Rankings: See the Most Affordable Colleges in the Northeast

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In the Northeast, students and their families face some of the highest college costs in the nation. Yet choosing a public or local college is one of the best ways to keep educational costs and student debt low.

With Northeast schools carrying above-average costs, it’s more crucial for students in this region to compare tuition rates and choose an affordable college.

To help you find those schools, we surveyed 310 public and private colleges in the Northeast to find where students pay the lowest tuition and graduate with the least amount of student debt.

Key findings


  • In the Northeast, public colleges offer some of the best deals to local students. Out of the top 20 affordable colleges in this region, 19 are local city or state universities.

  • New York’s city and state colleges are standouts. Across campuses, the State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) systems charge low tuitions, and the state recently introduced a tuition-free college program.

  • Two schools in Maine and one in Rhode Island made the list.

  • Annual tuition and fees among the 20 most affordable colleges averaged $8,295. That’s below the national average college cost for in-state students at four-year public schools.

The costs of Northeast colleges


Among U.S. regions, the Northeast is the most expensive one to attend college and earn an undergraduate degree.

Northeast families spent 49% more on college in 2017 than the average U.S family, found the Sallie Mae survey “How America Pays for College.”

While the national out-of-pocket college costs averaged $23,757, Northeast college students and their families paid $35,431. That’s a difference of just less than $11,700.

But students living in the Northeast aren’t stuck paying a premium to attend college near home. As with any region, some Northeast colleges are a better value for students than others.

Top 20 affordable colleges in the Northeast


To find the most affordable Northeast colleges, we surveyed costs at 310 schools in the region.

We compared each college’s tuition and fees for the most recent school year for which it was reported (2016-17 or 2017-18), and the average student debt balance of 2016 graduates, as reported to online college database Peterson’s. Having this information handy may allow you to pick a school where you can reduce your dependency on student loans to afford an education.

Here are the top 20 Northeast colleges where students pay less for their degree and graduate with the lowest balances.

Rank Northeast college Tuition and fees Average debt
1 York College (CUNY) $6,957 $4,614
2 Baruch College (CUNY) $7,115 $5,642
3 Lehman College (CUNY) $7,010 $8,525
4 Hunter College (CUNY) $6,980 $13,000
5 Queens College (CUNY) $7,138 $14,225
6 City College of New York (CUNY) $6,740 $16,942
7 University of Maine at Presque Isle $7,884 $22,934
8 Davis College $16,300 $5,360
9 University of Maine at Machias $7,726 $23,734
10 Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY) $7,463 $24,850
11 University at Albany (SUNY) $9,423 $21,217
12 College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY) $8,543 $24,269
13 SUNY Geneseo $8,408 $24,784
14 SUNY New Paltz $7,775 $26,283
15 SUNY Cobleskill $8,139 $26,520
16 Stony Brook University (SUNY) $9,257 $24,656
17 SUNY Oneonta $8,166 $27,045
18 Buffalo State College (SUNY) $7,976 $27,672
19 Rhode Island College $8,776 $26,519
20 SUNY Delhi $8,120 $28,367

Across these 20 Northeast colleges, the average annual tuition and fees are $8,295, well below the $9,970 national average college cost for in-state students at four-year public schools.

The average student loan balance across these top 20 colleges was also significantly lower at $19,858, which is half the $39,400 average student debt for 2017 graduates.

Of the Northeast’s 20 most affordable colleges, one is a private school: Davis College in Johnson City, New York. Despite tuition costs that are about twice as high as other colleges on the list, Davis College makes the list thanks to its graduates’ low student debt.

Of the remaining public colleges, 16 are CUNY or SUNY schools. Two of Maine’s public colleges made the list, as well as Rhode Island College in the state of the same name.

Top 10 public colleges in the Northeast


Below, we’ve highlighted the top 10 public colleges that provide the lowest costs in the Northeast. Among these colleges, average tuition and fees total $7,444 a year, while student debt balances average $15,568.

Rank Northeast public college Tuition and fees Average debt
1 York College (CUNY) $6,957 $4,614
2 Baruch College (CUNY) $7,115 $5,642
3 Lehman College (CUNY) $7,010 $8,525
4 Hunter College (CUNY) $6,980 $13,000
5 Queens College (CUNY) $7,138 $14,225
6 City College of New York (CUNY) $6,740 $16,942
7 University of Maine at Presque Isle $7,884 $22,934
8 University of Maine at Machias $7,726 $23,734
9 Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY) $7,463 $24,850
10 University at Albany (SUNY) $9,423 $21,217

Of colleges in New York, CUNY and SUNY schools charge low tuition rates that are standardized across schools, though extra fees can lead to slight variations in costs at each school.

Additionally, the state recently became the first to set tuition-free college for residents. Under The Excelsior Scholarship, all students with household incomes at or below $125,000 a year will qualify for tuition-free attendance at CUNY or SUNY schools.

Alongside CUNY and SUNY schools, Maine also landed two colleges on the list: the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the University of Maine at Machias.

While New York and Maine are offering some good deals to in-state students, this isn’t true for every public college in the Northeast.

In fact, our recent college credit costs study found that several Northeast states charged some of the highest average costs per credit among public colleges: Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

Top 10 private colleges in the Northeast


While a public school is often a low-cost option, students shouldn’t overlook private universities in their search for affordable Northeast colleges. Each student’s financial situation, student aid, and education goals are different. For some, a private college might be the right fit.

In fact, the Northeast is home to some of the most prestigious private universities in the world, including Ivy League schools. Additionally, many of these private universities offer some of the best and largest financial aid packages to help students cover college costs.

The sticker price is always important to consider, especially when comparing the high costs prevalent at private colleges. To help start your search, we identified the 10 most affordable private universities in the Northeast, per our rankings.

Rank Northeast private college Tuition and fees Average debt
1 Davis College $16,300 $5,360
2 Hilbert College $21,750 $19,233
3 Geneva College $26,070 $10,549
4 Thomas More College of Liberal Arts $21,000 $23,452
5 Mercy College $18,713 $29,197
6 Villa Maria College $22,080 $22,658
7 Husson University $17,010 $33,412
8 Grove City College $17,254 $37,655
9 Paul Smith’s College $27,621 $16,175
10 Utica College $20,676 $33,336

Among these private colleges, students should expect to pay higher tuition. The average across these 10 Northeast private schools was $20,847 a year.

As mentioned, higher tuition and costs don’t always mean a student and their family will pay or borrow more for college.

In fact, the average debt at these private colleges was $23,103, which is just $3,245 higher than the average debt among the 20 most affordable Northeast colleges.

Finding the right Northeast college for your budget


Northeast colleges aren’t the cheapest in the nation, but they can be an affordable option for local students, especially when compared to the cost of out-of-state tuition.

On top of watching for high prices, students can take these actions to help them narrow down their options to the most affordable school.

1. Research and compare every cost you’ll face

Tuition and fees are a great place to start checking for savings, but don’t overlook other college-related expenses. The costs of room and board, textbooks, transportation, and more can quickly add up.

A college in your city with higher tuition could be more affordable if it allows you to live at home rent-free while attending.

2. Compare your net price at each college

Keep in mind that the sticker price at these colleges won’t always represent what you and your family will pay out of pocket. Your net price is the college costs you face after all other student aid is applied. The aid you receive can vary significantly from college to college.

Evaluate financial aid awards offered by each college to which you’re accepted. This will give you the most accurate picture of what you’ll pay at each school. If you find that you may need to take out student loans to cover costs, use our student loan calculator to help you see what repayment may look like.

3. Look for state and city grants, student aid, and other assistance

While the Northeast region has some of the nation’s highest college costs, its states also have some of the strongest support systems in the nation for college students. The Excelsior Scholarship in New York is a great example, but it’s not the only one.

The Rhode Island Promise program allows students to attend in-state colleges tuition-free for two years. And Massachusetts offers seven different state grant programs to help local students cover college costs.

The price tag of a college education in the Northeast might seem high at first, but don’t let it scare you off. Shop around for affordable colleges, consider public schools first, and keep costs top of mind while applying and deciding on the right school for you.

By doing this legwork now, you can find the right Northeast college to keep your costs and student debt low.

Hey, reporters! Want to see more of our original research on colleges and student debt? Check out our latest surveys and studies by signing up for our news updates.

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1.24% – 11.37%4Undergraduate and Graduate

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1.30% – 10.00%5Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.73% – 13.01%6Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit Ascent

3.52% – 9.50%7Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit CommonBond

* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.


1 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

  1. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
     
  2. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 7/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.


3 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Rates include 0.25% Auto Pay Discount
     
  2. Explanation of Rates “With Autopay” (APD)
    Rates shown include 0.25% APR discount when client agrees to make monthly principal and interest payments by automatic electronic payment. Use of autopay is not required to receive an Earnest loan.

    Available Terms
    For Cosigned loans – 5, 7, 10, 12, 15 years. 
    Primary Only – 10, 12, 15 years

    In school deferred payment is not available in AL, AZ, CA, FL, MA, MD, MI, ND, NY, PA, and WA).


4 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
  2. View Auto Reward Debit Reward Terms and Conditions at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/AutoDebitReward.
  3. Aggregate loan limits apply.
  4. Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for the Discover Private Consolidation Loan and include an Auto Debit Reward. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.375% as of July 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Our lowest APR is only available to customers with the best credit and other factors. Your APR will be determined after you apply. It will be based on your credit history, which repayment option you choose and other factors, including your cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates.
  5. Get a variable interest rate from 2.37% APR to 6.14% APR (3-Month LIBOR + 2.00% to 3-Month LIBOR + 5.77%) for either a 10-year or 20-year repayment term. Or lock in a fixed interest rate from 3.99% APR to 7.49% APR for a 10-year repayment term or from 4.24% APR to 7.74% APR for a 20-year repayment term. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.375% as of July 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

sofiDisclosures

*UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.73% to 11.46% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.30% to 10.00% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.51% to 11.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.08% to 10.30% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.41% to 11.67% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 0.98% to 10.21% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.73% to 11.46% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.30% to 9.88% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 6/29/20. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFiSoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).


6 Important Disclosures for Ascent.

Ascent Disclosures

Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.

  1. Competitive variable rates calculated monthly at the time of loan approval based on a margin plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent. The current LIBOR is 0.190%, which may adjust monthly. Your interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes. Rates are effective as of 07/07/2020 and reflect an Automatic Payment Discount. Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month.(See Automatic Payment Discount Terms & Conditions.)
    1. Undergraduate Loans: Variable rate loans have an Annual Percentage (APR) range between 2.73% – 13.01%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 3.62% and 14.50% based on your credit worthiness and your selected program. Rates reflect an Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25% (for Credit-Based Loans) on the lowest offered rate and a 2.00% (for Undergraduate Future Income-Based Loans ) discount on the highest offered rate. (See Undergraduate Loan repayment examples.)
    2. Graduate Loans: Variable rate loans have an APR range between 5.33% and 11.42%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 6.14% and 11.92% based on your credit worthiness and your selected program. Rates reflect an Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25%. (See Graduate Loan repayment examples.)
  2. Payments may be deferred. Subject to lender discretion, forbearance and/or deferment options may be available for borrowers who are encountering financial distress.
  3. Making interest only or partial interest payments while in school will not reduce the principal balance of the loan. There are three (3) flexible in-school repayment options that include fully deferred, interest only and $25 minimum repayment. (See Undergraduate Loan repayment examples.)
  4. Flexible repayment plans may be offered up to a fifteen (15) year repayment term for a variable rate loan and ten (10) year repayment term for a fixed rate loan. Students must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. Minimum loan amount is $2,000.
  5. Interest rate reduction of either 0.25% (for Credit-Based Loans) or 2.00% (for Undergraduate Future Income-Based Loans) applies only when the borrower and/or cosigner sign up for automatic payments and the payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account each month. The amount of the discount is dependent upon the loan product and credit history of the borrower at the time of application. Interest rate reduction(s) will not apply during periods when no payment is due, including periods of in-school, deferment, grace or forbearance, unless a regular payment amount has been arranged with the servicer. If you have two (2) consecutive returned payments for Nonsufficient Funds, we may cancel your automatic debit enrollment and you will lose the interest rate reduction. You will then need to re-qualify and re-enroll in automatic debit payments to receive the interest rate reduction.(See Automatic Payment Discount Terms & Conditions.)
  6. All applicants (individual and cosigner) are required to complete a brief online financial literacy course as part of the application process to be eligible for funding.
  7. Eligibility, loan amount and other loan terms are dependent on several factors, which may include: loan product, other financial aid, creditworthiness, school, program, graduation date, major, cost of attendance and other factors. Aggregate loan limits may apply. The cost of attendance is determined and certified by the educational institution.
  8. The legal age for entering into contracts is eighteen (18) years of age in every state except Alabama where it is nineteen (19) years old, Nebraska where it is nineteen (19) years old (only for wards of the state), and Mississippi and Puerto Rico where it is twenty-one (21) years old.
  9. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details. In order to be eligible for the 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward, borrower must meet the following criteria after graduation:
    • The student borrower has graduated from the degree program that the loan was used to fund.
    • The student borrower may change majors and/or transfer to a different school, but must obtain the same level of degree (e.g. – undergraduate or graduate)
    • The graduation date is more than 90 days and less than five (5) years after the date of the loan’s first disbursement.
    • Any loan that the student has borrowed under the Ascent loan is not more than 30-days delinquent or in a default status as of the graduation date and until any Graduation Reward is paid.
  10. Students can apply to release their cosigner and continue with the loan in only their name after making the first 24 consecutive regularly scheduled full principal and interest payments on-time and meeting the other eligibility criteria to qualify for the loan without a cosigner.

* Application times vary depending on the applicant’s ability to supply the necessary information for submission.


7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).

  1.  Rates are as of July 1, 2019 and include auto-pay discount. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.