Best Colleges in Alabama

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Updated on July 6, 2023
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Whether you're just beginning your undergraduate studies or pursuing a graduate degree, Alabama is home to an assortment of public and private colleges -- including some of the country's top schools. From small Christian colleges to large state universities, Alabama offers plenty of higher education options. While finding the right school can be a challenge, this ranking highlights some of the top colleges in the state to help you begin your research.

The list below offers general information on some of the state's best colleges, including location, enrollment figures, and distance education options. Each description attempts to provide an overall sense of a school, including notable academic programs and any distinguishing factors.

Top 10 Colleges in Alabama

  1. The University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa, AL
  2. University of Alabama in Huntsville - Huntsville, AL
  3. Auburn University - Auburn, AL
  4. Athens State University - Athens, AL
  5. University of Montevallo - Montevallo, AL
  6. University of South Alabama - Mobile, AL
  7. University of Alabama at Birmingham - Birmingham, AL
  8. Jacksonville State University - Jacksonville, AL
  9. Samford University - Birmingham, AL
  10. University of North Alabama - Florence, AL

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Alabama boasts strong employment prospects for college graduates, with an unemployment rate of 2.8% as of October 2019 -- a figure that ranks below the national average. The overall cost of living in Alabama also ranks substantially below the national average, particularly with regard to the median cost of a home. Many highly profitable industries drive the state's economy, including those related to aerospace and aviation, chemical manufacturing, forestry, and agricultural production.

Best Colleges in Alabama

Best Colleges in Alabama

  1. The University of Alabama

    Tuscaloosa, AL



    One of the oldest public universities in the South, the University of Alabama also ranks as the largest college in the state, enrolling more than 38,000 students annually. Founded in 1820 in Tuscaloosa, the school boasts a national profile due to its research and academic programs, as well as its Crimson Tide football team -- one of the winningest teams in NCAA history. UA's sprawling 1,900-acre campus is home to more than a dozen schools and colleges, and the university offers nearly 200 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

    UA students can choose from a comprehensive selection of academic programs encompassing the liberal arts, STEM, business, healthcare, and most other academic and professional fields. Undergraduate offerings include diverse programs, such as media arts, environmental engineering, music therapy, and religious studies. UA's size and strong funding opportunities translate to a host of support services for students, including comprehensive tutoring, academic advising resources, and one of the largest college libraries in the state.

  2. University of Alabama in Huntsville

    Huntsville, AL



    The University of Alabama in Huntsville serves more than 9,000 students annually across nine distinct colleges. Students pursue a variety of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in fields such as the arts and humanities, business, education, engineering, and nursing. UAH offers an assortment of campus-based and distance programs. Given the nearby presence of the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command and the Marshall Space Flight Center, UAH holds a reputation for top science and engineering programs.

    UAH offers 89 bachelor's degrees, with undergraduate courses available in more than 100 areas of study. Students benefit from various educational and professional opportunities, including study abroad programs and comprehensive career services. Current students can connect with thousands of career opportunities through UAH's career services, including internships and co-op learning. Graduates can also take advantage of a substantial alumni network that encompasses the federal, private, and nonprofit sectors.

  3. Auburn University

    Auburn, AL



    With an enrollment of more than 23,000 students, Auburn University is the second-largest college in Alabama and one of the state's two flagship public colleges. Auburn offers academic programs through 12 schools and colleges, including agriculture, architecture and design, liberal arts, and veterinary medicine. Students can choose from diverse degree offerings, such as aerospace engineering, apparel merchandising, art history, applied discrete mathematics, and music.

    As a top Alabama college, Auburn hosts a sizeable distance education program that offers bachelor's and master's degrees. Students can complete online courses in most academic subjects, along with several fully or primarily online degrees, such as nursing, computer science, and business administration. Several of Auburn's professional colleges also offer online continuing education and certificate programs, including tracks in agriculture, education, and engineering, and pharmacy.

  4. Athens State University

    Athens, AL



    A public school based in northern Alabama, Athens State University enrolls around 3,500 students annually across on-campus and online programs. Students can pursue a variety of graduate and undergraduate degrees through three main colleges: arts and sciences, business, and education. Athens State offers several bachelor's programs and two graduate tracks (i.e., global logistics and supply chain management and religious studies) entirely online.

    Athens State is an upper-division college, meaning the school only offers the final two years of undergraduate study, along with many full-length graduate degrees. Undergraduate applicants must complete their first two years of courses at another institution (often a community college) before transferring to Athens State to complete their upper-division credits. Undergraduates must possess a minimum transfer GPA of 2.0 and at least 36 transferable credits, at least 15 of which must meet general education requirements.

  5. University of Montevallo

    Montevallo, AL



    The only public liberal arts college in Alabama, the University of Montevallo enrolls around 2,600 students annually on its main campus in the middle of the state. The school ranks among the top universities in Alabama and oversees many graduate programs, with degrees available in English, business administration, education, and speech language pathology. UM also offers around two dozen bachelor's degrees in subjects including environmental studies, exercise and nutrition science, communication, and political science.

    UM emphasizes the intersection of education and community activism, and most programs include experiential learning components such as internships or service-learning projects. For example, candidates in the school's education for the deaf and hard of hearing program often intern at deaf schools and other special education environments. Community involvement builds practical skills and professional connections that can serve students after graduation.

  6. University of South Alabama

    Mobile, AL



    A public college based in Mobile, the University of South Alabama serves around 15,000 students annually across 10 schools and colleges. Students can pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in fields such as business, education, engineering, and medicine, with on-campus and fully online programs available. The school's distance education offerings include bachelor's programs in nursing and interdisciplinary studies, along with graduate programs such as education media, sports management, and accounting.

    As a comprehensive public school, USA offers a variety of special learning opportunities for students, including an extensive study abroad program. Participants can explore more than 800 study abroad opportunities in over 60 countries worldwide, with faculty-led programs, exchange programs, and university partnership programs available. Study abroad students can visit countries such as Germany, South Korea, Peru, and Japan, gaining unique perspectives on culture and various academic subjects.

  7. University of Alabama at Birmingham

    Birmingham, AL



    One of the state's major public research schools, the University of Alabama at Birmingham enrolls more than 21,000 students annually, with academic programs in more than 120 areas of study. The college's size enables it to offer a comprehensive array of resources and support services for students, from academic advising to career counseling. Undergraduates also benefit from the opportunity to participate in research, service-learning activities, and other forms of community engagement.

    The college is also home to the UAB Health System -- one of the country's largest academic health science centers. Along with the UAB Hospital, the college hosts a vast assortment of medicine and healthcare programs offered at all academic levels and in most common disciplines. Undergraduates can pursue majors in the health professions, nursing, public health, and a pre-professional program in medicine. UAB also offers dual-degree programs that combine medicine with fields such as public health or business.

  8. Jacksonville State University

    Jacksonville, AL



    A public college based in northeastern Alabama, Jacksonville State University enrolls more than 8,500 students through campus-based and online courses. Known for its strong business programs, JSU also offers an assortment of degrees in fields such as economics, family and consumer sciences, library media, manufacturing systems technology, and physical education. The school also offers several fully online degrees in areas including education, business, and public administration.

    JSU maintains flexible undergraduate admission requirements that make the school accessible to most Alabama students. Applicants typically need to hold a minimum GPA of 2.0, though the school offers conditional acceptance options for students whose GPA falls below this requirement, including testing accommodations for applicants with documented learning disabilities. Students must also submit SAT or ACT scores, with a typical composite score of 20 required for the ACT and 1030 required for the SAT.

  9. Samford University

    Birmingham, AL



    Founded in 1841, Samford University ranks among the oldest colleges in Alabama and throughout the South. Today, the school enrolls about 5,600 students annually from its main campus in Homewood, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees across 10 colleges and schools. As a non-denominational Christian college, Samford encourages both academic and religious development through a variety of secular and non-secular educational programs, with on-campus and fully online options available.

    Samford offers a large selection of undergraduate majors, concentrations, and minor options, including programs in acting and directing, Christian education and missions, creative writing, global and cultural studies, and music and worship. Distance students can also select online options -- primarily available at the graduate level -- in fields such as business administration, design studies, environmental management, and gifted education. Distance programs may require some on-campus components, such as in-person orientation sessions.

  10. University of North Alabama

    Florence, AL



    Established in 1830 in Florence, the University of North Alabama is the state's oldest public university and one of the country's first coeducational institutions. UNA currently serves around 7,600 students through campus-based and online courses, with bachelor's and master's degrees available through five colleges and schools. Students can pursue programs in areas such as foreign languages, professional marketing, marine biology, public history, and political science. Many programs offer fully online enrollment that require no campus visits.

    Students at UNA benefit from extensive support services, including the University Success Center, which hosts college advising services and a variety of tutoring services. The school's Center for Writing Excellence and Mathematics Learning Center assist with writing and math assignments of all types and levels, with free drop-in tutoring available. UNA also offers general tutoring services for many academic subjects, including biology, economics, geography, history, and Spanish.

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