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Students saunter across Feeney Way and Tower Road amid Nov. 3 foliage at Cornell.

November 20, 2023

The In-State Applicant’s Guide to Cornell’s Contract Colleges

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While Cornell is unique in many ways, there is one particular aspect that defines it from the other Ivy Leagues — the contract colleges. For prospective students from New York State, navigating Cornell’s private and in-state colleges may be daunting. To highlight current students’ perspectives on the process, The Sun spoke with in-state first-year students about their recent experiences in applying to Cornell’s contract colleges.

Four schools at Cornell — the College of Industrial and Labor Relations, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Human Ecology and the College of Veterinary Medicine and their sub-schools — are affiliated with and partially funded by New York State. According to their missions, these schools promote the economic and social wellbeing of New York State through education, research and outreach services. In return, NYS residents of the contract colleges receive reduced resident rate tuition.

One notable aspect of Cornell’s college division is the existence of certain majors across multiple schools. For example, the Information Science major is housed simultaneously in CoE, CAS and CALS. In applying to Cornell, potential applicants may struggle to understand which college is the best fit for them.

One concern for many applicants is the stark divide between the price tags of contract and non-contract colleges. For private or out-of-state students, the initial estimated cost of attendance is $88,150. For in-state students in the contracted schools, this price drops to $66,834. Additionally, in-state applicants are eligible for state-specific scholarships, such as the Excelsior Scholarship, the NYS State Tuition Assistance Program and the New York State Enhanced Tuition Award Program.

Nathaniel Baker ’27 is a freshman in the Dyson School of Business, which is situated within both CALS and the SC Johnson College of Business. For him, the discounted nature of the contract colleges was a blessing during the application process. 

“It gave a sense of ease while applying to a school as costly as Cornell that I had the potential to get this extra state funding,” Baker said.

While Cornell states it strives to match need with financial aid, the automatic discount for in-state applicants encourages many students who may not have initially considered Cornell to apply to the contract colleges.

“It’s an opportunity for in-state students to receive the same academic experience as their peers at a more accessible rate,” said Charlotte Nelson ’27, a freshman CALS student from Buffalo.

Other students showed similar appreciation for the reduced cost of attendance, referencing several miscellaneous costs not included in tuition. 

“No matter where you come from, 20 grand does make a big difference,” said Erick Palanker ’27, a New York resident in ILR. “It can go towards any number of things — food, cars, housing and other necessities on campus.”

For prospective students who are interested in applying to a major offered in multiple colleges, a Cornell enrollment forum lists various factors which students should consider. This list includes the degree students can earn, the distribution requirements, where their interests lie outside the major, flexibility within the college in terms of credit requirements and the overall mission approaches of the college. Each college at Cornell offers vastly different resources and programs, and each has its own unique environment and curated student population. Thus, prospective students are advised to consider these factors — as well as admission price — in their decision between two majors.

New York resident Ajrun Tafannum ’27, who studies Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in CAS, debated between applying for the major in CAS or CALS. Despite her status as a New York State student, she was unaware of the in-state option available for her while applying to Cornell. 

“I wish that there were more resources advertising this in-state status to prospective students,” Tafannum said.

Although she was unaware that CALS was a contract college while she applied, Tafannum believes she still would have opted for CAS.

“I wanted to do something in Arts and Sciences because of how broad it was, and also its interdisciplinary nature,” Tafannum said. Tafannum added that, despite not receiving in-state scholarships, she was supported in her decision to study within a private college by her financial aid package.

In addition to the differences of programs between colleges, the environment of the people and culture itself is worth noting during application. While the contract colleges attract many New York residents, Baker does not feel it is homogenous.

“I come from a small town, and I absolutely love being in a diverse environment and meeting kids from international backgrounds as well as the city. It’s a really unique perspective,” Baker said. 

Nelson further discussed her experience with the contract college environment.

“I love the close-knit community that the in-state aspect of CALS brings,” Nelson said. “The contract colleges are a great way to make such a large school feel small.” 

Cornell’s regular decision deadline is Jan. 2. In-state applicants interested in any of Cornell’s four contract colleges can find more information — including how to apply for NYS Residency — here.

Dorothy France-Miller ’27 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].