colleges in New York ranking exploring some stellar schools in the suburbs. First up is Colgate, a small, highly-selective liberal arts college located in Hamilton (about an hour from Syracuse). One of this college's hallmark attributes is its innovative core curriculum, which emphasizes the "interdisciplinarity of knowledge" and the importance of intellectual engagement as students seek to apply "fresh perspectives" to "classic problems." And despite its focus on traditional liberal arts topics, Colgate has developed a number of unique majors - from Mathematical Systems Biology to Environmental Economics and LGBTQ Studies - that prepare undergrads for careers in cutting-edge fields.

    • Graduation rate: 91%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $60,015
    • Number of programs offered: 65
    • City location: Hamilton, New York
    • Admission requirements: SAT score of 1330; ACT score of 31
    • Contact: (315) 228-1000
    • Website/program link:
  7. Barnard College

    New York, NY



    For more than 125 years, Barnard has offered women a top-notch education in the heart of New York City. With just 2,500 undergrads, this top college in NYC provides a rigorous education in an intimate setting. And thanks to Barnard's partnership with nearby Columbia University, you can enjoy the small-school experience while still accessing the vast resources of a larger institution. The two schools share libraries, courses, and even a joint athletic consortium, while still operating separately from an administrative and policy perspective. The partnership and Barnard's many other highlights seem to pay off: the school boasts an impressive 91% graduation rate.

    • Graduation rate: 92%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $57,479
    • Number of programs offered: 54 programs
    • City location: New York, New York
    • Admission requirements: SAT score of 1340; ACT score of 31
    • Contact: (212) 854-5262
    • Website/program link:
  8. CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

    New York, NY



    Though it may not enjoy the same name recognition of some of its neighbors on this New York colleges ranking, CUNY Bernard M Baruch is every bit as deserving of its position in the top 10. In fact, in many ways, Baruch College epitomizes the concept of a "best value" school. With impressive stats across the board - including a 70% graduation rate and projected ROI north of $500k - this college offers its students a bright future for a fraction of the typical cost. The school also stands out for its emphasis on diversity. All told, Baruch Bearcats speak more than 110 languages and represent more than 170 countries around the world!

    • Graduation rate: 70%
    • School status: Public
    • Tuition cost: In-state: $7,462; out-of-state: $15,412
    • Number of programs offered: 90+ majors and minors
    • City location: New York, New York
    • Admission requirements: SAT score of 1130
    • Contact: (646) 312-1000
    • Website/program link:
  9. Vassar College

    Poughkeepsie, NY



    With fewer than 2,500 undergrads, Vassar is one of the smaller schools on our list. And yet, it's the perfect size for students who favor intimate, creative learning environments. Indeed, Vassar is known for its close-knit culture; 97% of students live on campus, as do more than 70% of the faculty! There are even "faculty families" that live in each residence hall, making it impossible for students not to develop personal relationships with their professors. Of all the accredited colleges in New York, Vassar also has one of the most scenic. Its 1,000-acre campus even includes two National Historic Landmarks!

    • Graduation rate: 91%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $60,930
    • Number of programs offered: 51 majors
    • City location: Poughkeepsie, New York
    • Admission requirements: SAT score of 1370; ACT score of 31
    • Contact: (845) 437-7000
    • Website/program link:
  10. SUNY Binghamton

    Binghamton, NY



    If statistics mean anything (and we think they do) SUNY Binghamton is a place where happy students go to achieve their goals. In addition to an 80% graduation rate, the school also sports a 90% retention rate, indicating that the vast majority of first-year students enjoyed their experience on campus enough to go back the next year. But while the freshmen are planning their return trip, the seniors are getting ready for the next step - and nearly 1 in 5 love learning so much that they head straight to graduate school! So if you're looking for a place that will fuel your passions and prepare you for the future, SUNY Binghamton is one affordable New York college you should seriously consider.

    • Graduation rate: 27%
    • School status: Public
    • Tuition cost: In-state: $6,136; out-of-state: $11,224
    • Number of programs offered: Over 130 undergraduate programs
    • City location: Binghamton, New York
    • Admission requirements: SAT score of 1280; ACT score of 29
    • Contact: (607) 778-5000
    • Website/program link:

What are the cheapest colleges in New York?

There are a wide variety of cheap colleges in New York to choose from, all with different price ranges for in-state and out-of-state tuition and fees. Among the most affordable are CUNY Bernard M Baruch, CUNY Queens College, SUNY College at Brockport, and SUNY College at Plattsburgh. Read more to learn about our top 50 picks for affordable colleges in New York.

What colleges are near New York City?

You don’t have to enroll in a college in New York City to be near the city. There are a number of options located outside NYC but in close proximity to the city. For example, Webb Institute, located in Glen Cove, is just a 30-mile road trip away from the Big Apple. Stony Brook, home to Stony Brook University, is just 57 miles east of New York City.

What are the best schools in New York?

As one of the most populated states in the U.S., New York offers some of the best schools in the nation. Among them are Columbia University, Cornell University, and Barnard College. At these schools, you can enroll in some of the best education programs in the country.

In-State Tuition Cost in New York

If you’re a resident of New York, tuition is going to be more affordable — at least compared to the cost of out-of-state tuition. In New York, the average cost of in-state tuition at a four-year public university or college is about $8,184 per academic year. This is just below the national average of $9,212. However, the average tuition for private school in New York is about $40,527 per year, which is much higher than the national average for private university or college tuition, which is about $31,875 per year.

These figures do not take into account the costs of room and board, however. In New York, you can expect to pay about $9,746 for room and $5,123 for board, which is quite a bit more than the national average.

Out-of-State Tuition Cost in New York

In general, New York non-residents should expect to pay significantly more in tuition costs than residents do. If you’re not a resident of this state, the average amount you’ll pay for tuition is about $22,083 per year. While that may seem high, this amount is still much lower than the national average for out-of-state tuition, which generally costs about $26,382 per academic year.

Average Cost of Room and Board in New York 

Room and board can be one of the most costly aspects about attending a college or university. Most colleges or universities require that students under a certain age or first time students live on campus at least for your first year of school. 

In New York, the average room cost is about $9,746 per year, and board costs, on average, are about $5,123 more. This averages out to nearly $15,000 per school year on average. 

The room costs in this state are much higher than the national average, which is about $6,459 per year. Board fees, on the other hand, are slightly cheaper than the national average in this state at about $4,927 per year.
In some cases, off-campus housing can be more affordable for many students, but it depends on a variety of factors. What you pay will be determined in large part by factors like where you live, the number of roommates you have, and how large the home or apartment is.

Scholarships for Students in New York

NYS Scholarships for Academic Excellence

Who Can Apply: Every year, the NYS Scholarships for Academic Excellence awards 8,000 scholarships to New York State high school graduates who are attending New York undergraduate programs. Broken down, this comes down to 2,000 scholarships of $1,500 and 6,000 scholarships of $500. Award criteria is based on students’ grades. Individuals must not be in default on any state or federal student loans or on any repayment of state awards, must be U.S. citizens or qualifying noncitizens, and must be New York residents.

$1,500 per year for up to five years
Deadline: February

World Trade Center Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The World Trade Center Memorial Scholarship offers scholarships for children, spouses, and dependents of victims who died or were disabled as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and on airline flights 11, 77, 93, and 175, as well as the following rescue efforts. To qualify, you must study at an approved postsecondary institution in New York, be enrolled as a full-time student, and be in good academic standing.

Amount: Maximum of $24,250 for on-campus students; maximum of $15,750 for off-campus students
Deadline: June

NYWEA Environmental Career Scholarship

Who Can Apply: In 2021, the New York Water Environment Association offered $50,000 in scholarships in varied amounts. To qualify for these scholarships, applicants must be a high school senior, a New York resident, and enrolled full-time in a bachelor degree program with an environmental emphasis.

Amount: Varies
Deadline: February

The 10 Best Value Colleges and Universities in New York of 2021

#1 United States Merchant Marine Academy Kings Point, NY
#2 Columbia University in the City of New York New York, NY
#3 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
#4 Hamilton College Clinton, NY
#5 Webb Institute Glen Cove, NY
#6 Colgate University Hamilton, NY
#7 Barnard College New York, NY
#8 CUNY Bernard M Baruch College New York, NY
#9 Vassar College Poughkeepsie, NY
#10 SUNY Binghamton Binghamton, NY

Amanda Push picture

Amanda Push


Amanda Push is a freelance writer who covers education topics for Best Value Schools, Grad School Hub, and Criminal Justice Degree Schools, and others. Her writing has also been featured at,,, and

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Angelica Leicht


Angelica Leicht is the schools editor at Best Value Schools who oversees our college rankings, school profiles, and other higher education coverage. She previously served as an education reporter at Kearney Hub, and an editor at the Dallas Observer and Houston Press. Her writing has appeared in Affordable Colleges Online, Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and elsewhere.

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