2023 America’s Best Urban Colleges and Universities

Growing up, I always dreamed of attending college in the big apple. Since I grew up in a rural community in Mississippi, the allure of living and existing in America’s mecca of creativity and culture was a fitting fantasy. Alas, in the end, I decided to stay in state, attending the University of Southern Mississippi, located in Hattiesburg.

Although I decided that attending college in a metropolis was not for me, many high school students choose to embrace the hustle and bustle of an urban university. As I found out during my initial college search over twenty years ago, America doesn’t have a shortage of world-class urban colleges and universities. In this piece, I will discuss the best of the best.

  1. Vanderbilt University – Located in the heart of Nashville, TN, this private university ranks highly among schools across the United States. Ten colleges make up Vanderbilt, and several of these have earned national distinction, including the prestigious Peabody College of Education and Human Development. Not surprisingly, the school has also been recognized for its undergraduate teaching. Expect to pay slightly less than $49,816 annually in tuition and fees.
  2. University of Chicago – A private school, located in the Chicago neighborhoods of Hyde Park and Woodlawn, University of Chicago gives students a beautiful urban setting only seven miles south of downtown Chicago. The University of Chicago is the third most expensive school in the country, with a combined total cost of $73,356. Tuition is $57,006, and room and board costs $16,350. The university is well-known for its research, and it consistently ranks in the top for the best in education. This Midwestern private school boasts some of the highest graduation rates in the country, and Hispanic students are no exception. Hispanic students graduate at a rate of 92 percent while white students are just ahead at 94 percent.
  3. University of TexasAustin – More than 50,000 students have chosen to attend the school ranked #49 in the nation. This campus is in the heart of the state’s capital, where music and technology merge to create a vibrant scene. UTA, as it is known, has 18 colleges within the system, and the school is known for business, nursing, and engineering. Students can choose from more than 900 clubs and organizations to round out their college experiences. This university has a 36% acceptance rate. The annual in-state tuition and fees are $10,606.
  4. Columbia University – Situated right in the middle of “the city that never sleeps,” Columbia’s campus is a student’s fantasy. The tuition at Columbia University is $59,430 per year. Room and board costs $14,016, bringing the total annual cost to $73,446. Most students pay an average of $14,000 a year after receiving their financial aid packages. Before you begin packing your bags, however, keep in mind that Columbia turns down 94% of their applicants.
  5. Rice University — Located in downtown Houston between eccentric neighborhoods and the medical district, Rice house eight schools and colleges, each devoted to academic rigor. The schools of architecture, music, business, and engineering are highly respected. Rice University ranks third in undergraduate teaching and is considered a best-value choice. Annual tuition and fees cost $47,350.
  6. University of Southern California – With its main campus located near the center of Los Angeles, this school is home to the famous Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, but it is also home to other programs of distinction like the Marshall School of Business and the Gould School of Law. The tuition and fees at this private school are $56,225 annually.
  7. University of California – Los Angeles – Undergrads especially prefer UCLA, likely because of well-known schools in engineering, law, and medicine. The David Geffen School of Medicine is affiliated with the highly acclaimed Ronald Reagan School of Medicine. The competition for acceptance is fierce; UCLA turns away 84% of all applicants. In-state tuition is $13,280. Situated in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, the universities location usually closes the deal for prospective students who are on the fence.
  8. New York University – This university, with an enrollment of 51,123 students, is the largest private school in the United States, and it’s ranked 30th in the nation. Students seeking a degree in theatre and film attend the famous Tisch School of the Arts. NYU is a city school that thrives in the heart of Manhattan. Annual tuition and fees cost $51,828. Perfect for students who always dreamed of taking a bit out of the big apple.
  9. Tulane University – Tulane is tied for 44th place among universities across the nation. Located in downtown NOLA, this college is at the hub of culture and cuisine. There is also an uptown campus. This university is known for its law school as well as the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. The school is highly selective, and those student accepted into the university can expect to pay approximately $54,820 annually in tuition and fees.
  10. George Washington University – District of Columbia: Located just four blocks from the White House, GWU is an excellent choice for students interested in national politics or international business. The Office of Diversity is dedicated to broadening the scope of students enrolled in the school’s programming. The white-to-black graduation rate gap is just 3 – with the black student graduation rate at 78.6 percent, just behind white students at 81.4 percent.
  11. Macalester College –Located in the heart of the twin cities in Minnesota, Macalester focuses on creating a personalized experience for its students. The school mascot is the Scots, and bagpipe lessons are free. This small college has earned distinction as a top liberal arts school, a best-value, and it offers an excellent undergraduate program. Tuition and fees are $54, 348. Bigger universities in Minnesota have also achieved recognition for their academic programs.
  12. CUNY Bernard M Baruch College– CUNY (City University of New York) is the largest urban public university in the US. The most popular majors on this campus tend to lie within the realm of business. Finance, Accounting, Business/Corporate Communications, and Administration and Management are all popular and taught with a student-faculty ratio of 17:1. The college is located in New York City, and it’s one of the senior colleges in the system. That said, it’s still affordable for New York residents and out-of-state tuition still falls below $20,000 per year. However, because it is in New York City, living costs tend to be high.

Click here to learn more about the ranking methodology that we used to compile this list.

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