If you’re interested in going to college in New York, you may want to consider a State University of New York school. Unlike The City University of New York (CUNY) colleges, the majority of SUNY schools are outside of New York City, and many of them are in rural areas.
In this article, I’ll describe the SUNY system, profile the 4-year SUNY schools, and explain how to decide which SUNY to attend.
About the SUNY System
The State University of New York (SUNY) is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States. SUNY colleges are New York public colleges; there are 64 SUNY institutions of various types and sizes.
In this article, I’ll focus on the independent 4-year SUNY colleges with baccalaureate programs that you can enter as a freshman student. There are 25 SUNY schools that fit this criteria.
In addition to the schools I’ll be focusing on, there are also 2-year SUNY colleges, which are community colleges. Some of the SUNY 2-year colleges include Erie Community College, Nassau Community College, and Finger Lakes Community College.
Also, there are upper division SUNY colleges, which are colleges you can transfer to as a junior or senior. SUNY Upstate Medical University and SUNY Downstate Medical Center are upper division colleges. The Fashion Institute of Technology allows you to apply to one of its Bachelor programs after you complete your first two years there and earn an Associate’s Degree.
Finally, there are five statutory colleges, which are schools that receive funding from the state but are hosted at and primarily run by private colleges. Four of the statutory colleges are at Cornell University and the other, the NYS College of Ceramics, is at Alfred University.
SUNY colleges vary in size, but most of the SUNY 4-year colleges are smaller state schools. Geographically, they’re spread throughout the state of New York, and they offer a wide variety of majors and programs.
Also, SUNY schools tend to be more affordable, especially for New York residents. For the 2022-2023 academic year, in-state tuition for a SUNY baccalaureate degree program (4-year degree) is $7,070. For out-of-state students, average tuition is $16,980. However, out-of-state tuition is $24,990 at University at Albany and Binghamton University. It’s $28,705 at the University at Buffalo and Stony Brook University.
Comparatively, the tuition for Cornell, a private Ivy League college in New York, is $62,456 for 2022-2023. Keep in mind, though, that many private colleges do often offer generous financial aid.
You may be able to save money by going to a SUNY! Chris Potter/Flickr
Comparing the SUNY Schools by the Numbers
I’ve provided the undergraduate enrollment, average standardized test scores, and acceptance rates for the SUNY schools.
|School||Enrollment||Average SAT||Average ACT||Acceptance Rate|
|University at Albany||12,654||1180||26||68%|
|Alfred State College||3,414||1070||22||82%|
|Buffalo State College||6,147||1040||19||85%|
|University at Buffalo||21,467||1270||28||70%|
|Empire State College||7,926||Unavailable||Unavailable||51%|
|SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry||1,594||1230||26||65%|
|Morrisville State College||1,957||1000||22||81%|
|SUNY New Paltz||6,256||1230||27||46%|
|SUNY Old Westbury||4,659||1070||21||53%|
|Stony Brook University||17,999||1390||31||48%|
|SUNY Polytechnic Institute||2,043||1220||27||77%|
Ranking the SUNY Schools
It’s difficult to rank all the SUNY schools against each other because there are very different types of schools within the SUNY system. Some are large schools that offer research opportunities and graduate education, and some are much smaller schools that focus exclusively on undergraduate education.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll provide the US News rankings for each SUNY college. US News separates schools into four categories in its rankings: National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities, and Regional Colleges.
There are SUNY schools in each of the four categories, so only schools within the same category can be directly compared against each other. However, in terms of national prestige and selectivity, Stony Brook and Binghamton are probably the most well-regarded. As you can see by their acceptance rates and average standardized test scores, SUNY schools have varying levels of selectivity, but many of them are roughly equal in terms of selectivity.
|Stony Brook University||#77|
|University at Buffalo– SUNY||#89|
|SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry||#105|
|University at Albany–SUNY||#182|
National Liberal Arts Colleges
Regional Universities (North)
|SUNY Polytechnic Institute||#9|
|SUNY New Paltz||#22|
|SUNY Buffalo State||#113|
Regional Colleges (North)
|SUNY Empire State College||Unranked|
SUNY Administration Building. jicriado/Flickr
Full SUNY School Profiles
Many of the SUNY schools are similar because they’re New York public universities that share the same Board of Trustees and chancellor. The biggest differences between most of the schools are related to their location, size, and academic programs. I’ll provide a brief profile of each school so you can gain a better understanding on what makes it unique compared to the other SUNY schools.
I’ve included the most popular majors, graduation rate, and the percentage of first-year students who live on campus. If less than 60% of first-year students live on campus, it’s definitely a commuter school.
Additionally, we’ve included a “Students Say” section on the school based on reviews from Niche.com. These are not actual reviews, but we hoped to give you a general student perspective so you can decide which ones to research further. The schools are listed in alphabetical order.
University at Albany
- About its location: Albany is the capital of New York. It’s 150 miles north of New York City and has a population of about 100,000. UAlbany is one of the larger SUNY schools and students choose from over 100 majors and minors.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 12,654
- Graduation rate: 65%
- Students living in college housing: 48%
SUNY Albany students benefit from a large alumni network and dedicated professors. Class sizes are generally large, especially early on in a student’s time at Albany, which can make it difficult to get help in specific subjects. Students also benefit from the small-city environment and the clubs and activities on campus.
Alfred State College
- About its location: Alfred is a small town in Allegany County. Alfred’s a picturesque hilly area in the northern part of the Appalachian Mountain chain with a population of about 5,000. Alfred State has over 70 majors and offers small class sizes. It also offers certificates and 2-year degrees.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 3,414
- Student/faculty ratio: 16:1
- Students living in college housing: 59%
Students go to Alfred for the small, college-town environment, the scenic landscape, and the small class sizes. Depending on your major, the small class sizes can also be a drawback since it’s more personalized and higher expectations are placed on students.
- About its location: Binghamton is in southern New York near the Pennsylvania border. Its population is about 45,000. Binghamton is one of the most prestigious SUNY schools. Also, it’s one of the few SUNY schools that is NCAA Division I. However, it doesn’t have a football team.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 14,307
- Graduation rate: 82% graduate within six years
- Students living in college housing: 48%
Binghamton students praise the school on its community-oriented campus, many events, and open-mindedness. The school is academically rigorous, but also offers a well-rounded environment so students can pursue their interests and de-stress. However, students find it difficult to benefit from large lecture classes and cite lack of transportation and activities in the area surrounding the school.
Binghamton University Library/Flickr
- About its location: The Village of Brockport is 16 miles west of Rochester, New York. It’s located on the Erie Canal and has a population of about 8,100. SUNY Brockport is over 175 years old. It’s known for its science and math programs.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 5,714
- Graduation rate: 66% graduate within six years
- Students living in college housing: 32%
Students love the friendly and supportive community and people at Brockport. Students also benefit from professors who work in their field, and a short, 20 minute drive to Rochester. While some students wish the school was more academically challenging, many others find that they got a good education and were prepared for the workforce after their time at Brockport.
- About its location: Buffalo is a city in Western New York at the head of the Niagara River. Buffalo is the second most populous city in New York after New York City. Its population is about 258,000. It’s 450 miles from NYC and 250 miles from Cleveland. At Buffalo State, high-achieving students are invited to join the Muriel A. Howard Honors Program.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,147
- Graduation rate: 40% graduate within 6 years
- Students living in college housing: 28%
While students love the atmosphere, classes, and all the on-campus activities, some express concern about campus safety and accommodations. Campus-life overall is very active and students can participate in a variety of extracurricular activities. Since the campus and student body is on the larger side, many students find that extracurriculars are the best way to make friends with similar interests.
University at Buffalo
- About its location: Buffalo is a city in Western New York at the head of the Niagara River. Buffalo is the second most populous city in New York after New York City. Its population is about 256,000. It’s 450 miles from NYC and 250 miles from Cleveland.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 21,467
- Graduation rate: 75% graduate within 6 years
- Students living in college housing: 30%
The University at Buffalo has all the benefits of a large school with a small school feel. Students love that faculty and staff are involved in making sure students excel academically, are prepared for life beyond college, and feel a sense of community at their school.
- About its location: Canton is a small, rural town in northern New York. Its population is about 11,000. When the weather isn’t too bad, Canton is a rather beautiful area. SUNY Canton offers 2-year and 4-year degrees. It focuses on preparing students for specific careers.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,901
- Graduation rate: 41%
- Students living in college housing: 28%
Canton is a small town, which is a great setting for some students but isn’t suitable for others. Students also praise the strength of some programs, such as the Vet Tech program, while others don’t offer the same preparation or connections students might find at other SUNY schools.
- About its location: Cobleskill is a small town in central New York. Its population is about 6,400. SUNY Cobleskill focuses on agriculture and technology, but there are 54 degree programs in a variety of subjects.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,824
- Graduation rate: 43%
- Students living in campus housing: 55%
SUNY Cobleskill has programs that are based in the environment and wildlife, and students love that the school and location allows for them to get hands-on training in their field. Students love that professors, staff, and upperclassmen alike are willing to help each other learn and the school boasts a welcoming environment.
- About its location: Cortland is about 30 minutes south of Syracuse. It has a population of about 19,000. SUNY Cortland offers 65 majors and 38 minors.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 5,984
- Graduation rate: 67% graduate within 6 years
- First-year students living in campus housing: Unavailable
SUNY Cortland has a lot of opportunities for student involvement, and the surrounding town is small and friendly. Students also say that the workload is manageable but challenging, though the school could use more diversity in the courses they offer.
Empire State College
- About its location: Empire State College has more than 35 New York State locations, and offers more than 500 online courses. Its main campus is in Saratoga Springs, which is just north of Albany. Saratoga Springs has a population of about 28,000.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 7,926
- Graduation rate: 27%
- First-year students living in college housing: Unavailable
Many Empire College students are online only students, which can be helpful to some but difficult for others. Students have to be self-guided and disciplined to achieve their education goals, and lack a sense of campus connection and identity.
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
- About its location: The campus is located in Syracuse. In fact, the college neighbors Syracuse University. SUNY students are able to use many of Syracuse University’s amenities and resources, so even though SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry is a small school, students are able to get the big college experience. The population of the city of Syracuse is about 142,000. ESF focuses on the science, design, engineering, and management of natural resources and the environment.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,594
- Graduation rate: 77% graduate within six years
- Students living in college housing: 30%
SUNY ESF is a school that is “single minded in dedication to the environment.” Students who come to study environmental science are fulfilled by the hands-on programs, small class sizes, and close-knit student body. The school doesn’t offer majors outside of environmental and forestry majors, so some students have cited feeling limited by the classes offered.
- About its location: Farmingdale is in the town of Oyster Bay on Long Island. Its population is about 6,100. Farmingdale State College has the only four-year aviation program in New York and the only four-year dental hygiene program in the region.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 9,284
- Graduation rate: 53% graduate within six years
- Students living in college housing: 5%
Farmingdale students are generally happy with their classes, professors, and education overall, though they do say that you get out what you put into your education. There are lots of majors to choose from and a large alumni network. However, Farmingdale is primarily a commuter school and doesn’t have a campus community feel some students want.
- About its location: Fredonia is in western New York, just south of Lake Erie. Its population is about 11,000. SUNY Fredonia has a prestigious school of music and over 100 degree programs.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 3,555
- Graduation rate: 62% graduate within six years
- Students living on campus: 47%
SUNY Fredonia is a small school with small class sizes, and students overall feel like their professors are helpful and want to see them succeed. Students report feeling fortunate that they get to have learning experiences that are close and personal, and can take advantage of the many clubs, activities, and off-campus learning opportunities like internships.
- About its location: Geneseo is in western New York; it’s about 40 minutes south of Rochester. Its population is roughly 10,500. SUNY Geneseo is one of the more selective SUNY schools, and it prides itself on being a cheaper alternative to selective private liberal arts colleges.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 4,468
- Graduation rate: 78% graduate within six years
- Students living in college housing: 49%
Geneseo boasts rigorous courses and professors that are willing to above and beyond to help their students. However, while students enjoy the small-town, welcoming atmosphere, they also express concerns that it makes it difficult to find internships and off-campus job opportunities.
Matthew D. Britt/Flickr
- About its location: Maritime College is located in Fort Schuyler on the southeastern tip of the Bronx, where the East River meets Long Island Sound. It’s adjacent to New York City. Maritime College offers undergraduate programs in engineering, naval architecture, marine transportation, maritime studies, marine environmental science, and international transportation and trade. Maritime students may pursue a US Coast Guard License.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,401
- Graduation rate: 72% graduate within six years
- Students living in college housing: 74%
Many SUNY Maritime students are cadets, and many live on campus because of the Regiment. Students are overall pleased with the academics at SUNY Maritime, and the opportunities involved in cadet life, but advise others that adjusting to cadet life is difficult and that the campus is extremely strict. Campus life overall is said to be lacking.
Morrisville State College
- About its location: Morrisville is in the center of the state of New York. Its population is about 2,000. It offers a rural, small town environment. Morrisville State offers bachelor’s and associate degree programs in over 75 majors.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,957
- Graduation rate: 38%
- Students living in college housing: 51%
Morrisville is an agricultural and technical school, which has unique programs for people who want to study in a rural environment. Class sizes for freshmen are larger, but students say that professors and staff help students adjust to college life, and class sizes get smaller for upper level students. The rural setting means that students get the opportunity to add hands-on experience to their coursework.
SUNY Old Westbury
- About its location: Old Westbury is in Nassau County, Long Island, 22 miles from New York City. Old Westbury is an extremely affluent suburb. Its population is roughly 4,600. SUNY Old Westbury offers over 45 undergraduate degrees.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 4,659
- Graduation rate: 49% graduate within six years
- Students living in college housing: N/A
Old Westbury is in a suburban area, within a train ride to New York City. This distance makes it desirable for students who want to access activities and internships in the city, without the urban environment. However, Old Westbury is largely a commuter school and students struggle with a lack of campus community and cite inconsistency with academics and professors, which makes it hard to excel.
- About its location: Oneonta is a small town about an hour and a half west of Albany. Oneonta is in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Its population is about 14,000. SUNY Oneonta has been recognized for its financial aid and for keeping student debt low.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 5,380
- Graduation rate: 76% graduate within six years
- Students living in college housing: 39%
Oneonta is known for being in a small, college-friendly town. Class sizes are small as well, even lectures. The environment makes it easy for students to adjust to campus and college life, and during the school year students are everywhere. Students also found the classes to be a little challenging in their first year due to the high volume of reading, but did better as they adjusted to managing time outside the classroom.
- About its location: Oswego is 35 miles northwest of Syracuse on Lake Ontario. Its population is roughly 18,000. SUNY Oswego offers 110 academic programs.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,135
- Graduation rate: 65% graduate within six years
- Students living in college housing: 49%
Students at Oswego are overall satisfied with the academics and campus environment, but express concern over lack of class availability, and diversity in the subjects offered. Some upperclassmen had trouble fulfilling graduation requirements because they had trouble finding the classes they needed. Students also expressed concern about overcrowded housing and campus facilities, such as dining hall hours and health services, but praised the school’s many clubs and the professors who were knowledgeable and passionate.
- About its location: Plattsburgh is on the shore of Lake Champlain, between the Adirondacks and Green Mountains. It’s an hour from Montreal, Lake Placid, and Burlington, Vermont. Its population is roughly 20,000. SUNY Plattsburgh offers $4 million in institutional scholarships and grants annually.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 4,323
- Graduation rate: 67% graduate within six years
- Students living in college housing: 45%
SUNY Plattsburgh students love the scenic location of the campus, and advise students who love the outdoors to come to the school. The school has a lot to offer regarding extracurriculars, but students say academics can be a toss-up depending on a student’s major or how actively they pursue their education. Classes tend to be more practical with the goal of making students marketable in the workplace.
- About its location: Potsdam is about three hours north of Syracuse and southwest of Montreal. It’s in St. Lawrence County, and it’s about 20 minutes from Canton. Its population is roughly 15,000. At SUNY Potsdam, none of the courses are taught by graduate students.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,352
- Graduation rate: 50% graduate within six years
- Students living in college housing: 50%
Students feel at home at SUNY Potsdam, and pride the school on offering lots of opportunities in extracurriculars for students to carve out a place for themselves. Potsdam is a school where people know and help each other, and is set in a scenic environment. As one student wrote, “In this school you’re not a number, you’re a person.”
Jimmy Emerson, DMV/Flickr
- About its location: Purchase is in Westchester County, about an hour north of New York City. It’s a very affluent area. Purchase is in the town of Harrison, which has a population of roughly 28,000. SUNY Purchase is one of the few public liberal arts colleges, and it is known for having an outstanding arts program.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 3,446
- Graduation rate: 61% graduate within six years
- First-year students living in college housing: N/A
SUNY Purchase students have benefited from the college’s alumni network, which is large and always willing to help our fellow students. Alumni often visit the campus to recruit or to speak about life post-grad. The closeness to New York City is also helpful for students pursuing internships, and Purchase is known for being an open-minded campus with plenty of creative students.
Stony Brook University
- About its location: Stony Brook is in Suffolk County on the North Shore of Long Island. It’s about 55 miles east of Manhattan and its population is roughly 14,000. Stony Brook University is one of the largest and most prestigious SUNY schools.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 17,999
- Graduation rate: 76% graduate within six years
- Students living in college housing: 47%
Stony Brook is one of the more academically rigorous SUNY schools. Stony Brook is a large campus and also has one of the larger student bodies of the schools on this list, and has a diverse student body with lots of extracurricular opportunities. Students can easily find a place to fit in here, but many of the students commute and the campus can be quiet on the weekends.
SUNY Polytechnic Institute (formerly SUNYIT)
- About its location: SUNY Polytechnic Institute is located in Utica, which is on the Mohawk River at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains. Utica is about 90 miles northwest of Albany and 45 miles east of Syracuse. Its population is roughly 61,000. SUNY Polytechnic Institute offers nanoscale science programs at the Albany NanoTech campus. Majors in business, communications, computer science, engineering, nursing, and the arts and sciences are offered at the Utica campus.
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,043
- Graduation rate: 54% graduate within six years
- First-year students living in college housing: 37%
SUNY Polytechnic is making major upgrades to their curriculum and campus, and students are pleased with these improvements. Students think Polytechnic provides a great education for the cost, and find the classes and coursework challenging and rewarding, even though things like registration and other campus services are a bit difficult to navigate.
How Do You Decide Which SUNY Schools To Apply to?
One benefit of applying to SUNY schools is that you can apply to multiple campuses at the same time; however, some of the SUNY campuses may ask you for supplemental forms or application essays. Remember, though, that you shouldn’t apply to schools you have no desire to attend. Also, unless you qualify for a fee waiver, there is an application fee of $50 for each campus you apply to.
To decide which SUNY schools to apply to, first research the campuses you have an initial interest in. Consider what’s important to you in a college. Factor in school size, location, campus culture, and selectivity. The undergraduate enrollment of SUNY schools ranges from about 2,000 to 20,000. Think about whether you want to go to a larger or smaller school. Think about whether you want to be part of a vibrant on-campus culture or in a more subdued environment with fewer distractions.
Determine which schools have the majors and programs that interest you. Use a college finder like Big Future to identify colleges with the majors you’re considering.
Furthermore, look at the list of schools you’re applying to and make sure you have at least a couple of safety schools. To consider a college a safety school, you should have at least an 80% chance of gaining admission. If you want to determine your odds of admission for a particular college, you can Google the name of the school with “PrepScholar admission requirements.” On the school’s profile, you can use the admissions calculator to help you roughly determine your chances of getting accepted to that college.
If you’re applying to any SUNY colleges, I recommend applying to 1-5 of them. Some people apply to only one SUNY school because it’s their safety school, there’s only one SUNY college that interests them, or they want to go to a specific SUNY and they can be confident that they’ll get in.
Others apply to more campuses because they want to go to a SUNY school and they’re still weighing their options, or they apply to a couple of the more selective SUNYs and some of the less selective ones.
How Do You Decide Which SUNY To Attend?
Choose which SUNY to attend the same way you would go about choosing any college. Consider which factors are most important to you in a college. Look at the school’s website and use college finders, search websites, guidebooks, and ranking lists to help you in the college selection process. Generally, most students pick SUNY schools based on their location, selectivity, degree programs, and size.
A substantial number of students choose to attend the SUNY that’s closest to home. They’re able to save money by living at home. Others prefer to experience life in a new environment.
I would always encourage students to at least consider a school that’s further away. Sometimes, students have to live at home due to financial or family situations, but I think it’s preferable to live on campus and not return home on a daily basis. You’ll have more fun, become more independent, and be able to participate in more on-campus extracurricular activities.
The size of the student body is also an important factor when picking a SUNY school. If you want to go to a bigger school, you should consider University at Buffalo, University at Albany, Binghamton, or Stony Brook. If you prefer a smaller school, you may be more interested in SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY College of Environment Science and Forestry, or SUNY Polytechnic.
Some students prefer the individualized attention and community feel of a smaller school while others enjoy the diversity of options for classes, programs, and activities that you’ll find at bigger schools.
Furthermore, selectivity and academic reputation are issues for some students. Many of the SUNY schools do not vary much in terms of selectivity or reputation, but there are differences. Binghamton and Stony Brook are probably the most prestigious SUNY schools. SUNY Geneseo and SUNY Purchase are arguably the most well-known and well-regarded of the smaller SUNY schools. Refer to the rankings and acceptance rates to get an idea of the reputations and selectivity of the SUNY schools.
Also, keep in mind that each SUNY school has different majors and programs. For example, at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, you can get a Bachelor of Science in forest resources management. At SUNY Maritime, you can get a BS in marine environmental science. If you’re interested in a specific major or program, or if you want to compare the majors offered at the different SUNY schools, I recommend using a college finder like Big Future to quickly and easily compare the different colleges and get a complete list of the available majors.
Finally, finances often play a role in your college decision. While tuition costs are the same for each SUNY (at least for in-state students), you may get more financial aid at a particular campus. Many of the SUNY schools also offer merit scholarships, and you may get more merit aid at one of the institutions. If you live close to a SUNY school, you can also save money by living at home.
Interested in going to school in NY, but hoping for a more urban environment? Look into attending a college in New York City.
Want to go to college, missed the deadlines for the schools you were considering? Take a look at these schools with late application deadlines.
Lastly, as you’re contemplating which colleges would be a good fit for you, make sure you know how many colleges you should apply to.
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