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Best colleges in big cities

  • Best colleges in big cities

    Going to college in a big city can be the best of both worlds. Schools can provide the sense of community that supports students as they spread their wings to see what urban life has to offer.

    Of course, attending college in a big city can be expensive, finding a decent place to live nightmarish, and the pace frenzied. But the payoff can be remarkable. Students gain real-life experience, professional contacts, internships, job opportunities, or join community projects and inner-city activism, none of which could be found in a classroom or on a remote bucolic campus.

    To make it work, schools play a critical role in exploring areas for involvement, designing partnerships, and encouraging students. Some schools arrange for students to work with residents who may be homeless or facing other challenges. Others help students become involved in politics, neighborhood empowerment, or extending a helping hand to schools.

    There are schools who emphasize experiential learning, designing curriculums that send students into the big-city workforce to supplement their academics. Going to school in a big city can also mean laying the groundwork for work after graduation, maybe in tech start-ups or at Fortune 500 companies. Some big-city schools take great pride in how many of their students are employed or are in graduate or professional schools soon after graduation.

    On a less academic note, students in big cities get to enjoy an urban wealth of restaurants, bars, brew pubs, art museums, and musical performances.

    Stacker decided to take a look at the best colleges in big cities using Niche rankings. Colleges in cities with populations of more than 300,000 were considered, drawing population data as of 2019 from the Census Bureau. Niche ranks schools based on a variety of factors including academics, admissions, financial value, and student life. Niche’s methodology can be found here.

    Read on for the best big-city schools in the country. 

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  • #50. University of San Francisco

    - Location: San Francisco, CA
    - Students: 6,435
    - Acceptance rate: 65%
    - Graduation rate: 75%
    - Faculty ratio: 13:1
    - Six year median earnings: $62,300

    The University of San Francisco is a Jesuit school, where its humanist approach values education as a way to better the world. Using the city as a classroom, USF students are required to take Community Engage Learning that addresses social justice issues. Students work in programs such as advocacy and mental health for people who are homeless, tutoring, charity management, and labor unions.

  • #49. Creighton University

    - Location: Omaha, NE
    - Students: 4,291
    - Acceptance rate: 71%
    - Graduation rate: 81%
    - Faculty ratio: 11:1
    - Six year median earnings: $59,700

    Creighton University students give high grades to its pre-med health and sciences courses and to its Heider College of Business, where 99% of students are employed, or in graduate or professional school, within six months of graduating, according to the school. Creighton also fosters a sense of service and Jesuit values among its students. Off campus, Omaha is known for its breweries, steakhouses, and coffeehouses, especially in the Old Market district. Home to companies like Con-Agra Foods and Union Pacific Corp., it has a reputation for a strong job market.

  • #48. Baptist College of Health Sciences

    - Location: Memphis, TN
    - Students: 487
    - Acceptance rate: 59%
    - Graduation rate: 48%
    - Faculty ratio: 10:1
    - Six year median earnings: $57,000

    Baptist College of Health Sciences is a small Christian school affiliated with Baptist Memorial Health Care with hospitals in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Students say the hands-on hospital learning in Memphis is good preparation for their careers.

  • #47. University of Denver

    - Location: Denver, CO
    - Students: 5,563
    - Acceptance rate: 56%
    - Graduation rate: 77%
    - Faculty ratio: 12:1
    - Six year median earnings: $56,500

    About a third of students at the University of Denver major in business, and its Daniels College of Business offers career resources like internships that help graduates find employment. Not only is Denver a thriving city, with easy access to the mountains and outdoor life, but companies in the area are known to value and hire University of Denver graduates.

  • #46. University of Arizona

    - Location: Tucson, AZ
    - Students: 29,027
    - Acceptance rate: 84%
    - Graduation rate: 64%
    - Faculty ratio: 15:1
    - Six year median earnings: $47,300

    The University of Arizona gets rave reviews for its beautifully landscaped grounds in the heart of downtown Tucson. The city’s arts, music, and cultural scene are big draws for students.

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  • #45. University of Cincinnati

    - Location: Cincinnati, OH
    - Students: 22,990
    - Acceptance rate: 73%
    - Graduation rate: 68%
    - Faculty ratio: 16:1
    - Six year median earnings: $42,300

    The University of Cincinnati is considered a leader in cooperative education, allowing students to alternate traditional academic semesters with semesters working at full-time, paid jobs. Students in the program graduate with significantly less debt than is typical, as well as getting business experience and making professional connections in some 1,300 participating companies. The city is known for its theater, ballet, museums, historic breweries, and its zoo.

  • #44. Milwaukee School of Engineering

    - Location: Milwaukee, WI
    - Students: 2,491
    - Acceptance rate: 63%
    - Graduation rate: 74%
    - Faculty ratio: 15:1
    - Six year median earnings: $71,300

    Milwaukee School of Engineering is just minutes from the shores of Lake Michigan and the pedestrian RiverWalk that connects three lively riverfront neighborhoods. It’s a school known for serious hard-working students, but with plenty of off-campus brew pubs and other nightlife nearby. 

  • #43. American University

    - Location: Washington D.C.
    - Students: 7,952
    - Acceptance rate: 32%
    - Graduation rate: 80%
    - Faculty ratio: 12:1
    - Six year median earnings: $61,000

    American University students flock to its School of Public Affairs and its School of International Service, which is ranked one of the nation's best international affairs schools. Students typically take advantage of their Washington surroundings, from attending congressional hearings to landing internships on Capitol Hill.

  • #42. University of Portland

    - Location: Portland, OR
    - Students: 3,702
    - Acceptance rate: 75%
    - Graduation rate: 82%
    - Faculty ratio: 12:1
    - Six year median earnings: $58,800

    The University of Portland sits on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River on the outskirts of the city. The school encourages students to utilize the location for real-life opportunities such as teaching in Portland area classrooms and working in hospitals and medical clinics.

  • #41. Rhodes College

    - Location: Memphis, TN
    - Students: 1,992
    - Acceptance rate: 45%
    - Graduation rate: 85%
    - Faculty ratio: 10:1
    - Six year median earnings: $53,600

    Rhodes College emphasizes service, and most of its students become involved in the Memphis community, supporting its residents and helping improve its neighborhoods. Living in Memphis means enjoying its blues and rock 'n' roll scene—and its renowned barbecue.

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