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.

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

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

RankNortheast private collegeTuition and feesAverage debt
1Davis College$16,300$5,360
2Hilbert College$21,750$19,233
3Geneva College$26,070$10,549
4Thomas More College of Liberal Arts$21,000$23,452
5Mercy College$18,713$29,197
6Villa Maria College$22,080$22,658
7Husson University$17,010$33,412
8Grove City College$17,254$37,655
9Paul Smith’s College$27,621$16,175
10Utica 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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Here are our top student loan lenders of 2021!
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1.24% – 11.99%3Undergraduate and Graduate

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1.78% – 11.89%4Undergraduate and Graduate

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1.05% – 11.44%5Undergraduate and Graduate

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2.76% – 7.14%6Undergraduate and Graduate

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2.46% – 12.98%7Undergraduate and Graduate

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* 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 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.

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.
 
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 4/22/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.


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

3 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. Aggregate loan limits apply.
  2. Get a cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan when you earn at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) in any academic period covered by the loan. Limitations Apply. Visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for terms and conditions.
  3. 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. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including undergraduate, graduate, health professions, law and MBA Loans. 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 0.250% as of April 1, 2021. 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. Your APR will be determined after you apply. Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Rates.
  4. Lowest APRs shown for Discover Private Consolidation Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants who are approved and choose a shorter repayment term, and include a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. 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 0.250% as of April 1, 2021. 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. Your APR will be determined after you apply. Visit Discover.com/student-loans/consolidation.html for more information, including up-to-date interest rates and APRs.
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.

4 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

sofiDisclosures

UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.88% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.78% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.30% to 11.52% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.95% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.88% to 11.16% 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 11/04/2020. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).


5 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).


6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.76% – 7.14% (2.76% – 7.14% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.01% – 7.50% (3.01% – 7.50% APR).

Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.19% – 6.73% (2.19% – 6.73% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 2.89% – 7.09% (2.89%-7.09% APR).

Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 9.54% (1.36% – 8.82% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.13% – 9.84% (4.13% – 9.12% APR).

Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 8.34% (1.36% – 8.04% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.03% – 8.64% (4.03% – 8.34% APR).

Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.10% – 7.41% (2.10%-7.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.69% – 7.83% (4.69% – 7.83% APR).

Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.45% – 9.60% (4.45% – 9.53% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.38% – 12.81% APR).

Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.55% – 7.05% (3.55% – 6.77% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.07% APR).

Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of March 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.11%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 

Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.

Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.

Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer.  Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.

Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.

Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.

Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.


7 Important Disclosures for Ascent.

Ascent Disclosures

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Richland State Bank (RSB), Member FDIC. Loan products December not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions December apply.  For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Ts&Cs

Rates are effective as of 12/01/2020 and reflect an automatic payment discount of 0.25% on the lowest offered rate and a 2.00% discount on the highest offered rate.  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.  For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Rates

1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details.