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Top 10 Most Underrated East Coast Colleges

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Most students have heard of the big names—there are the Ivy League powerhouses like Harvard and Yale, West Coast alternatives like Stanford, or specialty schools like MIT. Athletes might fixate on Notre Dame or UCLA, while performing artists dream about Julliard.


At CollegeVine, however, we’re accustomed to looking beyond the obvious choices. In fact, we find that for most students, the best fit colleges aren’t necessarily those with the biggest names. Here, we reveal the top ten most underrated colleges on the East Coast.


How we put this list together:


Through our experiences with thousands of students, we at CollegeVine are uniquely familiar with various college ranking tools and their metrics. Most college rankings do a good job of identifying schools that excel in traditional ways, but sometimes these rankings can miss the bigger picture.


When we look at how successful colleges are, we look less at input factors like selectivity and average SAT scores, and more at outcome factors like return on investment (ROI), job outcomes, and starting salaries.


To determine our top ten underrated colleges on the east coast, we considered the following factors:


  • Cost of attendance and generosity of financial aid & scholarships
  • One and five-year ROI after graduation
  • Financial performance of specific majors
  • Qualitative data on career outcomes like job placement and grad school progression


The Top 10 Most Underrated Schools on the East Coast:


1. SUNY Binghamton


The top school in the State University of New York system, SUNY Binghamton offers access to the New York City job market at an affordable price tag for in-state students. It ranks in the top 50 for ROI and career outcomes, but lands at the 81st spot in the US News and World Report rankings.


SUNY Binghamton is sometimes referred to as a “Public Ivy” due to the high quality of its educational offerings.

2. City College of New York


The City College of New York (CCNY) is located just outside of Manhattan in Hamilton Heights. It offers prime access to the NYC job market and lands in the top 50 for ROI and career outcomes. It falls outside of the top 300 according to US News and World Report.


Despite this, the school has graduated 10 Nobel Prize winners and 3 Pulitzer Prize winners. CUNY is rich with history, having been home to the first student government in the nation, the first national fraternity to accept members without regard to religion, race, color or creed, and the first degree-granting evening education program.

3. Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Located west of Boston, Worcester Polytechnic Institute specializes in programs in the technical arts and applied sciences. Students interested in pursuing Business, STEM, or premed programs should give Worcester Polytechnic Institute more than a cursory glance.


Though the US News and World Reports places it at the 58 spot nationally, Worcester Polytechnic Institute places in the top 35 for ROI and career outcomes. In 2016, it was awarded the prestigious Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Innovation by the National Academy of Engineering.

4. Fordham University


Another sleeper school located in New York City, Fordham is a private Catholic research university and the only Jesuit university in NYC. It is a little bit more expensive than the public schools on this list, but it still ranks in the top 35 for ROI and career outcomes.


Strong programs at Fordham include business, finance, and economics options. US News and World Report places it at the 70th spot nationally.


5. Babson College


Another private school, Babson specializes in business, and is consistently ranked among the top schools by publications such as The Economist, Money Magazine, and US News and World Report for its entrepreneurship education. In fact, every entrepreneurship professor at Babson has either started, sold, bought, or run a successful business.


Although it doesn’t even land on the US News and World Report overall rankings, Babson falls in the top 10 for ROI and career outcomes and offers excellent merit scholarships. Students with aspirations in the business world are guaranteed a top notch introduction at Babson.

6. Wellesley College


Although it’s already well-respected within the world of single-sex colleges, women’s only Wellesley College offers a top notch education that is on par with the coed Ivy Leagues. Its broad course offerings span from STEM to the humanities, and its location in the Boston suburbs offers access to a prime job market.


Wellesley ranks in the top 10 for women’s only ROI and career outcomes, and boasts high-profile graduates like Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, and astronaut Pamela Melroy.

7. Stevens Institute of Technology


Located in Hoboken, NJ, Stevens is another lesser-known choice for aspiring engineers. Its location between Philadelphia and NYC means grads have access to two large job markets and its solid programming lands it in the top 30 for ROI and career outcomes.


Its unique cooperative education program offers the option to extend an undergraduate program to five years by adding 18 months of progressive, full-time, paid job experience. 95% of grads land a job in their intended field within 6 months of graduation. Despite these strong outcomes, US News and World Report ranks it 70th among national universities.

8. Carnegie Mellon


Carnegie Mellon is ranked 25 by the US News and World Report, but for prospective engineering and computer science majors, it could be among the best options. It lands in the top 5 for ROI and career outcomes, and its location in Pittsburgh, PA means that the NYC job market isn’t far.


For students going on to advanced degrees, Carnegie Mellon offers even more top notch choices, with its graduate program in computer science currently ranked #1 in the country by US News and World Report.

9. The College of New Jersey


The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is a public university located just outside of Trenton, NJ. Though places outside the top 300 on the US News and World Report, it does rank in the top 150 for ROI and career outcome based on our data.


Not far from Philadelphia, grads have access to a strong job market, and the business program at TCNJ is especially strong. The school also offers more than 50 liberal arts and professional programs.

10. Hofstra


Hofstra is Long Island’s largest private college, and its location makes it a great spot for students who want access to the Manhattan job market. In recent years, it has become well-known for hosting presidential debates, for elections in 2008, 2012, and 2016.


Hofstra offers a strong business program, with ROI and career outcomes in the top 70, despite its rank of 140 from US News and World Report. The school also grants extensive merit scholarships, with more than 50% of incoming students receiving some type of merit aid.


For More Information


Interested in discovering more underrated colleges? Check out the following blog posts:


The Top 10 Most Underrated Colleges in the US

The Top 10 Most Underrated Computer Science Colleges In The US

Top 10 Most Underrated West Coast Colleges


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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.