The 6 Best CUNY Schools and What Makes Them Great

by | May 5, 2022

by Hannah Muniz

To come up with our picks for the top CUNY schools, we looked at several key factors:

  • Rankings and grades: We considered each CUNY school’s ranking on lists by US NewsForbes, and Niche, as well as grades (A+ to F) given by students on Niche
  • Freshman retention rate: This is the percentage of freshmen who stayed at the school after their first year; the higher this rate, the higher we ranked that school on our list
  • Graduation rate: The percentage of undergraduates who graduated from school within four years; the higher this rate, the better
  • Student-faculty ratio: The average number of students per professor at a school; the fewer students per faculty member, the better that school ranked, since this usually means smaller classes and more personalized attention from teachers

Now, let’s take a look at the full CUNY ranking list to see how all the CUNY schools compare with one another.

What’s the Best CUNY College? Full CUNY Ranking List

Below is the full CUNY ranking list for all 11 four-year CUNY schools. Note that we are not including Macaulay Honors College, as it’s a special honors school and differs from the regular colleges at CUNY (and is now grouped under the “graduate school” category by CUNY as well).


A Closer Look at the 6 Best CUNY Schools

In this section, we home in on the six best CUNY schools. Keep reading to learn more about what these top CUNY schools can offer you.

#1: Baruch College — Kips Bay, Manhattan

Baruch College is ranked within the top 200 national colleges and universities by Forbes and Niche, and has a cumulative A- grade, the highest grade given by students on Niche of any CUNY school. It also has the highest freshman retention rate of any CUNY school at 88%.

Although the campus has limited housing and space, it makes up for this with its impressive 17-story Newman Vertical Campus building. Over 170 student clubs and organizations are available here, as well as 35+ majors in fields such as business, international affairs, art, and science.

Students have praised Baruch for its value, academics, diversity, and student life. Many have noted, however, that Baruch has a strong business lean, so if you’re not planning to major in business, you might prefer a different atmosphere.

  • Acceptance Rate: 43%
  • Tuition per Year: $7,462 (in-state), $15,412 (out-of-state)
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 12,091
  • % of Students in Campus Housing: 2%
  • Popular Majors: Accounting, finance, business
  • Baruch College Admission Requirements


#2: Hunter College — Upper East Side, Manhattan

Founded back in 1870, Hunter College is one of the largest CUNY schools in terms of enrollment. It is highly ranked by US News and has the best student-faculty ratio of any CUNY college at 13:1. The school’s also got a fairly high 85% freshman retention rate.

Well known for its liberal arts and nursing programs, Hunter offers more than 80 majors, spanning fields such as Arabic, dance, chemistry, and statistics. The campus is located just two blocks east of Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so there’s a lot to do and see around Hunter.

Students on Niche gave high marks to the school’s value and diversity but a very low D- grade to the campus. Although many feel the school is extremely safe, they also agree that it’s on the less eventful side for a college, with no major emphasis on Greek life or sports.

  • Acceptance Rate: 35%
  • Tuition per Year: $7,382 (in-state), $15,332 (out-of-state)
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 12,991
  • % of Students in Campus Housing: 2%
  • Popular Majors: English, psychology, biology
  • Hunter College Admission Requirements


#3: Queens College — Kew Gardens Hills, Queens

Established in 1937, Queens College has a high 84% freshman retention rate and a solid B grade on Niche, indicating that most students are satisfied with their education and experience here. It also has a very good student-faculty ratio of 16:1.

At Queens, students can choose from among more than 100 programs of study in the arts and humanities, the social sciences, the natural sciences, math, and education. The school is also home to over 100 student clubs and 20 intercollegiate sports teams. Around 25% of students are aged 25 or older, making it a solid choice for nontraditional students.

Queens does fairly well, but not great, at pretty much everything, according to students on Niche, who gave the school almost all B-level grades for qualities such as academics, professors, campus, and student life. One area where it excels greatly, however, is diversity.

  • Acceptance Rate: 49%
  • Tuition per Year: $7,538 (in-state), $15,488 (out-of-state)
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 12,532
  • % of Students in Campus Housing: Data unavailable
  • Popular Majors: Psychology, accounting, economics
  • Queens College Admission Requirements
#4: The City College of New York — Hamilton Heights, Manhattan

The City College of New York, also known as CCNY or just City College, is the oldest CUNY school, having been founded in 1847. It’s got a high 86% freshman retention rate, an impressive student-faculty ratio of 16:1, and a cumulative B+ grade on Niche.

City College is known for its premier engineering and sciences programs, but it also has schools and departments specializing in various other fields such as the arts and humanities, education, and interdisciplinary studies. More than 70 academic programs and 200 student clubs are available here.

However, most students feel that improvements could be made to the campus, party scene, and student life as a whole. On Niche, about one-third of students polled feel they’re just attending the school for an education—nothing more. Therefore, if you are looking for a more socially active community, another CUNY school might be a better fit for you.

  • Acceptance Rate: 46%
  • Tuition per Year: $7,340 (in-state), $15,290 (out-of-state)
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 10,196
  • % of Students in Campus Housing: Data unavailable
  • Popular Majors: Engineering, biology, psychology
  • City College Admission Requirements
#5: John Jay College of Criminal Justice — Midtown, Manhattan

Despite its name, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice offers a lot more than just a highly ranked criminal justice program: as a well-known liberal arts college, the school houses around 30 majors in fields such as anthropology, math, English, and sociology.

John Jay has a solid 79% freshman retention rate and a very good overall B+ rating on Niche. It also offers around 60 student clubs and organizations.

The majority of students thoroughly enjoy John Jay, awarding the college high grades for its campus, location, and student life on Niche. Professors are also highly valued here, with 93% of students surveyed saying that faculty members put significant effort into teaching classes.

More than half of undergraduates at the school study crime-related fields, such as criminal justice, criminology, and forensic psychology (the three most popular majors), so if you’re not planning to study one of these, you might prefer a school with a broader focus.

  • Acceptance Rate: 41%
  • Tuition per Year: $7,470 (in-state), $15,420 (out-of-state)
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 11,200
  • % of Students in Campus Housing: 1%
  • Popular Majors: Criminal justice, criminology, forensic psychology
  • John Jay Admission Requirements
#6: Brooklyn College — Flatbush/Midwood, Brooklyn

The first coeducational CUNY school, Brooklyn College is one of the larger CUNY schools, with an 82% freshman retention rate and a solid B rating on Niche. Students can choose from among 82 undergraduate programs across five distinct schools in business, education, humanities and social sciences, natural and behavioral sciences, and visual and performing arts.

A wide variety of student organizations and clubs are available at Brooklyn College as well, ranging from academically and professionally oriented groups to sports teams and volunteer service clubs. The college is extremely proud of its affordability, especially for minority students.

On Niche, Brooklyn College has mostly Bs, with many students praising the beautiful, relaxed campus atmosphere, which differs greatly from that of the super urban campuses in Manhattan.

  • Acceptance Rate: 45%
  • Tuition per Year: $7,440 (in-state), $15,390 (out-of-state)
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 11,189
  • % of Students in Campus Housing: 0% (no campus housing)
  • Popular Majors: Accounting, business, psychology
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