Most of us are familiar with the college-university rankings published by Forbes and U.S. News and other journals. Here is a different approach to ranking these institutions, looking at them more from the students’ experiences and opportunities than to their SAT test scores and AP classes taken in high school. The author, journalist Iris Stone, divides them into the most affordable 25 public institutions and 25 private institutions. The results will surprise you.

Download the pdf here 50_Great_Affordable_Colleges_in_the_Northeast.

The best public universities include Towson University, the University of Delaware, Binghamton University, the University of Vermont, and several campuses that are part of the State University of New York and the City University of New York. The best public university, she concludes, is the City College of New York, which is the flagship campus of the City University of New York, which has a library of 1.5 million books, nearly 80 academic majors, more than 100 academic clubs, and a staggeringly low tuition of less than $6,000 per year.

The best private colleges and universities include such superstar institutions as Harvard University, MIT, Johns Hopkins University, Wellesley College, Princeton University, Dartmouth College, Columbia University, Haverford College, Williams College, Amherst College, and Yale University. No surprises there.

But here is the shocker: the best private institution, she decides, is St. Joseph’s College, which has campuses in Brooklyn, New York, and Patchogue, New York. With tuition under $14,000 a year, it is the least expensive of all the campuses on the list of private colleges and universities. Its retention rate is about 85%. She writes that “the more than 500 faculty members spend a lot of individual time with students and keep the student-faculty ratio down to only 11:1.” St. Joseph’s College has supplied a large number of the teachers and administrators for public schools in New York City and its suburbs. As it happens, I know this institution well. Its recently retired president, Sister Elizabeth Hill is a kind, humble, brilliant woman. SJC is noted for the compassion and kindness that it directs to its students. It is an institution that cares about each student as an individual.

Bigger and richer is not necessarily better.