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New York City created four of America’s top 100 colleges

Quick question: What is the best value college in New York City?

Columbia University may come to mind first. But the correct answer, according to Money’s 2019In the 2020 Best Colleges ranking is Baruch College, a downtown campus where 70% of students graduate in six years and the average grant brings the annual price below $5,000.

In fact, New York’s public university system accounts for four of the top 100 universities in the country, according to Money’s analysis, led by Baruch at No. 2 and CUNY Brooklyn College at No. 35. (Columbia, with an average annual price after grants of $24,400, it ranks 81st). Of the 744 universities in our ranking, eight are part of the public CUNY, or City University of New York, system.

CUNY is now the largest urban university system in the US, with 25 campuses serving more than 270,000 students. But even with a giant population, it manages to offer the combination of quality and affordability that makes getting a degree worth the investment.

To be on the Money list, a school must be a public or private nonprofit four-year university in the US. It must have at least 500 students, sufficient data, and above-average graduation rates. We then ranked universities based on their scores in 26 categories, including student-faculty ratio, graduates’ early career earnings, and net costs. We analyzed more than 19,000 data points in total. See the full list here.

On the subject of student debt in particular, CUNY schools stand out. While the average student debt level in our rankings is $23,133, the average across the CUNY schools on our list is just $11,136. When it comes to net price for low-income students, CUNY’s Baruch and Lehman College are just behind Harvard, Stanford and Duke, three prestigious private universities known for their financial aid programs. CUNY also sets students up for success after graduation: Its schools shine at economic mobility or push low-income students into upper-middle-class jobs in their mid-30s.

“Who else can claim that 80% of students graduate with no loan debt?” says Foreign Minister Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “In terms of preparing them for the potential of a master’s degree or buying a home or starting a family without that kind of debt, we’re very proud of that.”

This is what makes CUNY stand out so much.

‘You can’t get a much better system’

For high school students in New York City, CUNY is not only close, it’s also cheap.

Discounts start even before freshmen step foot on campus. Low-income students attending New York City public schools do not have to pay the $65 fee to apply to CUNY; more than 41,000 people applied this way last year.

Once there, about 65% of full-time undergraduates attend CUNY tuition-free. The state’s (somewhat controversial) Excelsior scholarship program handles tuition for CUNY students who intend to stay in New York after graduation. The scholarship comes after federal Pell grants and New York State Tuition Assistance Program grants.

“If you’re a New York resident, you can’t get a much better system than CUNY,” says Dana Ponsky, senior college admissions counselor at NYC Admissions Solutions, a private consultancy that guides local parents and students through school. secondary. and the college application process.

CUNY’s reputation as a good value also extends beyond the Empire State Building. Ponsky used to recommend it to students when he was working in Miami and Washington, DC. He says CUNY is “a great option if you’re looking for something that won’t cost a fortune.” Full-time nonresident students can expect to pay $18,600 per year, which is $5,290 less than what the College Board says typical students in that cohort spend.

One thing that cuts costs is Matos Rodriguez’s determination to increase completion rates. Since he took office as chancellor in May, he says he has renewed focus on making sure CUNY schools retain students and then help them graduate on time.

Last year, for example, the system launched the “Momentum Campaign,” which aims to increase its six-year graduation rate to 65% by 2025. The initiative encourages students to take 15 credits per semester to stay on track for graduation. One of their mottos is “The longer you stay, the more you pay.”

The Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge program offers additional financial aid, counseling and academic support to low-income students with less than stellar academic records. There’s also the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, which provides two-year-olds with mentors, MetroCards and money for textbooks, and its high school counterpart. (Money’s rankings focus on four-year titles.)

Judging by CUNY statistics, these initiatives are working.

“The DNA here is to access with academic excellence”, says Matos Rodríguez.

Location, location, location

The size of the system lends itself to specialization, meaning there’s a CUNY for just about everyone.

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice is the place to study criminal justice, while Baruch has business skills. For nursing or education, there’s Hunter College, located on the Upper East Side.

“You could get a student who struggled academically in high school to find a place in the CUNY system, and you could get their valedictorian to find a place in the CUNY system, and both can be extraordinarily successful,” says Ponsky. .

There is also variety in how campuses feel. Queens College is suburban, while Brooklyn College feels more like a neighborhood. City College has a gothic, classic college campus look.

CUNY’s spread doesn’t make it any less distinguished. Money data shows that Baruch accepts just 29% of applicants, a rate on par with universities like the University of Virginia, Boston University and Wake Forest University. Ponsky praises CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College, which awards the top 4% of incoming freshmen at certain campuses with full tuition, a free laptop and special scholarships for study. Another unique offering is the Sophie Davis Biomedical Education Program, which allows students to earn a bachelor’s and doctorate in medicine in seven years.

But no matter which path a student chooses, they benefit from the mere fact that they are in New York City. In 2013, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that graduates in big cities are more likely to get jobs that require a degree and are related to their major. The larger the population, the greater the chances of a match.

“As far as getting jobs or internships, it’s going to be a lot easier because you’re already here,” says Abby Siegel, a former Stuyvesant High School counselor who now works as a college admissions consultant.

New York City had more than 4 million private sector jobs as of June 2019, and Matos Rodríguez wants to funnel CUNY graduates into those positions and others. He says that improving professional engagement is one of his highest priorities as chancellor.

To that end, Matos Rodríguez has forged connections with groups like the Partnership for New York City, a business leadership organization whose members include JetBlue, General Electric and American Express. He says that CUNY is “taking advantage of the momentum and enthusiasm of the business community to partner more with us.”

After all, CUNY’s stated purpose is to be “a vehicle for upward mobility for the disadvantaged.”

“The more connections we have, the easier it is for those students to get their first job, and get that first job that pays better,” says Matos Rodríguez.

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