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    Top Affordable Colleges in New York State

    By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    Updated: June 3rd, 2024
    Top Affordable Colleges in New York State

    Looking for affordable higher education in the state of New York? We’ve got you covered. The Empire State has plenty of affordable college options. Whether you’re eyeing in-state tuition at public universities, private colleges with strong merit scholarships, or prestigious schools with strong need-based aid, we’ve got options to consider.

    It’s important to remember that your financial circumstances, in-state or out-of-state status, and academic achievements will determine the level of financial aid you receive. Make sure to focus your college applications on the angle that works best for you to obtain an affordable financial aid offer. 

    Best colleges for in-state students

    Brooklyn College

    Brooklyn College, a popular branch of the CUNY school system, offers extremely affordable in-state tuition for NY residents. It also offers flexible schedules for students who want to maintain a day job while they study. We chose Brooklyn College because it is one of the CUNY schools that offers the most types of degrees, but all CUNY schools charge comparable amounts for tuition, so be sure to investigate whichever suits your practical situation and academic interests the best.

    Stony Brook

    Stony Brook is one of our picks for the top colleges and most affordable colleges nationwide. With especially great rates for in-state students. Stony Brook offers a great education, proximity to New York City, and a large variety of majors for low prices.

    In-state students should be sure to check if they are eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship, which could provide tuition-free college at public in-state schools 

    Note: In-state students should be sure to check if they are eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship, which could provide tuition-free college at public in-state schools

    Best colleges for merit aid

    University of Rochester

    At University of Rochester, applicants are automatically considered for merit scholarships ranging from $2,000 to full tuition. There is a long list of scholarships that you can find on their site. These merit scholarships are awarded independent of financial need, so if your FAFSA/CSS Profile does not portray your need accurately, University of Rochester is a great bet.

    Skidmore College

    Skidmore offers some great merit scholarships specifically for students studying music, science, and mathematics. Each of these scholarships is worth $20,000 per year, or $80,000 overall. These scholarships have a separate application to the main admission application, so be sure to apply early and budget in some time to put together your scholarship application.

    Manhattanville University

    At Manhattanville, 98% of students receive some form of financial aid. There are several different categories of merit aid, and some require separate applications. They also offer scholarships to first-generation students and to students who agree to participate in community service when enrolled.

    Best colleges for need-based aid

    Columbia University

    Columbia University covers 100% of demonstrated financial need for students, and they will even automatically waive your tuition if your family income is below $150,000 per year. Although Columbia is one of the most competitive schools in the nation, if you are able to get in and you have high need, you can feel confident that you’ll get a strong financial aid package.

    Cornell University

    Cornell covers 100% of demonstrated financial need, meaning that they will cover the difference between sticker price and your family’s ability to pay. This package may still include government loans and work-study, but it is a strong financial aid policy employed by less than 100 schools nationwide. Cornell is one of the harder schools to get into in the country, but for students who have strong enough records to gain admission, it offers stellar need-based aid.

    Vassar College

    While still very competitive, Vassar is significantly easier to get into than Cornell and Columbia, but they offer comparably strong need-based aid. Vassar pledges to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for students. That means they’ll cover the difference between cost of attendance and your family’s calculated ability to pay. Vassar offers a very different experience than Cornell and Columbia as it is smaller and more of a liberal arts experience. But with many liberal arts colleges charging prohibitively high tuition, Vassar can be a great option for students with high demonstrated need.

    University of Rochester

    University of Rochester has a higher acceptance rate than the three colleges above, but they too have pledged to meet 100% of demonstrated need. So, no matter what state you’re from, if you apply and gain admission to Rochester, there’s a good chance you will receive a great need-based aid package.

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • There are three main ways to find affordable college in New York. One is through merit scholarships if you have a remarkable academic record. Another is through need-based aid if your financial situation warrants it. And another is through applying to public colleges as an in-state student
    • We listed two good examples of public schools, but the CUNY and SUNY systems all use comparable pricing, so whichever option has the majors you are looking for and is convenient for your work/living situation is probably the best option for you
    • You’ll always find the best merit aid at schools where your high school GPA / test scores are significantly higher than the typical enrolled student

    Frequently asked questions about affordable college in New York

    How can I establish residency in New York?

    This requirement may vary school-by-school, but generally the standard is that a student lives in-state for at least 366 days prior to the start of classes. They must also show intent to stay in the state indefinitely.

    What if my FAFSA does not show financial need?

    If you need financial support to pay for college but your FAFSA does not reflect this financial need, you have a couple options. If you are an in-state New York student, you can try applying to public schools. If you gain admission, you will automatically receive a steep tuition discount that could make the school affordable even without financial aid. 

    Additionally, if you have a strong academic background, you can try applying to private schools with strong merit-based aid. Oftentimes, you’ll get the best merit aid at schools that are not overly selective, but have strong merit scholarships.

    Another option is to apply to competitive schools and, after gaining admission, send them a financial aid appeal letter to explain why your financial situation is not captured by your FAFSA and/or CSS Profile. They may adjust your aid offer and grant you admission.

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