Our Research

To find the best urban schools in America, we looked at several key features, including the size of the school and its location. We also compared other factors, such as their delivery formats, admissions process, and cost.

One of the most important factors to keep in mind is whether or not a school is accredited. Not only does accreditation confirm that a school offers a quality education and nationally-recognized degree programs, it also ensures that you can transfer your credits to another school if necessary. We’ve only included schools that have been accredited by one of several national or regional institutions, such as the Higher Learning Commission or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

  • 30 hours to write this article
  • 72 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 118 education programs we compared

The Top 38 Best Urban Colleges In America

Best Urban Colleges In America Badge
01
Intelligent Pick
University of Chicago
01
Best Midsize Private Institution, South
Vanderbilt University
01
Best Ivy League Option
Columbia University
01
Best for Accounting
The University of Texas at Austin
01
Best Large Public Institution, West
UCLA
01
Most Satisfied Students
Tulane University
01
Best School with Rolling Admission
Baruch College
01
Best Test-Optional College
George Washington University
01
Best Large Public Institution, Midwest
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
01
Best Large Private Institution, Northeast
New York University
01
Best Large Private Institution, West
University of Southern California
01
Best Large State-Related Institution, Mid Atlantic
University of Pittsburgh
01
Best for Study Abroad
University of Washington
01
Best for Architecture
Rice University
01
Best for Design
Suffolk University
01
Best for Vets
University of South Florida
01
Best Value
The Ohio State University
01
Best for Pre-Med
University of Pennsylvania
01
Best Jesuit Option
University of San Francisco
01
Best for Social Mobility
City College of New York
01
Best No-Application Fee Institution
Reed College
01
Best for International Business
San Diego State University
01
Best for Internships
NC State University
01
Best for Public Policy
American University
01
Best Baccalaureate Teaching
Georgia State University
01
Best Student-to-Faculty Ratio
Macalester College
01
Best for Service Learning
Portland State University
01
Best for International Students
Boston University
01
Best Small Public Research Institution, South
University of New Orleans
01
Best Christian Option
Emory University
01
Best Catholic University, Mid Atlantic
Duquesne University
01
Best Co-op Option
Drexel University
01
Best Large Public Research Institution, West
University of California, Berkeley
01
Best for Art
The Cooper Union
01
Best HBCU
Spelman College
01
Best for Public Relations
DePaul University
01
Best Small Catholic University, South
Saint Edward's University
01
Best Faculty
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

What You Should Know About Urban Colleges

Colleges located in cities are more diverse. While the college population as a whole is becoming more racially and culturally diverse (at least 45.2 percent of undergraduates are students of color), urban colleges are more likely to attract a diverse range of students, including international students. In addition, cities are more likely to have a multicultural population, which is reflected in its music, food, and cultural events.

The whole city is your campus. While college towns may spring up around a single college, some cities have dozens of colleges that are spread out across the city and overlap with one another. For example, Boston has over 35 colleges and 152,000 students in the city. This may make it easier to meet students from other colleges or take an exchange class.

You don’t have to live on campus. Urban colleges are often more accessible to commuter students because they make it easier to commute to classes on public transit. As many as 87 percent of college students are commuters, and some colleges, like the City University of New York, specifically cater to these students.

What’s Next?

Choosing the right urban college for you and deciding on the best way to live in or commute to the city can be a long process. By researching your options in advance, you’ll find it easier to navigate the admissions process. Here are some of the most important things to consider:

  • Decide on whether to study in-state or out-of-state. Some prospective students start by researching colleges, while others start by deciding on the city or region they want to live in. If you plan to live at home, then start by researching colleges near you. Keep in mind that tuition rates can vary widely depending on whether or not you’re a resident of the state, but some schools extend in-state tuition rates to neighboring states.
  • Consider safety. Cities often have higher crime rates than college towns, but many colleges have their own campus security departments. Some colleges even offer programs to give students a “safe ride home” if they stay out late at night. Before deciding on a college, look into campus crime rates and decide whether you’ll feel comfortable walking around the city on your own.
  • Research housing costs. Housing can be more expensive in major cities, which is why many students commute to college. Still, if you decide to live in the city, you have options. An off-campus house or apartment may be cheaper than paying for a dorm room. It may also allow you to opt out of a meal plan, which is often mandatory for on-campus students.
  • Make the most of student discounts. Being a student in a big city can give you the opportunity to visit museums and attend cultural events that aren’t available at home. But these costs can add up, so be sure to find out what discounts are available for students. For example, some cities and colleges offer reduced-price transit passes for eligible students.