Every autumn, tourists descend on this small, upstate New York college town to take in the foliage, as the Hudson Valley’s wardrobe changes from summer to winter. But besides these “leaf peepers,” as they’re called, students also flock to this town at the end of summer—to attend the local SUNY, one of 64 campuses run by the state as part of its system of higher education.
SUNY New Paltz is special—because of its smaller class sizes, unusual majors and minors (Disaster Studies, Native American Studies, Environmental Geochemical Science, to name a few), and terrific departments of Anthropology, Fine Arts, Education, and Communications. Another big perk is the location. Most students are interested in the outdoors, and the area provides active students with enough hiking, rock climbing, bouldering, cycling, and backpacking to last all four years and then some.
New Paltz gets points for diversity, as the percentage of students of color tops 25% (whereas the federal government’s statistic for the national average is only 16%). And the campus feels decidedly heterogeneous; every time I have visited, a wide array of student types could be seen walking through the quad.
If your college search is focused on affordable education with an outdoorsy lifestyle, I encourage you to look at this medium-sized school amidst the rugged Catskills which is often overshadowed by SUNY’s larger universities. It is truly a gem.