Best Alabama Colleges & Universities

Become Team
Become Team
November 20, 2020

Alabama's dynamic higher education system can serve virtually any student goal and, hard data suggests, do so successfully. Residents who go to college are much more likely than those in other states to complete their degrees: the state's 2013-14 four-year college graduation rate was eight percent higher than the national average. Alabama is home to nearly 60 colleges and universities, including 25 community colleges, 14 four-year universities and several private schools. Some of these institutions receive national recognition for program quality and other success factors. Which Alabama colleges are the best? Continue reading to learn more about rankings, accreditation, costs, financial aid, planning resources and more for colleges in Alabama.

Alabama College Leaderboard: Rankings

Future Alabama college students have much to consider when researching programs. Some students focus on tuition costs and financial aid, for instance, while others are more concerned with class sizes, graduation rates or alumni earnings. Finding the right balance can be tricky. Students can use this ranking to identify Alabama colleges that scored highest in overall quality and value.

Rankings Methodology Minimum Qualifications
  • Located in Alabama
  • Public or private not-for-profit
  • Institutionally accredited
  • At least 10 total programs
Ranking Metrics
  • Median annual alumni earnings 10 years after entering the college
  • In-state tuition and fees for undergraduates
  • Student/teacher ratio
  • 6-year graduation rate
  • % of students receiving institutional financial aid (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Average amount of institutional aid awarded per student (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Availability of placement services upon completion
  • Availability of academic/career counseling services
  • Availability of employment services
  • 3-year student cohort loan default rate
Data Sources

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): National Center for Education Statistics

Latest 'Final Release' data available as of Fall 2016 College Scorecard: U.S. Department of Education

2-Year Programs

Enterprise State Community College View School Profile $ 13% 99.82 $26,300 18:1 43% N/A 0 29 Yes Yes
Gadsden State Community College View School Profile $ 14% 99.6 $26,900 18:1 25% N/A 4 61 Yes Yes
Wallace State Community College – Hanceville View School Profile $ 20% 99.49 $27,800 16:1 21% N/A 1 65 Yes Yes
Southern Union State Community College View School Profile $ 14% 99.01 $29,000 23:1 32% N/A 0 64 Yes Yes
Lurleen B Wallace Community College View School Profile $ 21% 98.91 $28,000 17:1 35% N/A 2 28 Yes Yes
H Councill Trenholm State Technical College View School Profile $ 33% 98.69 $21,000 13:1 30% N/A 0 45 Yes Yes
Jefferson Davis Community College View School Profile $ 30% 98.68 $27,200 16:1 30% N/A 0 41 Yes No
J F Drake State Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 15% 98.55 $23,500 15:1 22% N/A 0 36 Yes Yes
Faulkner State Community College View School Profile $ 10% 97.85 $28,900 25:1 26% N/A 0 36 Yes No
Jefferson State Community College View School Profile $ 7% 97.62 $30,300 20:1 15% N/A 3 41 Yes Yes
Northeast Alabama Community College View School Profile $ 24% 97.56 $28,700 20:1 30% N/A 0 34 Yes No
Wallace Community College – Dothan View School Profile $ 15% 97.52 $27,100 19:1 11% N/A 0 55 Yes Yes
Bevill State Community College View School Profile $ 14% 97.49 $25,900 17:1 38% N/A 1 55 Yes Yes
Wallace Community College – Selma View School Profile $ 25% 97.04 $24,400 14:1 19% N/A 3 24 Yes Yes
Lawson State Community College-Birmingham Campus View School Profile $ 18% 96.7 $22,300 18:1 32% N/A 0 62 Yes Yes
Snead State Community College View School Profile $ 32% 96.39 $26,000 21:1 65% N/A 3 16 Yes Yes
Bishop State Community College View School Profile $ 11% 96.08 $22,600 20:1 21% N/A 0 41 Yes No
Calhoun State Community College View School Profile $ 13% 95.88 $27,200 25:1 14% N/A 2 55 No Yes
Remington College-Mobile Campus View School Profile $$ 59% 95.65 $26,200 20:1 79% 81% 0 9 Yes No
Shelton State Community College View School Profile $ 8% 94.87 $24,300 21:1 19% N/A 0 50 Yes No
Central Alabama Community College View School Profile $ 9% 90.99 $27,100 17:1 38% N/A 0 32 No Yes
Chattahoochee Valley Community College View School Profile $ 13% 89.03 $27,700 18:1 42% N/A 0 27 No No
Northwest-Shoals Community College View School Profile $ 13% 87.98 $26,300 22:1 46% N/A 2 49 No No
Alabama Southern Community College View School Profile $ 23% 87.86 $23,200 17:1 41% N/A 0 13 Yes No
Reid State Technical College View School Profile $ 34% 87.67 $20,100 14:1 59% N/A 0 25 Yes No
J F Ingram State Technical College View School Profile $ 31% 86 N/A 12:1 N/A N/A 0 35 Yes No

4-Year Programs

Samford University View School Profile $$$$ 71% 99.79 $45,800 12:1 97% 60% 2 86 Yes No
University of Alabama at Birmingham View School Profile $$ 48% 97.84 $40,300 18:1 66% 86% 17 96 Yes Yes
Spring Hill College View School Profile $$$$ 62% 97.76 $43,800 13:1 99% 52% 1 53 Yes No
Auburn University View School Profile $$ 68% 97.72 $45,400 17:1 65% 83% 18 154 Yes No
University of Alabama in Huntsville View School Profile $$ 47% 97.5 $46,600 16:1 66% 82% 5 56 Yes No
The University of Alabama View School Profile $$ 67% 96.89 $42,400 21:1 53% 51% 22 136 Yes Yes
Birmingham Southern College View School Profile $$$$ 66% 96.36 $41,900 13:1 99% 53% 0 43 No No
University of Mobile View School Profile $$ 42% 95.47 $37,800 12:1 97% 58% 0 41 Yes No
Troy University View School Profile $ 35% 95 $36,600 15:1 45% 44% 22 64 Yes Yes
University of South Alabama View School Profile $ 37% 94.84 $38,300 20:1 59% 83% 8 80 Yes No
Amridge University View School Profile $ N/A 94.53 $38,100 10:1 100% N/A 13 13 No Yes
Huntingdon College View School Profile $$$ 47% 94.09 $37,100 15:1 100% 58% 0 36 Yes No
Judson College View School Profile $$ 37% 93.56 $30,700 9:1 95% 65% 15 22 Yes Yes
Tuskegee University View School Profile $$ 46% 93.35 $37,100 13:1 24% 49% 0 59 Yes No
Oakwood University View School Profile $$ 38% 92.84 $33,700 14:1 85% 48% 0 60 No Yes
University of North Alabama View School Profile $ 32% 92.19 $36,300 17:1 51% 68% 11 48 Yes No
Jacksonville State University View School Profile $$ 29% 92.01 $35,100 19:1 56% 83% 14 64 Yes Yes
University of Montevallo View School Profile $$ 47% 91.87 $35,100 16:1 62% 74% 0 34 Yes No
Faulkner University View School Profile $$ 33% 91.4 $37,600 18:1 92% N/A 6 38 Yes No
Athens State University View School Profile $ N/A 91.36 $39,700 16:1 N/A N/A 10 30 Yes Yes
Alabama State University View School Profile $$ 26% 91.09 $27,800 16:1 36% 53% 3 46 Yes Yes
University of West Alabama View School Profile $ 27% 90.98 $33,800 15:1 47% 72% 15 33 Yes No
Auburn University at Montgomery View School Profile $$ 20% 90.08 $34,800 15:1 41% 80% 6 46 Yes No
Alabama A & M University View School Profile $$ 32% 89.58 $31,400 20:1 49% 53% 1 63 Yes No
Stillman College View School Profile $$ 25% 87.48 $24,700 17:1 100% 59% 0 15 Yes No
Talladega College View School Profile $$ 25% 86.09 $25,600 20:1 57% N/A 0 20 Yes Yes
Miles College View School Profile $$ 15% 86 $27,200 17:1 22% N/A 0 25 Yes No

Search, Compare and Research Alabama Colleges

College is a major investment in one’s future, so prospective students should evaluate schools carefully. Colleges in Alabama offer a diverse field of options from which to choose. This search tool allows aspiring students to research Alabama colleges and universities using criteria like tuition, location, enrollment and degree level.

Alabama College Planning and Outreach Initiatives

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 84 percent of Alabamans had high school diplomas in 2010, yet only 23 percent had bachelor's or graduate degrees. The state is taking great strides to improve those numbers. Several colleges, non-profits and state organizations are helping fill the gap through dedicated outreach programs that enhance college readiness, affordability and more. Here are some of them.

Blueprints College Access Initiative

Blueprints College Access Initiative promotes college readiness among Alabama's low-income high school students. The organization uses a peer-mentoring system connecting high school students with current college students. It also offers in-classroom workshops, after-school tutoring and support, financial aid information, and relationships with college students and professors to create a "college-positive" culture.

Gear Up Alabama

The Black Belt region of Alabama is historically one of the poorest in the state with more than 25 percent of adults living below the poverty line. Higher education rates also tend to be low. Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, is a grant program that increases the number of college-ready low-income students. According to the organization, it services nearly 9,300 students in 52 schools across the region.

AAMU-ASU Transfer Scholarship Program

This scholarship program through Alabama A&M University in Huntsville and Alabama State University in Montgomery offers graduates of any public community or technical college the opportunity to complete a four-year degree for free. Each university can choose up to 500 awardees each year through 2018, its final year, when they choose up to 250 award winners.

Cost Analysis of Colleges in Alabama

For many people, the value of a degree program hinges on both its long- and short-term financial impact. One might consider which colleges in Alabama are most affordable, produce the highest-paid graduates or provide exceptional financial aid. The following rankings clear things up.

* Institutional aid represents grant and scholarship funds directly awarded by a postsecondary institution.

* Financial aid data represents 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Alabama's Most Affordable Colleges

College affordability depends on a great number of factors. Tuition, for instance, varies with one's course load, degree level and residency, while financial aid availability is another key element. Certain schools are particularly successful on the cost front. This list highlights the most affordable colleges in Alabama based on net price.

Alabama College Net Price vs. National Average

Average
Annual Net Price
ALABAMA $15,599
$18,073

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Alabama Colleges With Top Alumni Earnings

Students want to know that their degrees will hold value in tomorrow's job market. After all, many graduates have student loans to pay off, licensing exams to pay for or professional organization membership expenses. The following clarifies which Alabama colleges have the highest-paid alumni.

Alabama Alumni Salaries vs. National Average

Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After Entering College
ALABAMA $35,583
$42,759

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Colleges in Alabama That Produce the Least Student Debt

According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the average debt with which students graduated from Alabama colleges in 2015 was $29,425. This places the state in among the top 10 in the nation. Nonetheless, the same institute reported that 54 percent of students graduate with some debt. Graduates of the following institutions carry the lowest average educational debt in Alabama.

Alabama College Grad Debt Vs. National Average

Median Federal Student
Loan Debt After Graduation
ALABAMA $27,010
$23,145

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Cost of Living for Alabama College Students

Alabama already offers a lower-than-average cost of living, but those costs still vary by city or region. This reality can have a huge impact on students' budgets. Various factors contribute: one college town might offer the lowest living costs while another provides the lowest food costs. This table gives an in-depth view of these factors across the most populous cities in the state.

area composite index housing groceries utilities transportation health care misc.
Tuscaloosa 99% 75% 104% 107% 104% 82% 115%
Statewide Average 91% 75% 99% 101% 93% 86% 98%
Montgomery 93% 85% 98% 107% 91% 82% 95%
Mobile 92% 76% 102% 107% 96% 88% 95%
Huntsville 91% 71% 93% 100% 95% 96% 101%
Birmingham 91% 80% 99% 98% 91% 85% 95%

Source: The Council for Community and Economic Research

College Accreditation in Alabama

Accreditation certifies that institution meets established quality standards and best practices. Alabama colleges are regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCC). Some programs can also be nationally accredited within specific fields and disciplines. Examples of programmatic accreditation organizations:

Alabama College City Spotlight

Birmingham

According to the 2010 US Census, Birmingham is the biggest city in Alabama with more than 212,000 residents. The city has nine colleges and community colleges, and many post-doctoral schools in fields like dentistry, law and engineering. Here are some of its higher education institutions.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

BirminghamJefferson State Community College Public $8,799 $30,300
Established in 1965, JSCC serves fewer than 10,000 students across four campuses and has an average student age of 24 years. The community college is a leading producer of nursing degree graduates. It is also home to the Instructional Technology Academy, which focuses on professional development in technology-related fields.
BirminghamSamford University Private not-for-profit $24,093 $45,800
SU is one of Alabama's top private Christian schools. It was founded in 1841, and has 5,206 students. Students can choose from fields like arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, law, nursing, and public health. It has 30 undergraduate degree programs and a 93 percent placement rate (into jobs or graduate schools).
BirminghamUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham Public $14,805 $40,300
UAB is a fast-growing research institution and medical center. In 1936 it was initially opened as an extension of the University of Alabama, but as of the 2016 spring semester there were 10,839 undergraduates enrolled, and 17,189 students total. Students don't have to study medicine; the university offers degrees in everything from anthropology and musical theater to accounting and mechanical engineering.
Tuscaloosa

Tuscaloosa's 2010 population was 95,334 - the fifth largest in the state - and University of Alabama students account for nearly a third of it. This institution, along with others in the town, translates to a high college attainment rate.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

TuscaloosaShelton State Community College Public $8,587 $24,300
SSCC is a public institution that strives to support its students through its commitment to excellence. The school has a complete environment for its students, with athletics, clubs and numerous degree programs. Among the fields one can study are industrial technologies, culinary arts, or behavioral sciences.
TuscaloosaStillman College Private not-for-profit $17,473 $24,700
A private college, Stillman is committed to providing a strong liberal arts education to its students. The school offers a variety of programs that are designed to benefit a diverse population through quality academics at various levels. The school is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church and has fewer than 1,000 students. Across 11 disciplines, the school had a completion rate of 78.8 percent in the fall of 2014.
TuscaloosaThe University of Alabama Public $20,916 $42,400
By far the biggest university in Alabama, UA is also the oldest public institution. It had 37,100 students in fall of 2015. In addition to its diverse academic landscape, UA is also known for its stellar athletics. Teams in five different sports have secured 25 national championships. One can easily find Crimson Tide fans all over the country.

Source: College Scorecard

Resources for Prospective Alabama College Students

Aspiring students looking to go to college in Alabama have many online resources at their disposal. Continue your research at the following Alabama higher education websites.

Alabama Career Information Network

This resource explains Alabama college financial aid programs in detail, including who may apply, program descriptions and application procedures.

Alabama Commission on Higher Education

ACHE gives prospective students and their families information on grant and financial aid programs, and can be a resource for searching for state-wide initiatives and improvements on higher education in the state.

Alabama Communities of Excellence

ACE is a non-profit organization formed to help participating communities establish and prepare for a more vibrant future. Prospective participants must have a commitment to the ACE program and be able to support its ideals.

Alabama Community College System

Hub for all relevant information for Alabama's two-year community colleges. Info includes veterans' services, adult education and job opportunities.

Alabama State Department of Education

From kindergarten through post-secondary education, this site has information for students at all levels.

College Affordability and Transparency Center

This program, through the US Department of Education, can help students navigate the price of going to different colleges in Alabama.

Higher Education Partnership

This organization advocates for Alabama's 14 public universities and colleges and their students.

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

SACS is the primary accreditation agency for colleges in Alabama, and has information on its members.

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer