Best Colleges in the Northeast


The Northeast is where you’ll find all the Ivies, and the top college in the region this year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), might just as well be among them, with its location right next door to Harvard and its stellar academic reputation. Second on the list is Princeton University, the highest scoring Ivy League school in the region.

Money’s 2022 Best College rankings recognize affordable campuses, taking into consideration tuition fees, average financial aid, student and parent borrowing, and loan repayment rates. But affordability is just one piece of the puzzle. We also look at graduation rates and average earnings to find the colleges that offer a strong return on your investment. (You can read the full breakdown of how we ranked the colleges here.)

Most students choose a college that is relatively close to home, so in addition to our overall ranking, we’re also offering regional lists of top-scoring colleges. All but one of these top ten Northeast colleges has a graduation rate above the 90th percentile, so matriculating at one of these schools means you’ll soon earn your degree. Two of them — MIT and the University of Pennsylvania — promise early career earnings of over $100,000.

Here’s a breakdown of the top 10. See the full Best Colleges in the Northeast here.

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Massachusetts Institute Technology students on campus
Jake Belcher / MIT
  • Location: Boston
  • Estimated price with average grant: $21,100
  • Graduation rate: 94%
  • Early career earnings: $111,220

MIT is one of the world’s most respected science schools, and number 1 on our Best Selective Colleges list this year. MIT professors are world class, with 10 Nobel laureates currently on the faculty. Students can count on a lot of individual attention from their professors, given that MIT is tied in our rankings for the lowest student-faculty ratio.

2. Princeton University

Students in class at Princeton University
Courtesy of Princeton University
  • Location: Princeton, New Jersey
  • Estimated price with average grant: $19,700
  • Graduation rate: 96%
  • Early career earnings: $95,690

Six in 10 students qualify fund financial aid from Princeton, and 80% of students graduate without any debt at all. In addition to its financial aid prowess, the university offers undergrads access to some of the country’s best-known intellectual figures, as well as a park-like, Gothic-style campus that is considered one of the country’s most beautiful.

3. Yale University

Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University
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  • Location: New Haven, Connecticut
  • Estimated price with average grant: $18,500
  • Graduation rate: 97%
  • Early career earnings: $88,660

Yale is one of the country’s most selective schools, but it’s also among the most generous, with 85% of the class of 2020 graduating without student debt. Class sizes are small, with a student-faculty ratio of 6:1, and students have no course requirements. Instead, they get the chance to learn from Nobel Prize-winners in a number of fields.

4. Williams College

Williams College Campus
Courtesy of Williams College
  • Location: Williamstown, Massachusetts
  • Estimated price with average grant: $23,600
  • Graduation rate: 95%
  • Early career earnings: $71,610

Williams is the highest-rated liberal arts school in Money’s rankings. It features an innovative tutorial system, modeled after one at Oxford University, that pairs students who critique each other’s papers and meet weekly with a professor. Class sizes are correspondingly small, with a 6:1 student-faculty ratio, and as a result, students receive plenty of personal attention.

5. Harvard University

The Eliot House on the campus of Harvard University at early morning.
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  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Estimated price with average grant: $ 19,000
  • Graduation rate: 98%
  • Early career earnings: $84,920

Perhaps the school most synonymous with the Ivy League, Harvard delivers on its promise of illustrious faculty, including plenty of Nobel Prize winners, memorable college traditions (including the much-ballyhooed annual football game against rival Yale) and the largest university library in the world. What’s more, thanks to generous grants, most Harvard students graduate debt-free.

6. Massachusetts Maritime Academy

Massachusetts Maritime Academy graduates in formation
Courtesy of Massachusetts Maritime Academy
  • Location: Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts
  • Estimated price with average grant: $ 18,600
  • Graduation rate: 73%
  • Early career earnings: $91,670

The comparatively tiny (with only 1,700 students enrolled) Massachusetts Maritime Academy is structured like a military academy, offering degrees in fields such as marine engineering and international maritime business and emergency management. The academy readies students for both sea-going and shoreside careers, with some required to complete “sea terms,” spending weeks training aboard a ship.

7. University of Pennsylvania

Penn State Relay Race
Courtesy of The University of Pennsylvania
  • Location: Philadelphia
  • Estimated price with average grant: $25,500
  • Graduation rate: 95%
  • Early career earnings: $103,250

Although it has among the largest freshman classes in the Ivy League (about 2,400 students), the University of Pennsylvania is still wildly tough to get into, with an acceptance rate of less than 6% for the Class of 2025. Among the most elite and notoriously demanding departments within Penn are business and economics, and students clearly benefit, going on to earn some of the highest early-career salaries in Money’s rankings.

8. Dartmouth College

The Baker-Berry Library on the campus of Dartmouth College
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  • Location: Hanover, New Hampshire
  • Estimated price with average grant: $25,900
  • Graduation rate: 95%
  • Early career earnings: $91,630

The smallest of the Ivies, Dartmouth operates on a year-round quarter system, and has fewer teaching assistants leading classes than at many larger schools. Greek life is a big part of being on campus, with about half of students participating. The college also makes the most of its surroundings, including the nearby Appalachian Trail and its own 27,000-acre wilderness expanse a few hours north.

9. Cornell University

The Uris Library and McGraw Tower on campus of Cornell University.
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  • Location: Ithaca, New York
  • Estimated price with average grant: $29,100
  • Graduation rate: 94%
  • Early career earnings: $91,180

The largest of the Ivies and an unusual public-private hybrid, Cornell has 15,000 undergraduates enrolled in an astonishing array of unique programs, including schools of architecture and hotel administration programs that are considered leaders in their fields. Several of the university’s colleges offer New York State residents a tuition discount of about $20,000 a year.

10. Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College, Earth and Oceanographic Science Student Ocean Lab
Courtesy of Bowdoin College
  • Location: Brunswick, Maine
  • Estimated price with average grant: $27,100
  • Graduation rate: 95%
  • Early career earnings: $66,860

Although highly selective, Bowdoin has been test-optional for half a century, meaning SAT and ACT scores are not required to apply. The school’s classic liberal arts approach has its 2,000 students follow coursework in all the major disciplines, including math, science, the arts and social sciences. In addition, the college offers students one of the nation’s top dining services, with its own organic garden and butcher.

More from Money:

The Best Colleges in America, Ranked by Value

How to Pay for College

How to Choose a College

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