Choosing a University / College

Find the University or College that “Fits”

Where do you see yourself studying? Every university is different: the number of students enrolled, where the campuses are located and the types of degrees offered. Finding the right fit will help make your stay and your studies more productive. Some background about the diversity of higher education in New York State may help you as you consider your options.

Higher Education in New York State
There are 270 public (SUNY and CUNY), independent (private not-for-profit), and proprietary (for-profit) degree-granting colleges and universities in New York State, about 6.3 percent of the nation’s 4,296 colleges and universities. New York’s universities and colleges offer more than 30,000 programs of study. In the fall of 2010, they enrolled more than 1,270,000 students.

There are 146 Independent (private not-for-profit) universities and colleges in New York State, many world-renowned institutions. You’ll find independent institutions located in every region of the state. Thirty-eight offer study through the doctorate (including 12 comprehensive universities) and 89 are baccalaureate and/or master’s degree level institutions; 19 are two-year colleges. In fall 2010, private independent colleges and universities in New York enrolled more than 485,000 students.

There are two public (tax-supported) university systems in the state, SUNY and CUNY:

The State University of New York (SUNY) consists of 64 campuses located throughout the state. Among the SUNY institutions are: 13 university centers and other institutions offering study through the doctorate; 13 university colleges offering undergraduate and master’s degree study; 8 technology colleges offering programs to the baccalaureate level; and 30 community colleges. One community college offers baccalaureate and master’s degree programs; the other 29 are two-year colleges. In fall 2010, total SUNY enrollment was more than 465,000 students.

The City University of New York (CUNY) is located in New York City. The City University of New York (CUNY) is the nation’s largest urban university system serving more than 243,000 degree-seeking students in its 24 institutions throughout New York City. CUNY is comprised of 11 senior colleges (two which offer doctoral programs) and seven community colleges. In addition there is an undergraduate honors college, schools of law, journalism, public health and professional studies and finally a university center for doctoral study.

In addition, there are 40 proprietary (for-profit) colleges in the state. Twenty-four are two-year institutions; 16 offer baccalaureate or higher programs.


What are the Differences among Higher Education Institutions?

Usage of the terms “College” and “University” varies across the U.S. In general, “College” is used for institutions of higher education that only grant bachelor’s or associate’s degrees while a “University” is generally larger and is comprised of several institutions or colleges that grant a range of undergraduate and graduate degrees.

However, there are also institutions that are called “Colleges” that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees as high as the doctorate. There are also “Colleges” that offer only graduate degrees. And, as noted below, there are also other names for institutions of higher education in use: “Academy”, “Institute”, and “School” are common. It is important to research the institutions you are interested in carefully, checking the degrees offered and institution’s accreditation.

Universities
A university is usually larger than a college. It generally offers undergraduate and graduate degrees and has more extensive research facilities.

Liberal Arts Colleges
Liberal arts colleges, often smaller than universities, typically offer undergraduate degrees and some master’s degrees in a broad range of courses spanning the humanities, arts, social sciences, and sciences.

Community Colleges and Two-Year Colleges
Community Colleges and Two-Year only Colleges offer programs of study leading to associate’s degrees and certificates. Many of the programs and degrees offered are technical programs. Community Colleges and Two-Year Colleges often have strong ties with universities and four-year colleges, making it easier for graduates to transfer to a four-year program to complete the last two years of a bachelor’s degree.

Upper-Division Institutions
These institutions offer the last two years of a specialized four-year undergraduate program. Students generally first complete an associate’s degree or two years at another college and then transfer to an upper-division institutions or program.

Institutes
An institute usually offers degrees in a specialized area of study. For example, there are institutes of technology, institutes of fashion, and institutes of art and design.

Specialized Colleges
Specialized colleges emphasize preparation for specific careers and focus solely on training to prepare students in specific areas such as teaching, art, music, business, nursing, or religious studies (seminary/rabbinical).

Colleges for Special Interests

  • Single-Sex: New York is home to several of the few women-only independent colleges in the nation. All public colleges and most private independent institutions in the state are co-ed (both women and men attend).
  • Religion: Some private independent colleges are religiously affiliated. The affiliation may be historic in that the college was founded by a religious order or it may be integral to life on campus.  
  • Hispanic Serving: A college that is Hispanic-serving is one where more than 25 percent of the total full-time undergraduate enrollment is made up of Hispanic students. There are a number of Hispanic-serving colleges and universities in the state.