Best Colleges in Alabama

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Are you ready to find your fit?

With multiple universities ranking among the best in country, along with many other colleges of excellent quality, Alabama is a great place to focus your college search. Whether you’re in-state or out-of-state, looking for a public or private school, Alabama has something for you.

If you haven’t visited before, you might think of the South as just quiet and sleepy, but the region has experienced a powerful economic transformation.

This is an important factor to consider, since once you graduate, you’ll probably be looking for a job. And it’s good to have developed networks to help you find a job in a place with a robust economic climate.

And that describes Alabama.

Related: Best Online Colleges in Alabama

According to the Center for Business and Economic Research, business leaders in the state are growing increasingly optimistic about the local economy. Their confidence has been on a dramatic upswing for the past few years, which bodes well for future job-seekers: confident executives means lots of hiring opportunities.

So there’s reason for optimism about the economy. But will you enjoy yourself while you’re there?

Well, if you’re into college football, then it’s hard to see how you couldn’t. The SEC is a football powerhouse, and in Alabama you’re perfectly placed to take advantage.

But the state isn’t all football. If you’re of a more literary cast of mind, you’ll be in good company. The late Harper Lee, famous author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was from the state, as is three-time National Book Award nominee Gail Godwin. So if you could imagine yourself becoming the next great Southern novelist, go ahead and check out the Alabama Writers’ Forum, an organization that puts on programs to “support established, novice, an student writers.”

Or perhaps you’re more interested in music? Then the bluegrass, roots, and country scenes might be for you. Whatever it is, Alabama schools and Alabama culture offer a lot.

Top 10 Best Colleges in Alabama

Rank School Location
1 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
2 Birmingham Southern College Birmingham, AL
3 Auburn University Auburn University, AL
4 Samford University Birmingham, AL
5 University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham, AL
6 Spring Hill College Mobile, AL
7 University of Alabama in Huntsville Huntsville, AL
8 Concordia College Alabama Selma, AL
9 Troy University Troy, AL
10 University of North Alabama Florence, AL

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What are the best colleges in Alabama?

On to our list of the best colleges in Alabama—but first, a word about how we got our rankings.

In order to determine the best colleges in Alabama, we took a look at every school offering four-year bachelor’s degrees, and then compared them on the lines of academic quality, student body diversity, and return on investment.

That means we’re looking at things like test scores and tuition rates, along with endowment size and the expected early career salary of graduates. All of our data comes from the IPEDS database, courtesy of the National Center for Education Statistics. And now, on to our ranking of the best colleges in Alabama!

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. The University of Alabama
    Location

    Tuscaloosa, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Alabama was chartered in 1818, one year before Alabama was granted statehood. And in 1831, UA opened its doors as the first public university in the state. Located in Tuscaloosa, AL, the university enrolls almost 38,000 students on its 1,200-acre campus. This co-educational institution has a student/faculty ratio of 21:1. Over 500 National Merit Scholars presently attend UA.

    Features

    Because of its size, the University of Alabama offers students a wide variety of academic, research, study abroad, and extracurricular opportunities that allow students to realize their best possible selves. There is something for every student at UA with nearly 230 degree programs and 500 student clubs, including 60 sororities and fraternities. Upon graduation, alumni are charged with the task of improving the educational and societal well-being of the surrounding community. Some of UA’s most popular degrees include:

    • Business & Management
    • Health Studies
    • Engineering
    • Human Sciences

    Notables

    The University of Alabama placed #46 among public institutions nationwide, according to U.S. News & World Report. UA’s School of Law made the #9 spot, and its School of Library and Information Studies ranked #25. UA is considered #66 among best schools for veterans.

  2. Birmingham Southern College
    Location

    Birmingham, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Birmingham-Southern College is a private, liberal arts school located in Birmingham, AL. BSC was formed in 1918 when Southern University (whose roots date to 1856) was combined with Birmingham College. Today BSC enrolls almost 1,300 undergraduate students. The average class size is 16 and the student/faculty ratio is 13:1. BSC maintains ties to the United Methodist Church.

    Features

    Real-world experiences that reinforce a first-rate academic curriculum set Birmingham-Southern College’s education apart from others. BSC has an Exploration term in January that requires students to gain hands-on experience through study abroad, internships, research, service learning, independent projects, or intensive classes. There are 25 undergraduate majors at BSC and students have the option to develop their own major as well. Popular majors include:

    • Business Administration
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • History

    Notables

    All classes at Birmingham-Southern College are taught by faculty, and students also receive one-on-one academic advising from faculty. BSC was recognized among “Colleges That Change Lives”, and BSC was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as #132 among liberal arts colleges in the country. Both Forbes and Fiske named BSC as a best value school. On campus, undergraduates can get involved in one or more of 80 student organizations.

  3. Auburn University
    Location

    Auburn University, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Auburn University has undergone several name changes since its inception in 1856, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the university’s commitment to high quality academics and research. AU has become one of the biggest institutions of higher education in the South with more than 22,000 undergraduates and 4,500 graduate students. The main campus of this public, co-educational university is located in Auburn, AL.

    Features

    Strong academic programs, respected research, community outreach, and a nurturing student environment have all contributed to Auburn University’s esteemed reputation. AU’s pre-med students are 30% more likely to be accepted to medical school, and 100% of pre-dental and pre-optometry students go on to dental and optometry schools. Health professions aren’t the only option for students. AU has over 140 majors. The most popular majors include:

    • Business Administration
    • Engineering
    • Biomedical Sciences
    • Education
    • Health Professions

    Notables

    For 24 years, Auburn University has been among the 50 best public institutions across the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. Both Money magazine and Forbes ranked AU as #1 in the state. Kiplinger’s reported that AU is a best buy for public universities. Additionally, AU has the 4th happiest student body, according to Princeton Review. Distinguished alumni include 6 NASA astronauts.

  4. Samford University
    Location

    Birmingham, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Samford University is a private, co-educational school located outside of Birmingham, AL. With a history that reaches back to 1841, Samford is the 6th oldest institution of higher learning in the state. Today, around 5,500 students attend Samford. The student/faculty ratio is 12:1 and class sizes are generally small with professors teaching all classes. Samford’s academic mission is grounded in the Baptist educational tradition.

    Features

    Students at Samford University receive excellent teaching and support from faculty. Students can fulfill their intellectual and creative potential via Samford’s 158 undergraduate majors and minors. The importance of civic engagement, ethics, and faith is also emphasized. Samford’s courses span across 30 undergraduate and graduate degrees. The most popular majors are:

    • Health Sciences
    • Business Management
    • Sports Administration and Fitness Studies
    • Human Sciences

    Notables

    The Wall Street Journal awarded Samford University with the #1 ranking as best university in Alabama. U.S. News & World Report placed Samford as #4 among Southern schools and #4 among best schools for veterans. Samford’s M.B.A. program, graduate nursing program, and trial advocacy curriculum have also earned high marks. In addition, Kiplinger’s and Princeton Review called out Samford as a best value school.

  5. University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Location

    Birmingham, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham is the biggest research university in Alabama and its academic health center is well-respected throughout the region. UAB grew from an extension campus in 1936 into its own independent institution located in Birmingham, AL. More than 19,500 students attend this public, co-educational university. The student/faculty ratio is 18:1.

    Features

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham is an urban research university that strives to advance student intellect, regional health care, and ground-breaking inquiry. UAB and its students give back to the community through service learning, medical outreach, and $5 billion economic impact. There are more than 120 areas of study available at UAB. Some of the most popular majors:

    • Psychology
    • Business Administration
    • Nursing
    • Education
    • Engineering

    Notables

    U.S. News & World Report recognized several of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s health-related graduate programs as among the top in the country. Overall, UAB ranked #83 within public universities in the U.S. Also, UAB is one of the most diverse schools nationwide, according to Princeton Review. And, students interested in becoming entrepreneurs can participate in UAB’s Innovation Lab which is composed of 15 student-run startups and is part of the South’s biggest tech incubator.

  6. Spring Hill College
    Location

    Mobile, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Spring Hill College is the Southeast’s oldest Catholic college with a history that begins in 1830. Located in Mobile, AL, the college follows the Jesuit tradition of education. This private, liberal arts school enrolls nearly 1,500 undergraduates and half of the student body is Catholic. The average class size is 17 students and the student/faculty ratio is 14:1.

    Features

    Spring Hill College is among the 3 oldest Jesuit institutions in the country and curriculum focuses on strong education, service to the community, social justice, and spiritual growth. Students can study and serve at Spring Hills Italy Center or in countries like Ireland and Argentina. Annually students participate in over 25,000 hours of local community service. Spring Hill offers 46 majors leading to an undergraduate degree. Popular majors include:

    • Science/Math
    • Business
    • Social Sciences
    • Visual, Performing, and Communication Arts
    • Nursing

    Notables

    Education graduates from Spring Hill College have 100% success at finding a job, and 90% of communication arts graduates find a job within 6 months. Around 90% of graduates seeking admission to medical schools are accepted. Forbes ranked Spring Hill as #118 among Southern schools. Additionally, Spring Hill prides itself on the beauty of its campus which includes an 18-hole golf course.

  7. University of Alabama in Huntsville
    Location

    Huntsville, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Many of the first students to attend the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1950 were WWII veterans studying via the GI Bill. Today, UAH has a student population of almost 8,500 students with 75% enrolled as undergraduates. UAH is a public, co-educational university located in Huntsville, AL on a 430-acre campus. The student/faculty ratio is 17:1.

    Features

    The University of Alabama in Huntsville is a research university that emphasizes hands-on learning. Academics, leadership, and research in one of UAH’s 16 campus labs rounds out the curriculum. Personal attention, small classes, and guaranteed freshmen housing foster student success. UAH has over 100 courses of study across 89 degree programs. The most popular majors include:

    • Engineering
    • Business & Management
    • Health Studies
    • Biomedical Sciences
    • Computer Science

    Notables

    Graduates of the University of Alabama in Huntsville enjoy the highest starting salaries across the state which is one reason that UAH is considered to have a high return on investment for students. UAH’s online program for graduate nursing ranked in the top 50 in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. UAH also placed #106 among public institutions nationwide. There are more than 100 student clubs available.

  8. Concordia College Alabama
    Location

    Selma, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Concordia College Alabama is a private, co-educational college that is a member of the Concordia University System of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Located in Selma, AL, this school is the only historically black Lutheran college in the country. Rosa Young founded the school in 1922, and through her perseverance, Concordia survived and flourished. Around 600 students presently attend Concordia and class sizes are small.

    Features

    Concordia College Alabama features an academic curriculum that is centered on a Christian, liberal arts education. Social responsibility, service to the community, and servant leadership are woven into the student experience at Concordia. Faculty and staff work with each student to ensure student needs are met. Almost 20 areas of study are available to students. Popular choices include:

    • Education
    • Business Administration
    • Criminal Justice
    • Behavioral Sciences
    • Nursing

    Notables

    Student success is a priority for Concordia College Alabama, and the college has created several programs to reach this goal. Concordia’s Man Center provides an academic boot camp to incoming male freshmen, and the Women Center focuses on the advancement of women students. And, Concordia’s STAARS program helps students transition from high school to college and achieve academic excellence.

  9. Troy University
    Location

    Troy, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Around 14,500 undergraduate students and 3,700 graduate students attend Troy University. The university began as a teacher’s college in 1887 but has since expanded to several branches and educational centers, and includes granting online degrees. This public, co-educational institution is located in Troy, AL and the student/faculty ratio is 14:1. The average class size is 29 students.

    Features

    Troy University encompasses a diverse student body and offers traditional as well as nontraditional and electronic coursework. The school caters to many different types of students: first-time in college (in two categories — over or under the age of 25), military, graduate, home-schooled, international, online, transient, readmit, and transfer. One third of degrees were awarded online. Troy University has 170 majors and minors. Popular choices are:

    • Business & Management
    • Homeland Security
    • Criminal Justice
    • Protective Services
    • Psychology

    Notables

    U.S. News & World Report named Troy University as #23 among Southern public schools and #69 among all schools in the South. Troy also ranked in the top 100 for online graduate business degrees. Other well-respected graduate programs include nursing, public administration, and rehabilitation counseling. Military Times and Princeton Review have reported that Troy University provides high quality undergraduate education.

  10. University of North Alabama
    Location

    Florence, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of North Alabama is the oldest public institution to award 4-year degrees in Alabama. Founded in 1830, the co-educational university is located in Florence, AL. Approximately 7,500 students attend UNA where the student/faculty ratio is 17:1 and the average class size is 24 students. Two African lions make their home on campus next to the President’s living quarters.

    Features

    The University of North Alabama concentrates on academics, research, and community outreach programs to serve the region. Students can complete service projects during UNA’s Alternative Break trips that are held during school breaks. Students also receive personal advising and mentoring from full-time faculty. UNA gives students a choice of more than 140 majors and minors. The most popular selections include:

    • Business Management
    • Health Studies
    • Education
    • Social Sciences
    • Visual & Performing Arts

    Notables

    Forbes ranked the University of North Alabama in the top 50 schools in the South, and U.S. News & World Report selected UNA as #34 among public Southern universities and as #87 across all Southern institutions. Kiplinger’s lists UNA as a best value in public colleges. In fact, tuition at UNA is among the lowest you’ll find in Alabama. Also, UNA’s industrial hygiene program is one of a very few in the country.

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