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The Top 15 East Coast Colleges Under 25K a Year

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    When you're making the decision of what college to attend, there are probably two main considerations on your mind: location, and price. The first question is, do you want to stay close to home, or is there a new city or another part of the country you would like to explore? And the second question is, will your college choice be relatively affordable, or will it financially strain your family beyond their means, as the cost of a quality education continues to rise.

    The East Coast, including New England, is where some of the best (and not to mention oldest) colleges in the United States can be found. Of course, when you think about good colleges in this area, your mind probably goes to the Ivy League: a group of eight highly prestigious institutions that are concentrated in the New England area.

    Ivy League colleges Source: AMRCA
     
    Below are the locations and founding years of the eight institutions that constitute the Ivy League. The Ivy League is made up of eight highly prestigious institutions with strict admissions requirements and high tuition costs. The location and founding year of each institution is listed below.
    InstitutionYear foundedLocation
    Harvard1736Boston, Massachusetts
    Yale1702New Haven, Connecticut
    Princeton1746Princeton, New Jersey
    University of Pennsylvania1740Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Brown1746Providence, Rhode Island
    Dartmouth1769Hanover, New Hampshire
    Columbia1754New York, New York
    Cornell1865Ithaca, New York
    The Old Queens building at Rutgers UniversitySource: RU
     
    The prestigious Rutgers University is a surprisingly affordable school with a rich history. The university's oldest building - known simply as "Old Queens" - is pictured in the 2005 image below.

    The Ivy League schools, however, are notoriously expensive, but there are several other great schools on the East Coast that are definitely worthy of your attention. The purpose of this article is to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the 15 best colleges on the East Coast with tuition of less than $25,000 a year. Main topics that will be addressed here will include the following: 

    • demographic details on the colleges
    • proportion of in-state versus out-of-state students
    • breakdown of SAT, ACT, and GPA scores
    • financial aid information
    • campus life
    • comparison of quality with Ivy League and community colleges
    • comparison of debt between these schools and others
    • comparison of graduation rates
    • rankings across various metrics
    • other valuable information

    The top 15 East Coast colleges under $25,000 per year

    Once you’ve made the decision to attend a physical college, instead of going to college from home, you want to attend the school that best fits you. A ranking of top colleges is always somewhat subjective in nature: the best college for you will always depend on your own specific and individual priorities, and this cannot really be generalized. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify these following schools as the top 15 East Coast colleges with a tuition of less than $25,000/year.

    The top 15 East Coast colleges under $25,000 (Ranked by annual tuition)
     
    Searching for quality education at an affordable price is a daunting task. Each of the 15 East Coast colleges below are reputable schools with annual tuitions of $25,000 or less.
    CollegeLocationTuition
    Baruch CollegeNew York, NY$6,330
    University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel Hill, NC$8,566
    Towson UniversityTowson, MD$8,590
    University of DelawareNewark, DE$12,830
    Rowan UniversityGlassboro, NJ$13,108
    University of ConnecticutStorrs, CT$13,366
    Clemson UniversityClemson, SC$13,822
    Rutgers UniversityTownship, NJ$14,372
    University of VermontBurlington, VT$14,664
    University of Massachusetts AmherstAmherst, MA$15,156
    University of VirginiaCharlottesville, VA$15,714
    Pennsylvania State UniversityState College, PA$17,514
    University of New HampshireDurham, NH$17,624
    College of William and MaryWilliamsburg, VA$19,372
    Cooper UnionNew York, NY$21,000

    Table Source(s)

    Additional tuition data gathered from the websites of the colleges listed above.

    None of these schools are part of the Ivy League; all them are located in the East Coast region of the country; and all of them have a tuition rate of less than $25K/year. Again, different criteria can easily produce different list of what the "real" top 15 colleges are. But for intended purposes, the 15 schools selected above will do the job for those who elect to attend campus in-person, rather than attending courses online.

    In-state tuition vs. out-of-state tuition

    All of the top 15 East Coast colleges selected above are public institutions, which means that they are funded by the states in which they are located. (Cooper Union is the one exception: it is private, but has a universal half-off-tuition scholarship for all first-time students. And this generally also means that the cost of tuition will be dramatically lower for a resident of that state that it would for someone who is coming to the college from out of state. Almost all public colleges have this kind of provision, in which "outsiders" are charged far more for tuition than "insiders". 

    For example, the tuition at the University of Connecticut is $10,524/year for a student from the state of Connecticut itself; but it is $32,066/year for students from outside of Connecticut—2.6 times as much!

    In-state vs. out-of-state tuition (University of Connecticut) Source: UC
     
    Attending an out-of-state college can be expensive. The chart below compares in-state and out-of-state tuition at the University of Connecticut.

    Likewise, the list above has only included public colleges, because private colleges are almost always expensive—certainly more expensive than $25,000/year. In short: to keep college affordable, it is often necessary to go to a public college within a state in which one is a resident.

    Scholarships and residency lower tuition costs

    There are two important exceptions, however, to this general rule.

    1. Scholarships can often bring down the cost of tuition at a college by a very significant amount.
       
    2. It is often relatively simple to become a resident of a given state. 

    For example, it is a fact that if a high school student is a National Merit Scholar, then the University of Texas waives the out-of-state fee for applicants from outside of the state, which amounts to a relief of about $25,000/year. According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the purpose of the program is to provide recognition for academically brilliant students; and many colleges respect this designation through rewards such as the waiver mentioned above.

    Moreover, if you have your heart set on affordably going to college in a certain state, then it may be possible to become a resident of that state before enrolling in college to offset the cost associated with higher education. For example, this is the requirement put forth by the Connecticut General Assembly for establishing residency within the state of Connecticut:

    "Those employed full-time in Connecticut and their spouses and dependents can apply for residency status after living in the state for six months if they provide evidence of domicile and the employee is not in the state primarily as a full-time student."

    This would mean that if you went to Connecticut, found a place to live, and worked a full-time job for six months, then you could apply for residency within the state of Connecticut—and then apply for the University of Connecticut and receive the in-state tuition rate. The requirements vary from state to state, and this kind of plan may not be ideal; but the only point here is that it is at least a possibility for going to college in an affordable way.

    Demographics of the top 15 East Coast colleges

    When you are deciding what college to attend, demographic information may play a significant role in your decision. For example, you may want to go to a school where minority groups are adequately represented, or where there is a fairly equal number of men and women on campus. So, here is some information for the top 15 schools that have been listed above. 

    Gender and racial diversity at the top 15 East Coast colleges
     
    Demographic information makes it easy to find schools with gender and racial diversity. The table below shows statistics on the proportions of female students and minority students attending each of the top 15 East Coast colleges below. While most of the colleges are roughly split between male and female students, the percentage of minority students varies widely from school to school.
    CollegePercentage of womenPercentage of minority races
    University of Connecticut50%39%
    Clemson University47%17%
    College of William and Mary58%42%
    Cooper Union33%68%
    Pennsylvania State University46%23%
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill60%29%
    University of Virginia56%32%
    University of New Hampshire46%20%
    Rowan University48%28%
    University of Massachusetts Amherst49%21%
    Rutgers University50%61%
    University of Vermont56%19%
    Towson University60%37%
    Baruch College50%62%
    University of Delaware58%22%

    Table Source(s)

    Additional demographic data gathered from the websites of the colleges listed above.

    Student diversity on campusSource: Flickr
     
    Student diversity is an essential part of the collegiate experience for many prospective students.
    The top 15 East Coast colleges (By gender and racial diversity)
     
    Diversity on campus is something students look for when choosing a school. The table below ranks the top 15 East Coast colleges by gender and racial diversity.
    RankGender diversityRacial diversity
    1Towson UniversityCooper Union
    2University of North Carolina at Chapel HillBaruch College
    3College of William and MaryRutgers University
    4University of DelawareCollege of William and Mary
    5University of VermontUniversity of Connecticut
    6University of VirginiaTowson University
    7University of ConnecticutUniversity of Virginia
    8Rutgers UniversityUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst
    9Baruch CollegeRowan University
    10University of Massachusetts AmherstPennsylvania State University
    11Clemson UniversityUniversity of Delaware
    12Rowan UniversityUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst
    13Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity of New Hampshire
    14University of New HampshireUniversity of Vermont
    15Cooper UnionClemson University

    In general, it would seem that the numbers for gender are more equal than are the numbers for race: almost all of the top 15 colleges listed above are close to a 50/50 split on gender, but the numbers vary to a significantly greater extent when it comes to race. 

    Out-of-state students at the top 15 East Coast colleges

    Out-of-state student attendance at the top 15 East Coast colleges Source: CX
     
    Out-of-state students are in the minority at most of the top 15 East Coast colleges. The University of Delaware has the highest percentage of out-of-state-students (73%) among the colleges listed below. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Rowan University, with only 3% of its students coming from out-of-state.
    CollegePercentage of out-of-state students
    University of Connecticut21%
    Clemson University31%
    College of William and Mary33%
    Cooper UnionN/a
    Pennsylvania State University28%
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill18%
    University of Virginia27%
    University of New Hampshire40%
    Rowan University3%
    University of Massachusetts Amherst21%
    Rutgers University16%
    University of Vermont66%
    Towson University16%
    Baruch College4%
    University of Delaware73%

    It is very difficult to find systematic and highly credible numbers for this metric across colleges, so it is possible that some of these numbers aren’t quite exact. Nevertheless, the general idea is still conveyed: out-of-state students are the minority in almost all of the top 15 East Coast colleges, and the very small minority in at least a couple of them. 

    In-state tuition is cheaper than out-of-state tuition

    It is easy to explain not only the outliers in the data above but also the main trend as well. There are two main points that need to be noted here. 

    1. Public colleges are almost significantly cheaper—and often dramatically cheaper—for in-state students than for out-of-state students.
       
    2. If a state is very small (such as Vermont or Delaware), then a large part of the student body would have to come from out of the state, almost by logistical necessity; and those colleges probably have programs to incentivize this influx. 

    Again, in the absence of scholarships, almost all of the colleges listed above will not be cheaper than $25K/year for out-of-state students. This puts pressure on students without scholarships to go to college in their own home states. And this is why out-of-state students are almost always a minority at any given college.

    Measures of student performance (SATs, ACTs, and GPAs)

    SAT, and ACT scores can play a big factor in admittance. These are the average SAT, ACT, and GPA scores for the top 15 East Coast colleges under $25K/year.

    Average SAT scores, ACT scores, and GPAs of admitted students Source: PS
     
    Knowing the average SAT scores, ACT scores, and GPAs of admitted students can help you gauge your chances of admission. The table below shows how students admitted into the top 15 East Coast colleges performed on key academic metrics.
    SATiACTiiGPAiii
    University of Connecticut
    1840273.51
    Clemson University
    1795294.18
    College of William and Mary
    2035304.19
    Cooper Union
    1987333.60
    Pennsylvania State University
    1890273.60
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    1950294.56
    University of Virginia
    1997304.22
    University of New Hampshire
    1644243.44
    Rowan University
    1644243.50
    University of Massachusetts Amherst
    1840273.83
    Rutgers University
    1808303.63
    University of Vermont
    1786263.48
    Towson University
    1630233.61
    Baruch College
    1845243.21
    University of Delaware
    1784263.50

    Notes

    i. The highest possible SAT score is 2400.
    ii. The highest possible ACT score is 36.
    iii. Weighted GPAs may be higher than 4.00.

    These numbers are averages, which means that some students who were admitted to these colleges scored below these numbers, and that some students who were admitted scored above these numbers. (In addition to test scores, admitted students likely had a well-written college admissions essay.) Also, regarding the GPA data, it is worth noting that there be some discrepancies, depending on whether a given college acknowledges the weighted system or not: for example, it is possible for the average GPA at Clemson to be 4.18 because Clemson clearly accepts high school data where some courses (such as AP courses) have an "A" weighted at 5.0.

    Also keep in mind that the SAT changes from March of 2016 impacted requirements at many schools.

    How top 15 East Coast college students compare to Ivy League students

    For the sake of contrast, it may be worth comparing the scores of a couple of these top 15 colleges with the scores of a couple Ivy League colleges. Let's select Clemson and the University of Virginia from the top 15, and Harvard and Yale from the Ivy League.

    Average SATs and GPAs - Top 15 East Coast colleges vs. Ivy League colleges Source: PS
     
    Ivy League colleges may have higher SAT expectations than the top 15 East Coast colleges; however, both types of colleges appear to have similar GPA expectations.
    CollegeSATiGPAii
    East Coast colleges under $25,000
    Clemson University17954.18
    University of Virginia19974.22
    Ivy League colleges
    Yale University22654.19
    Harvard University22604.04

    Notes

    i. The highest possible SAT score is 2400.
    ii. Weighted GPAs may be higher than 4.00.

    This data suggests that although the average GPA of some Ivy League schools is comparable to that of some top 15 colleges, the Ivy Leagues school have a substantially higher level of expectation when it comes to the SAT. 

    There are two possible explanations for this, however. The first is that the Ivy League schools are simply more academically rigorous than the top 15 colleges listed above. The second, though, is that the Ivy League schools may simply weigh standardized tests more heavily during the admissions process—with the result that students who want to get into those schools may spend a great deal of time, energy, and money preparing themselves for those tests. (However, prospective students should not overlook the importance of admissions essays in their zeal to perform well on the standardized tests.)

    Money, money, moneySource: Flickr
     
    College is expensive. Fortunately, most students are eligible to receive financial aid to make their dream schools more affordable.

    Financial aid information

    It may be tedious for you to hear about the specific financial aid numbers individually for each and every one of the top 15 East Coast colleges under $25K/year listed above. A better way to approach this subject may be to take a macro-level perspective and look at aggregate data from educational institutions across the United States. This will reflect on the financial aid patterns of the individual top 15 colleges as well, as those colleges can be assumed to be more or less typical and in line with the broader macro-level trends.

    Availability of financial aid

    The macro-level data on financial aid clearly indicates that quite a large number of college students are in fact able to qualify for financial aid despite the many myths. The National Center for Education Statistics, for example, has indicated that fully 71 percent of all undergraduate students in the 2011-12 academic year received some form of financial aid. The same source also indicated that 42 percent of all students that year received grants—a form of financial aid that does not need to be paid back—from the federal government.

    How many students received financial aid? (2011 - 2012) Source: NCES
     
    Most undergraduates received some form of financial aid. In the 2011 - 2012 academic year, over 2/5ths received grants from the federal government.

    Sources of financial aid

    In general, for anyone applying to college (including to the top 15 East Coast colleges), there are four main sources of financial aid: 

    1. The federal government

    2. State governments

    3. Colleges/universities

    4. Private organizations and sources

    According to a report developed by the CollegeBoard, this is how the proportion of student financial aid from each of these four sources broke down for the year 2015.

    Sources of financial aid (2015) Source: CB
     
    Students may wonder where to get financial aid. The chart below shows the four main sources of financial aid for the year 2015. In that year, colleges and universities distributed more financial aid than the federal government, state governments, and private organizations and sources.

    So, whatever college you apply to, you will still have access to a wide range of financial aid from a variety of sources.

    Related infographic: Student loan forgiveness options: myths vs. facts

    Financial aid at Clemson University, a top 15 East Coast college

    In truth, there is no systematic and directly comparable data available across the top 15 colleges regarding financial aid distribution. Different colleges report the information in different ways, and some do not consistently report it at all. It may thus be more productive to pick a specific college from the top 15 list, and conduct a case study of its own financial aid programs. Let's thus take a look at Clemson.

    Financial aid at Clemson University Source: CU
     
    Financial aid options vary across the top 15 East Coast colleges. Below are the types of financial aid available to students at Clemson University as reported by the school's financial aid page.
    Grants
    • Pell Grant
    • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
    • South Carolina Need-based Grant
    Scholarships
    • University scholarships
    • South Carolina scholarships
    • Private scholarships
    Loans
    • Federal Perkins Loan
    • Federal direct loan
    • Private loans
    Employment
    • Federal Work-Study
    • America Reads
    • Part-time work
    Other programs
    • Nonresident aid
    • Academic Common Market
    • Clemson Corp Out-of-State Scholarship

    As can be seen, the large portion of the forms of aid listed here are universally available to all college applicants, with Clemson itself just providing one specific example of that.

    Tillman Hall at Clemson UniversitySource: Flickr
     
    Located in South Carolina, Clemson University is an affordable school with a top-notch football program. The university's clock tower, Tillman Hall, stands tall in the 2008 photograph below.

    The metric of endowment

    In order to determine the financial aid that may be offered specifically by any one of the top 15 East Coast colleges, it may be appropriate to use the endowment of each school as a kind of proxy metric. Endowment essentially refers to the amount of money granted to each college by its funders in any given year.

    Endowments granted to the top 15 colleges
     
    Well-funded schools tend to have more resources available to students. The list below shows the dollar amounts (in millions) of endowments granted to the top 15 East Coast colleges.
    CollegeEndowment (in millions)
    University of Connecticut$383.1
    Clemson University$648.6
    College of William and Mary$811.2
    Cooper Union$738
    Pennsylvania State University$3,600
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill$2,989
    University of Virginia$7,530
    University of New Hampshire$336
    Rowan University$140.5
    University of Massachusetts at Amherst$768
    Rutgers University$1,002
    University of Vermont$467.7
    Towson University$986
    Baruch College$180.7
    University of Delaware$1,500

    Table Source(s)

    Endowment data gathered from the websites of the colleges listed above.

    In general, the greater the endowment, the wealthier the school. However, this effect may be mitigated by proportion: that is, a large school with a large student body and a large endowment may be just as confined in its use and distribution of money as a small school with a small student body and a small endowment.

    Campus life at large, public universities

    The greatest advantage of going to a fairly large public university in a significant city consists of the diversity of opportunities and experiences that campus life may be able to offer you. For example, this the University of Connecticut's database indicates that there are 674 distinct organizations active on its campus.

    Student organizations and activities at the University of ConnecticutSource: Wiki
     
    There are hundreds of ways to get involved on campus. The image below shows some of the student groups and activities at the University of Connecticut.

    Again, just about all the colleges selected for the top 15 list of this article are public. This generally means that all the schools will be of at least moderate size have a fairly bustling campus life. One is not dealing with small liberal arts colleges here, where an entire class for a year may constitute a singular community all of its own. (The only exception to this statement is Cooper Union, which is a small and distinctive institution that has primarily been included in this list just for the sake of diversity).

    The College Football Playoff National Championship trophySource: CFP
     
    Clemson University won the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship - a distinction most college football teams dream of. Below is a photograph of the prestigious trophy awarded to the Clemson Tigers.

    Life in the city

    Depending on where you go, campus life at school may be ensconced within the broader life of the city itself. This would surely be true, for example, regarding attendance at Baruch College, which is located within the city of New York. More generally, there is always local flavor to consider. For example, if you go to Clemson, you can expect the football culture to be very prominent, given that Clemson just recently won the college football national championship for 2016.

    Other colleges may have a more intellectual or academic "feel" to them. In general, at any of the top 15 colleges, you should be able to find your own niche and participate in the aspects of campus life that are the most meaningful to you, whether it's enjoying the nightlife in your college’s city, or being frugal and spending more time at home or in your dorm.

    How the top 15 East Coast colleges compare to Ivy League schools and community colleges

    The top 15 East Coast colleges selected here differ from both community colleges on one hand and the Ivy League schools on the other. There are three main areas in which these differences can be noted: size, price, and prestige. While former President Obama’s plan to introduce free community college never came to fruition, community colleges still offer an affordable alternative means to obtain a quality education.

    How student population size differs at Ivy League colleges, public universities, and community colleges

    In general, the Ivy League schools have smaller student bodies than either the top 15 colleges selected here or community colleges. Of course, the size of a community college can vary significantly depending on where exactly the college is located. For example, student attendance at LaGuardia Community College - shown in the chart below - is higher than student attendance at most other colleges because LaGuardia is located in New York.

    It is nevertheless true that both the top 15 colleges and community colleges tend to have larger student bodies than the Ivy League schools. The smaller student body sizes of the latter schools are related to their high degree of selectivity, which itself is one of the key sources of their prestige. The chart below compares the student body sizes of a select Ivy League school, public university, and community college.

    Student population size by type of college
     
    Student population size is an important factor in choosing a school. The chart below illustrates the general trend that student population size decreases as school prestige increases.

    Comparing tuition at Ivy League colleges, public universities, and community colleges

    The top 15 East Coast colleges listed here differ significantly from both community colleges and Ivy League schools when it comes to price. More specifically: the selected colleges cost more than community colleges, but less than the Ivy League schools.

    Annual tuition by type of college
     
    The top 15 East Coast colleges cost considerably less than Ivy League schools. The chart below shows that a year at Clemson is closer in price to a year at LaGuardia Community College than a year at Yale.

    As this chart makes clear, the tuition rate at Yale (an Ivy League school) is dramatically higher than the rate at LaGuardia Community College: a year at Yale is 12.8 times the cost of a year at LaGuardia. In this context, the top 15 East Coast colleges tend to fall in the middle. For example, Clemson costs 4.3 times as much as LaGuardia, but Yale costs 2.9 times as much as Clemson.

    A look at college prestige

    Finally, the top 15 East Coast colleges can be differentiated from Ivy League schools and community colleges in terms of prestige. The trend here mirrors the trend regarding price: the top 15 colleges are more prestigious than community colleges, but less prestigious than the Ivy League schools. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons why community colleges are so cheap in the first place, and why the Ivy League schools are so expensive.

    Moira Forbes of Forbes magazine has suggested that there is a strong correlation between an Ivy League education and dramatic success in the world:

     "Impressively, 30 of the 100 women on the list [of most powerful women in the world] attended an Ivy League institution. To put that in context, there are only 8 such schools with the Ivy moniker out of the tens of thousands around the world.

    This is thus clearly a statistically significant correlation.

    On the other hand, it is possible that there is a kind of positive feedback loop going on here. That is, highly ambitious people may naturally be drawn to Ivy League schools; their ambition also fuels professional success; and thus a correlation may emerge between an Ivy League education on the one hand and professional success on the other.

    This means that if you are in fact ambitious, then you could probably get just as much progress by going to one of the top 15 East Coast colleges as to an Ivy League school. It also means that even completing the first couple years of your education at a community college may be a good option, since this would perhaps let you utilize your available resources in an optimal fashion.

    Debt levels at Ivy League schools vs. public universities vs. community colleges

    The levels of student debt at the top 15 East Coast colleges, the Ivy League schools, and community college tend to parallel the levels of tuition for each category of college. For example, all of the top 15 colleges (except Cooper Union) are public institutions, whereas the Ivy League schools are private nonprofits.

    According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the average level of debt in the year 2012 for public college students was lower than the average level of debt for private nonprofit college students. At the same time, Sophie Quinton of Pew Charitable Trusts has indicated that most students who have debt at community colleges are somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000 if they don’t qualify for some type of student loan forgiveness program.

    Student debt by type of college
     
    With the exception of Cooper Union, the top 15 East Coast colleges are public institutions. The chart below illustrates the average debt levels incurred by students attending public colleges, private colleges, and community colleges. Students attending public colleges typically have less debt than private college attendees.

    Again, it is worth noting that this pattern mirrors the pattern for tuition levels themselves—which, of course, makes a great deal of sense. 

    Estimating debt - A word of caution 

    A crucial point that has to be made here is that just because community college debt levels are relatively so low does not mean that all the students will be able to successfully pay them off. Rather, Sophie Quinton of Pew Charitable Trusts has pointed out that many students default on their loans, due to the fact that they are financially struggling, within a situation in which their families may not really be capable of helping them out. 

    Conversely, the fact that Ivy League schools have such a high level of debt does not necessarily imply that those students will be in trouble. For one thing, students at those schools often come from wealthy backgrounds; another factor, graduates from those schools often find high-paying jobs. When you are making your college decision, then, it is important to consider not just the objective numbers but also contextual factors, such as how much money your family has and how much money you expect to make after graduation.

    Graduation rates at Ivy League colleges, public universities, and community colleges

    The graduation rates at the top 15 East Coast colleges also follow the trend that has been established thus far in the other comparisons carried out in this article. That is, the graduation rates for these colleges tend to fall in between the rates for community colleges on the low end and Ivy League schools on the high end. Here is a comparison of the numbers for a selected college from each of these three categories.

    Graduation rate by type of college Source: USDE
     
    Graduation rates for the top 15 East Coast colleges are typically higher than community college graduation rates but lower than Ivy League college graduation rates. The chart below compares the graduation rate at the University of Connecticut - a top 15 East Coast college - with the graduation rate at Yale and LaGuardia.

    In this comparison, the selected top 15 college has a graduation rate that is quite high but not as high as the rate of the selected Ivy League school, but also very much higher than the rate for the selected community college.

    A closer look at graduation rates

    These numbers can be explained through the consideration of three main points.

    1. Many students may just "dabble" in community colleges, taking one course here and there or experimenting with what they would like to learn. All of these students would be counted when calculating the graduation rate, which helps explain the low numbers.
       
    2. Students who go to Ivy League schools tend to be highly motivated and, barring some kind of personal crisis, would be extremely unlikely to drop out without successfully completing their degree programs. This helps explain the high numbers.
       
    3. Students at the top 15 East Coast colleges are motivated enough to seek out a good school and advance their own lives, but perhaps not wealthy and/or motivated enough to insist on going to an Ivy League school. This helps explain the high but intermediate numbers.

    How the top 15 East Coast colleges stack up

    The information presented above in this article probably gives a good sense of how the top 15 East Coast colleges stand in relation to each other across various relevant metrics. It may be useful to you, though, to see some of rankings in summary form. So, the article will now present the top 3 out of the top 15 colleges regarding the following 5 metrics: GPA, gender diversity, racial diversity, tuition, and football.

    Relative strengths of the top 15 East Coast colleges Source: CBS
     
    Each of the top 15 East Coast colleges have their strengths. The table below shows the colleges with the highest average GPA, the most gender diversity, the most racial diversity, the lowest tuition, and the highest 2016 football rankings.
    Highest average GPA
    A higher rank indicates a higher average GPA.
    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • University of Virginia
    • College of William and Mary
    Most gender diverse
    A higher rank indicates a greater number of female students.
    • Towson University
    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • College of William and Mary
    Most racially diversei
    A higher rank indicates a greater number of minority students.
    • Baruch College
    • Rutgers University
    • College of William and Mary
    Lowest tuition
    A higher rank indicates lower tuition.
    • Baruch College
    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • Towson University
    Highest 2016 football rankings
    The rankings below follow the official 2016 college football rankings.
    • Clemson University (2016 champion)
    • Pennsylvania State University (ranked 7th)
    • University of North Carolina (ranked 43rd)

    Note

    i. Cooper Union has been excluded due to its distinctive operational model.

    The top 15 East Coast colleges offer more bang for under 25,000 bucks

    This article should by now have covered everything you would want to know about the top 15 East Coast colleges under $25K/year. As you move forward with your academic career, there are four key points that you should take with you from this article. 

    1. The top 15 colleges listed here provide you with an opportunity to get a great college education, even if you are not financially or academically able to attend an Ivy League school such as Yale or Harvard.
       
    2. These top colleges are generally public institutions, which means that they offer huge tuition breaks for in-state students. While scholarships and other forms of financial aid are often possible, this is a point that you may want to consider when thinking about your options.
       
    3. There is probably nothing "inherently" superior about an Ivy League school relative to a great public university. Rather, it would seem that the prestige of the Ivy League schools is a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, as opposed to a matter of objective advantage.
       
    4. This article has only considered East Coast colleges. There are many other colleges around the nation, including the University of Texas in the South and the University of Michigan in the Midwest, and the University of California in the West, about which very similar things could be said as have been said about the top 15 colleges in this article. 

    We hope this article has been valuable to you, and that it has helped you think more clearly about the possibilities open to you for your academic future.

    Works Cited

    Clemson University. "Welcome to Student Financial Aid." Author, 2017. Web. 13 Jan. 2017. 
    <http://www.clemson.edu/financial-aid/index.html>. 

    CollegeBoard. Trends in Student Aid 2015. Author, 2015. Web. 13 Jan. 2017. 
    <http://trends.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/trends-student-aid-web-final-508-2.pdf>. 

    Forbes, Moira. "Does a Diploma from an Ivy League School Still Matter?" Forbes. 15 Aug. 2013. Web. 16 Jan. 2016. 
    <http://www.forbes.com/sites/moiraforbes/2013/08/15/does-an-ivy-league-diploma-still-matter/#63cd037f2d09>. 

    Institute for College Access and Success. "Quick Facts about Student Debt." Author, 2014. Web. 16 Jan. 2017.
    <http://ticas.org/sites/default/files/pub_files/Debt_Facts_and_Sources.pdf>.

    Lohman, Judith. "Residency Requirements for In-State Tuition in Connecticut and Selected States." Connecticut General Assembly, 28 Feb. 2000.
    <connecticut residency requirements for college>. 

    National Merit Scholarship Corporation. "Mission." Author, 2017. Web. 12 Jan. 2017.
    <http://www.nationalmerit.org/s/1758/interior.aspx?sid=1758&gid=2&pgid=395>.

    Quinton, Sophie. "The Student Debt Crisis at State Community Colleges." Pew Charitable Trusts, 10 May 2016. Web. 16 Jan. 2017. 
    <http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2016/05/10/the-student-debt-crisis-at-state-community-colleges>. 

    Radwin, David, Jennifer Wine, Peter Siegel, and Michael Bryan. 2011-2012 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. National Center for Education Statistics, 2013. Web. 13 Jan. 2017. <https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013165.pdf>. 

    Stanger, Melissa, and Emmy Martin. "The 25 Best Colleges in America under $25,000 a Year." 

    Business Insider. 17 Sep. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2017.
    <http://www.businessinsider.com/best-colleges-in-america-under-25000-2015-9/#24-university-of-california-at-irvine-2>.

    U.S. Department of Education. College Scorecard. 2017. Web. 16 Jan. 2017.
    <https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/search/?name=laguardia%20community&sort=advantage:desc>. 

     
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