The Top 10 East Coast Universities On the Rise

Too often, we hear the same names for prominent universities showing up again and again on college ranking lists.

The Ivy League universities, Stanford, MIT, and CalTech are household names in higher education. Indeed, these schools are fantastic, producing graduates and leaders into the highest ranks of education.

However, thousands of colleges and universities exist throughout the country and the east coast is no exception.

The east coast is a mecca of higher education. There are more than 250 colleges in New England alone, and many more throughout the New York Tri-State area and southern east coast states like Florida and Georgia.

Today, we talk about 10 of the best east coast universities on the rise. Within the last two decades, these schools have shown a tremendous commitment towards furthering their education, facilities, resources, and faculty appointments.

Here are our picks for 10 of the best east coast universities on the rise.  

William Paterson University (Wayne, NJ)

William Paterson University
Rossrover, UnivCommons, CC0 1.0

Starting our list is a rural New Jersey college that has won many prestigious awards in recent years for its commitment to education. Perhaps its highest-rising program is the Cotsakos College of Business, which has won numerous awards in the last decade. These awards include a listing in the Princeton Review’s Best 295 Business Schools guide, six consecutive listings in Financial Planning Magazine as a top school for financial planners, and recognition in the List of Top University Sales Programs by the Sales Education Foundation of Dayton.

William Paterson has showcased an exemplary commitment to environmental consciousness. Successful sustainable initiatives include a solar panel installation that ranks it among the nation’s top 10 colleges. Within the last decade, William Paterson was named a finalist by Second Nature for sustainability leadership.

William Paterson’s commitment to veteran education is admirable. With over 150 veterans and active service students on campus, William Paterson has been honored as a military-friendly school.

Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY)

Hofstra University
Paul Berendsen, Hofstra University, Student Center, CC BY-SA 3.0

Although Hofstra is best known for hosting presidential debates, this university’s commitment to raising the bar is admirable. 

In 2008, which is recent in college university history timelines, Hofstra founded the Zucker School of Medicine, also called the Northwell School of Medicine. By 2019, the school had already ranked among the top 75 medical programs in the entire country by US News.  

Speaking of US News, they also awarded Hofstra a top-35 designation for its undergraduate engineering program

Alumni of Hofstra include Francis Ford Coppola, one of the greatest film directors of all time, David Paterson, the former Governor of New York, and beloved actor Christopher Walken.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington (Wilmington, NC)

University of North Carolina Wilmington
Edward Orde, Chancellor’s Walk at University of North Carolina Wilmington, CC BY-SA 4.0

Once a junior college, UNC-Wilmington is now a prestigious research institution ranked by the Carnegie Classification as “R2: Doctoral Research Universities – High Research Activity.” It is among the top 5% of schools in the country with its R2 designation.

UNC-Wilmington’s admissions standards have increasingly grown higher and higher. The average incoming student in 2018 had a high school GPA of 4.13! This indicates that the typical student, graded on a weighted average, are A students.

In 2021, UNC-Wilmington will open a new film studies building on campus, strengthening its cinema and entertainment program. UNC-Wilmington does have a strong film program already; they are home to a 150,000(!) square foot studio lot, called EUE/Screen Gems, dedicated to media production.

UNC-Wilmington has recently launched an entrepreneurship initiative in partnership with nearby North Carolina A&T University. 

Rowan University (Glassboro, NJ)

Rowan University
Scott Brody, Rowan Business Hall Front, CC BY-SA 4.0

Rowan, a public research university based in New Jersey just 30 minutes from Philadelphia, is home to nearly 20,000 students! Like UNC-Greensboro, it is among the relatively small percentage of universities classified by the Carnegie Foundation as “R2: Doctoral Research Universities – High Research Activity.”

True to its Carnegie status, researchers at Rowan have been developing intriguing technology to better the world. One example of their commitment to research is Dr. James Grinias, who is working, under the auspices of a National Science Foundation Career Award, on a newer, better, and greener way to analyze chemical samples.

In 2009, Rowan University founded the Cooper Medical School. In just one decade since inception, Cooper’s acceptance rate was 3%, making it one of the most selective medical schools nationwide. Cooper has also won an award from the American Association of Medical Colleges for outstanding Civic Engagement

Student life at Rowan is exemplary: organizations include an award-winning radio station, a closed-circuit television station with 11 produced student television programs, and over 100 student clubs.

George Mason University (Fairfax, VA)

George Mason University
Photo by Nicolas Tan/Creative Services/George Mason University, An aerial view of the Johnson Center at dawn., CC BY-SA 4.0

George Mason University is known throughout the world for its economics program. Indeed, two former professors at George Mason have won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

Classified by the Carnegie Foundation as “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity,” George Mason has risen over the last several decades. This past year, The Washington Monthly named George Mason the 61st best school in the country

In recent years, George Mason has considerably expanded its international presence. In 2014, GMU opened a campus in South Korea known as Mason Korea. Less than 30 minutes from Seoul, GMU’s students benefit from an international university’s cultural opportunities.

In 2019, George Mason spent nearly $150 million on research.

University of Vermont (Burlington, VM)

University of Vermont
Niranjan Arminius, UVM AikenCenterNorth, CC BY-SA 4.0

The University of Vermont is a historic school named one of the original “public ivies” in Richard Moll’s text about the US’s best public universities. Today, it is one of the top research universities in the nation, designated as an “R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity” by the Carnegie Classification.

Although the University of Vermont is one of the oldest schools in the country, its status and commitment to students continue to rise and set the bar higher. Within the last couple of decades, the University of Vermont’s student center was the first building of any university in the country to receive a LEED Gold Certification. 

In an article from Business Week, the University of Vermont ranked among the top 50 universities with the highest-salaried graduates. Other rankings include a top-10 MBA program for social and environmental impact.

One of UVM’s most widely known initiatives is in environmental sustainability. In addition to its LEED certification, UVM became one of the first institutions in 2012 to end the sale of bottled water. Additionally, UVM has embarked on a climate action plan, including complete net zero emissions by 2025.

University of Delaware (Newark, DE)

University of Delaware
Smallbones, Interdisc n Engineering Lab, UDel, DE, CC BY-SA 3.0

The University of Delaware’s commitment to research rises almost every year; according to data from the National Science Foundation, the University of Delaware spent an enormous $186 million on research in 2018 alone, making it among the top 120 colleges in the country for research expenditure. Their commitment to spending significant research funds has recently earned them the classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity.” 

Over the last two decades, the University of Delaware has grown considerably into one of the best east coast universities. One crucial facility created in the previous decade includes the Science, Technology, and Research (STAR) Campus. The 270+ acre site is home to the College of Health and Sciences, a pharmaceutical research center, and an expansive technology park.

The University of Delaware ranks among the top 100 universities nationwide according to US News’ most recent National Universities ranking list.

In 2017, the University of Delaware created the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Institute, named after alum Joe Biden.

Florida International University (Miami, FL)

Florida International University
DaveBenRoberts, Florida International University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Florida International University’s rise has been so outstanding, the state of Florida has even given the university a designation of “Emerging Preeminence.”

Incepted only 56 years ago, which is remarkably short in the timeline of colleges and universities, FIU was Miami’s very first public university. With nearly 60,000 students and over 10,000 staff members, FIU has had an unprecedented positive economic impact of $3.5 billion annually.

FIU is among the less-than-2% of national universities to achieve the “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity” from the Carnegie Classification, showcasing the university’s rising commitment to cutting-edge research.

Among FIU’s programs include a premiere International Business major. US News ranked the Chapman Graduate Business School #15 for International MBAs in 2015. Other top-ranked programs include Health Care Management, Public Health, Public Affairs, and even a top-100 ranking flor Law.

Towson University (Towson, MD)

Katie Simmons-Barth Photography, Towson University, CC BY 2.0

Towson is making significant changes to their university in 2021, including new buildings and renovations. Perhaps the most significant addition will be Towson’s Science Complex, a facility featuring over 80 laboratories as well as 50 new classrooms dedicated to research and study. 

Additionally, Towson is renovating their historic Armory building, which will be home to an initiative called “StarTUp” dedicated to entrepreneurship and business.

In 2003, Towson set out on an ambitious campus plan to increase Towson’s enrollment and visibility. From 2006 to 2013, Towson spent over $200m enhancing its classrooms, dorms, and facilities to accommodate students, teachers, and staff.

As a result of Towson’s efforts, the university’s prestige has risen dramatically; in 2020, Washington Monthly named Towson a top-60 university in the country, either public or private.

Interestingly, Towson is the highest-producing university for teachers in the state of Maryland. 

Montclair State University (Montclair, NJ)

Montclair State University
Adam Moss, Montclair State University, CC BY-SA 2.0

Montclair State University has risen dramatically in the last few decades, recently earning the coveted “R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity” rank by the Carnegie Classification. Additionally, US News currently ranks Montclair State among the top 10% of all universities in the country on its National Rankings list.

One of Montclair’s fastest-rising programs is in the arts and musical theatre. Nearly two dozen Montclair State University students are working in Stephen Spielberg’s upcoming film production of West Side Story as singers, actors, or dancers! Few schools can claim to send so much talent into the professional ranks.

Additionally, Montclair State is rapidly expanding its curricular offerings, opening an undergraduate pre-med program in 2021

In 2013, Montclair State set out on a new campus master plan with over $600 million allotted for capital construction and facility improvement. The master plan resulted in several new buildings on campus, including the 143,000 square foot building housing the Feliciano School of Business, a 60,000 square foot expansion housing their Communications program, and a 107,000 square foot Environmental Sciences building.

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