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The praiseworthy showing of Western New York universities in rankings conducted by U.S. News & World Report magazine underscores the inviting choices offered to local families interested in higher education.

High school graduates need not look elsewhere for college training. A quality education is available in abundance right near home.

The respectable rankings of the University at Buffalo, rated among the nation's top 50 public colleges, and Geneseo State College, tied for first place among regional public campuses and third for the best regional schools in the North, demonstrate the wonderful reputations of local campuses and their academic programs. And that comes from people from outside Western New York, who already know what a treasure we have here.

As part of the State University of New York system, moreover, these colleges and universities offer a superb bargain. Annual tuition costs of $3,400 for undergraduate education is a virtually unmatched gift from New York taxpayers, who subsidize the substantial difference between what the students pay and the actual cost of what they get.

As for private universities, the magazine's generous ratings of Houghton College for its liberal arts program, or St. Bonaventure and Canisius College for offering among the best values among regional schools in the North, emphasize the prime choices available in this category as well.

Then there was Cornell, which ranked third among all colleges and universities, public and private, in the country.

These and other campuses in Western New York bolster our regional economy. Even more important, their diversity -- public and private, science and liberal arts, larger or smaller, more or less expensive -- upgrades the quality of life here.

Any community can have a college. Not every community can have one of excellence. Western New York has not one, but several. That's a big plus, and one not to take for granted but to recognize, appreciate, protect and nourish.

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