Fast Facts: Cornell Students By NY County

4 11 2014

Unless otherwise noted, all source data comes from the Cornell University Factbook. For this, I’m only going to focus on the undergraduate population.

When I was a student at Cornell (oh, for those halcyon days of the late 2000s…yes, I am joking), there was a quip that 38% of the students come from New York State, but 90% of them are from New York City and its suburbs. An exaggeration, but the large presence of Westchester and Nassau and the like was forever a source of tension, if only a minor one. With access to Cornell’s enrollment figures, we can see by just how much downstaters dominate the student population.

For anyone from outside of New York, this post probably won’t be a whole lot of interest to you. But for the kids that want to play along at home, here’s a map of the counties of New York, all 62 of them.




In what should be a surprise to absolutely no one, Nassau County on Long Island and Westchester County comprise the largest sources of Cornell undergrads – 654 and 607 students respectively. Given 14,453 undergrads in fall 2014, that means these two counties alone account for 8.72% of the UG population. NYS students number 4,602 of that 14,453, 31.84% of the student body. If we define downstate as Orange, Putnam, and everything south (the definition of where upstate and downstate divide is fraught with contention, so I’m going with a rough middle ground), then downstate comprises 2,971 of those 4,602 students, 64.56%, or just under two-thirds. Only one county has no representation at Cornell – Hamilton, which has only 4,773 residents (2013 estimate), the smallest population for any county in the state.

Now, I can already hear the commentary now – “BC, you misleading and ignorant a–hole, these numbers should be presented per capita.” Way ahead of you, irritable dear reader. I downloaded the 2013 county census estimates and decided to do a little data magic, looking at enrollment per 100,000 residents of a given county.


Tompkins dominates, no surprise there. Westchester is next, showing that living in a county comprised of mostly affluent, tony suburbs with school districts to match is handy for getting into the Ivy Leagues. From there, we see it’s a mix of New York City’s affluent suburbs and counties close to Tompkins – though St. Lawrence, up by the Quebec border. is something of an anomaly.

One more thing I wanted to write up before concluding this post, which really only scrapes the tip of the iceberg. The percentage of NYS students continues to decrease as the enrollment increases, as shown below. In fall 2002, 38.93% of students came from NYS; in fall 2008, that number shrank to 33.85%; and by fall 2014, 31.84%. I have no idea if the state has any sort of minimum number or floor percentage that Cornell must adhere to, but if the trend continues, I could imagine some legislators pushing for one.


In sum – the 38% value hasn’t been accurate since 2002, so that quip was outdated by the time I started my time at the Big Red. The 90% value is also a little high, but there’s definitely a large contingent of NYC suburbanites in the student population, and it doesn’t see, so large when broken down to per capita values.



3 responses

4 11 2014
Cornell PhD

You would think that, given this disproportionate number of students, coupled with however many attend IC and general demand from the area, transportation options to NYC would be better than a $90 bus that’s booked up for months, a $45 bus that takes 5-6 rather than the 3.5 required hours because of unnecessary stops, or a hyperexpensive, often cancelled prop plane puddle jumper to an airport in a neighboring state (which brings up the fact that the NYC metro population represented at Cornell is likely even greater if you bring in NJ and CT counties).

Anyway, it’s a source of perennial frustration to me that no one realizes what a fantastic opportunity there is to run a nonstop bus to NY a few times a day (more on weekends) at Shortline prices or below; it would almost certainly be profitable and popular. At the very least, given it is building its new campus downstate, Cornell should increase access by beefing up its C2C bus fleet and bring prices down to the more reasonable price they were just a year ago. And Ithaca really needs to look into exploring intercity access as a means to succeed in general; being “centrally isolated” is a result of policy, not destiny.

29 11 2014
Cornell Senior

It would also be interesting to see the breakdown of NYS in specific schools. As an out-of-state student in ILR, I’m sure that more than one-third of the students are from ILR, most of whom are from downstate New York. The ILR school seems far less diverse than other schools.

3 11 2020
GUEST ROOM | “I’m praying that my vote is counted” — Voting Struggles Rob Students of Agency | The Cornell Daily Sun

[…] and bungling” at the New York City Elections Board, which governs voting in a city home to 8 percent of Cornell students. The Board, whose officials are appointed almost entirely by Democratic and Republican party bosses, […]

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