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The Best Large Four-Year Universities in New York

Columbia University, New York University, State University of New York at Buffalo

Looking back into the history of New York, it is hard to ignore the ties to the foundation of the Unites States itself. The Empire State was once the nation’s capital and Founding Fathers like Alexander Hamilton, Robert Livingston and John Jay not only served in key positions of the early U.S. government but also attended the state’s best four-year universities in their formative years. The tradition has continued with the 44th U.S. President, Barack Obama, who is an alumnus of Columbia University, while many of today’s top entertainers have passed through the halls of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The fact that some of the country’s top universities are located in New York City only adds to the allure of the state as a top place to attend college. Here is a look at New York’s best four-year universities.

Columbia University

Students interested in following the path of the world’s leaders need look no further than Columbia University in New York City’s Morningside Heights. Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is only one person on the list of Columbia professors and alumni to receive those distinctions. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt both attended law school at Columbia before serving as U.S. President, while Alexander Hamilton and fellow Founding Father John Jay were students in the university’s earliest days.

One’s attention would immediately be drawn to the Columbia Law School, given its distinguished alumni, but its arts and sciences programs are held in equal esteem by the world’s university community. Physicist Enrico Fermi and his colleagues made historic strides in the study of atomic energy at Columbia, while literary lions Mark Van Doren and Lionel Trilling have given the undergraduate arts program the stellar reputation it have retained in the twenty-first century. Additionally, it is hard to look at a newspaper and not see a graduate of the Graduate School of Journalism (known as the Columbia’s J School), which continues to send the best reporters out into the field. All in all, is hard to top Columbia’s reputation, as it remains among top 6 schools in terms of academic programs and difficulty in being accepted (currently under 10%).

New York University

Once known chiefly as a major player in the arts and business studies, New York University’s reputation has grown to include all of its major schools. By making admissions standards more rigorous and using its seemingly endless financial resources to lure the best professors and students from around the world, NYU has worked its way into the top 40 universities in the United States.

It’s hard to take a look at NYU without acknowledging the Tisch School of the Arts, home to the vaunted graduate film program. Legendary filmmakers Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese and Ang Lee all learned their craft in this program, as well as actors like Marcia Gay Harden and Billy Crudup. The undergraduate film program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood stars: Alec Baldwin, Billy Crystal, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Adam Sandler and Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me) all received their bachelor’s degrees in this program.

NYU at the same time has always been known for its excellent Stern School of Business and the law school which is becoming more highly regarded by the year. In the humanities and the arts, professors like Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States) and literary giant Harold Bloom rub elbows in the hallways with prize-winning neuroscientists like J. Anthony Movshon, who has furthered the university’s reputation in scientific research.

State University of New York at Buffalo

Among New York state universities, the University of Buffalo (also known as SUNY Buffalo and UB) is the largest and is considered the flagship of the state system. Founded in 1846 as a private university, many point to this tradition as the reason the State University of Buffalo has had such an excellent reputation while serving as a state-sponsored educational institution. There are more than three hundred and eighty degree programs on offer at SUNY Buffalo, from the entire gamut of humanities programs to the science and technology courses that have established the school as one of the state’s premiere research institutions, along with NYU and Columbia.

The North Campus of SUNY Buffalo is located in Amherst, New York and is considered the main branch of the school, with nearly 2,000 acres of grounds and close to 7 million square feet of space in campus buildings. Nonetheless, the South Campus at Buffalo cannot be ignored either, as the presence of a nuclear reactor and the school’s facilities for healthcare, science and engineering remain in the university’s original home. Nearly 30,000 students attend the State University of New York Buffalo every year, allowing the school’s plans for further expansion by 2020 to continue unabated.

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Best Colleges by State