Sorting through the best colleges in the South is not easy. The southern portion of the country is chock full of colleges and universities that will prepare you for a rewarding career and ultimately help you fulfill your potential. However, some southern colleges are egregiously expensive while others are comparably affordable.
There is no sense racking up tens of thousands of dollars or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans for a college degree when you can obtain a top-notch education without going deep into debt. However, you are likely wondering which southern colleges are affordably priced. Furthermore, most prospective colleges students are hesitant to attend a university simply because it is within their family’s budget. The challenge is finding the perfect mix of affordability and educational quality.
Our college experts have identified the best affordable post-secondary educational institutions throughout the south. Attend any of the colleges listed below and you will get fantastic value for the money you spend on your post-secondary education. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the best colleges in the south that most families can afford.
The Best Colleges in the South That You Can Afford
1. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Revered throughout the country for its cutting-edge research, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the best colleges in the south. Just as important is the fact that this University is affordable – as long as you are a North Carolina resident, that is.
UN Chapel Hill offers 77 undergraduate programs and more than 175 graduate programs/degrees through its College of Arts and Sciences and professional schools. UNC Chapel Hill offers both traditional offline programs and online programs, providing truly flexible learning. The school’s academic advising program that assists undergrads through their learning and career paths is particularly helpful. Each UNC Chapel Hill student is provided with comprehensive access to the school’s Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling, known as CSSAC. This Center makes it easier for students to meet their potential and make headway toward rewarding careers.
- Enrollment: 30,151
- In-State Tuition: $9,021
- Out-of-State Tuition: $36,200
- Graduation Rate: 91.1%
Georgia Institute of Technology
Often abbreviated to Georgia Tech, the Georgia Institute of Technology, is positioned in the Midtown area of the economic hotbed that is Atlanta. Attend Georgia Tech and you will be able to choose from 130 majors. The school’s mechanical engineering and computer engineering courses of study are particularly popular. Georgia Tech is consistently ranked in the top tier of the best colleges in the south and the country as a whole. This university is surprisingly affordable for in-state students who pay about one-third of the tuition charged to out-of-state students. Approximately 25,000 undergrad students study at Georgia Tech.
- Enrollment: 36,127
- In-State Tuition: $12,682
- Out-of-State Tuition: $33,794
- Graduation Rate: 86%
2. New College of Florida
The New College of Florida is a public college. In fact, Florida’s legislature considers the New College of Florida as its official liberal arts honors college based on criteria established by the state legislature. If you have a high grade point average (GPA), New College will consider your application. However, prospective students should know the average New College incoming freshman has a 4.0 GPA.
New College is favored far and wide for reasons beyond its affordability. New College has an average class size of merely 17 students. There is one faculty member for every 10 students. This is a comparably small school that most families can afford and ultimately find worthy of every penny. Though New College provides a MS in Data Science, the majority of its students are focused on undergraduate studies.
Rather than adhering to traditional course listings, students at this affordable southern college work with advisors to build “contracts” that include upwards of five academic activities such as independent studies, internships and traditional courses. Once the contract is fulfilled, the student graduates. It is also interesting to note all New College students complete a senior thesis, a project that is typically spearheaded by graduate students.
In short, New College provides admirable irreverence for academic convention at an affordable price. All in all, 80% of New College graduates transition to graduate schools within half a dozen years of graduation.
- Enrollment: 702
- In-State Tuition: $6,916
- Out-of-State Tuition: $29,944
- Graduation Rate: 63%
3. The University of Texas at Austin
As one of the largest universities in the south, UT Austin is steadily climbing up the rankings. As long as you are an in-state student (meaning a resident of Texas), UT Austin will prove affordable. The college serves more than 50,000 students. More than 3,000 faculty members are employed at UT Austin.
Aside from the affordable tuition, the best part about learning at UT Austin is its network. Located in the thriving metropolis of Austin, this southern university is perfectly positioned for graduate success. UT alumni remain strongly connected long after graduation.
This premier public university provides students with more than 150 undergraduate study programs and nearly 140 graduate programs. In excess of 1,300 student organizations are available at this surprisingly affordable university.
- Enrollment: 51,090
- In-State Tuition: $11,106
- Out-of-State Tuition: $39,322
- Graduation Rate: 80.8%
4. The University of Georgia
The University of Georgia was the country’s first-ever public university. Known for its vaccine research, this Athens, Georgia-based institution is comprised of 17 colleges and schools. Nearly 40,000 students are enrolled across the university’s five campuses. Furthermore, the university hosts campuses in other nations ranging from Italy to England and Costa Rica.
UGA provides more than two dozen bachelor’s degrees spanning 143 fields. The university offers 34 graduate degrees. It is interesting to note UGA develops more products than any other United States-based university. Though UGA tuition is affordable, the university spends upwards of $455 million on research each year.
- Enrollment: 29,848
- In-State Tuition: $12,080
- Out-of-State Tuition: $31,120
- Graduation Rate: 84%
5. Clemson University
This land-grant research university dates all the way back to 1889. Clemson is the second largest university in terms of students in the entire state. This selective university has a beautiful campus, world-class research facilities and top-notch athletic programs. Visit Clemon’s campus in the eye-popping Blue Ridge Mountains for yourself and you will agree it is worth the comparably affordable tuition.
All in all, nearly 19,000 undergraduate students and nearly 5,000 graduate students attend Clemson. The university offers 80+ majors and minors. Clemson graduate students can choose from 110 graduate programs throughout the university’s seven colleges.
- Enrollment: 25,822
- In-State Tuition: $15,120
- Out-of-State Tuition: $38,112
- Graduation Rate: 81%
6. Florida International University
As Miami’s first and sole public research university, FIU provides undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees. Both offline and online degrees are offered. FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and School of Computing and Information Sciences are making significant headway in enforcing elevated research standards.
More than 58,000 students study at FIU. All in all, the university has more than 200,000 alumni, many of whom remained in-state following graduation. Become a part of this diverse student body, take your pick from more than 200 programs along with numerous online degrees and you will agree FIU is worth the cost of tuition. The school also provides 50 specialist and certificate programs. In terms of graduate degrees, FIU provides 106 master’s degrees and 30+ doctoral programs.
- Enrollment: 58,827
- In-State Tuition: $6,566
- Out-of-State Tuition: $18,964
- Graduation Rate: 72.3%
7. Berea College
Featuring a number of high-quality academic programs, Berea College is often ranked quite high amongst the best colleges in the south. The icing on the cake is Berea College’s affordability. Prospective students are shocked to learn the college does not charge tuition but for a nominal fee. Rather, students hailing from families with minimal financial resources who demonstrate elite academic ability are admitted.
This inclusive Christian college provides 50+ programs of study and 80 student organizations. If you would like to serve your community while learning, you will have no shortage of opportunities at Berea college.
- Enrollment: 1,688
- In-State Tuition: $692
- Out-of-State Tuition: $692
- Graduation Rate: 63.1%
8. The University of Arizona South
The University of Arizona South, also known as the College of Applied Science & Technology or CAST for short, is quickly gaining a reputation as a high-quality, affordable post-secondary academic institution. This college awards applied science degrees. Furthermore, adults looking for continuing education programs suited for workforce needs will find them at CAST. This affordable institution of higher learning has partnered with numerous community colleges to provide low-cost undergraduate degrees.
Examples of CAST’s applied science majors include:
- Early Childhood Education
- Government and Public Service
- Administration of Justice
- Human Services
- Organizational Leadership
- Regional Commerce
The college’s Organizational Leadership program is particularly popular as it arms students with the foundational training and leadership skills necessary to prove successful in the world of business. The school’s human services program provides students with the opportunity to complete an internship along with a capstone experience to obtain experience in the workplace. Each CAST applied science program is comprised of core courses that enhance students’ critical thinking, analytical and writing skills.
- Enrollment: 394
- In-State Tuition: $12,691
- Out-of-State Tuition: $36,718
- Graduation Rate: 60%
9. Missouri University of Science and Technology
Founded way back in 1870, the Missouri University of Science and Technology or Missouri S&T for short, was one of the first-ever tech-oriented colleges west of the Mississippi. As a trailblazer in technological research, Missouri S&T serves around 10,000 total students, providing 99 academic programs.
Check out this 40-acre campus for yourself and you will agree it is conducive to learning. Here, you can study computer science, engineering, business or liberal arts. The university has in excess of 250 student organizations. Perhaps most important is the fact that nearly 90% of Missouri S&T’s first-year full-time undergrad students receive financial aid either through a grant or scholarship. In-state students pay less than half the tuition of out-of-state students.
- Enrollment: 8,096
- In-State Tuition: $10,876
- Out-of-State Tuition: $30,259
- Graduation Rate: 64%
10. Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma State University’s main campus is widely revered as one of the best learning centers in the entire country. The school first served as an agriculture and mechanical college. Nowadays, the university is classified as a research institution. OSU students work one-on-one with advisors to choose elective courses that benefit their unique career path.
OSU has several unique tuition models to facilitate affordable higher education. Tuition lock rates are available to first-time college students, ensuring they have a set tuition cost that holds steady until they graduate. OSU’s block rate tuition charges the same figure for those who take on 12 to 18 credit hours each semester. In fact, the school even provides an achievement scholarship for those from out of state that provides upwards of $13,000 per year.
- Enrollment: 24,041
- In-State Tuition: $9,019
- Out-of-State Tuition: $24,539
- Graduation Rate: 62.9%
11. Murray State University
Murray State University is ranked as one of the top regional universities in the country. Serving more than 10,500 students, this university is approaching its 100th anniversary. A large part of the university’s appeal is its small class size. More than 400 instructors teach students incomparably small learning environments where youngsters study everything from civil engineering to communications, social work and counseling.
Murray State has a total of five colleges spanning is beautiful 236-acre campus. The school’s unique tuition structure is particularly intriguing. Rather than setting a tuition rate specific to residents and non-residents, Murray State provides discounted tuition rates for students hailing from neighboring states.
- Enrollment: 9,569
- In-State Tuition: $9,168
- Out-of-State Tuition: $13,920
- Graduation Rate: 48%
12. Middle Tennessee State University
Middle Tennessee State University has been in existence for longer than a century. Based in Murfreesboro, TMSU provides students with more than 300 academic programs to choose from. Both undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered at this affordable post-secondary academic institution. All in all, the MTSU campus spans more than 1,000 acres. The primary campus occupies more than 500 acres. It is hard to believe this university once consisted of a mere 125 students and 19 faculty members. In fact, MTSU is the site of Tennessee’s first-ever Honors College launched in 1989.
MTSU is an official Carnegie Research Doctoral University, launching the careers of some of the state’s most promising graduates. Of particular importance is the fact that many of the state’s low-income students attend MTSU. This is one of the more military-friendly post-secondary learning institutions in the country, service as the home to the state’s first-ever VetSuccess campus program.
Attend MTSU and you will be able to choose between the Jennings A. Jones College of Business, the College of Media and Entertainment, the University Honors College, the College of Behavior and Health Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts.
- Enrollment: 21,721
- In-State Tuition: $9,424
- Out-of-State Tuition: $29,083
- Graduation Rate: 42%
13. Winthrop University
Winthrop’s original purpose was to prepare women for teaching careers. The university has since blossomed into a prestigious academic institution providing 70 undergraduate and graduate programs to both sexes. The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education has officially recognized Winthrop as one of the state’s leading universities.
If you participate in the National Achievement Scholarship and name Winthrop as your top choice, you will be provided with a tuition award in excess of $24,000. Furthermore, upwards of $6,000 or more per year is provided through the Winthrop Gold Scholar program. Add in the fact that Winthrop provides cheap out-of-state tuition and you have all the more reason to move this university toward the top of your list.
- Enrollment: 5,865
- In-State Tuition: $15,386
- Out-of-State Tuition: $30,166
- Graduation Rate: 57.5%
14. Mississippi College
This college is the country’s second oldest Baptist university. All in all, Mississippi College provides 80 fields of study including numerous graduate degrees. Furthermore, the college provides degree programs specifically created with working adults in mind. Attend Mississippi College and join one of its unique tribes/clubs and you will be a part of a service group that expands you network, improves the surrounding community and helps you find your purpose.
- Enrollment: 5,059
- In-State Tuition: $18,610
- Out-of-State Tuition: $18,610
- Graduation Rate: 58.5%
15. The University of Houston (Downtown)
This 4-year state college is one of four within the University of Houston system. The University of Houston downtown campus stretches across 40 acres throughout downtown Houston. The university also has a satellite location in the northwestern part of Harris County. It is interesting to note the university is the result of the University of Houston’s Board of Regents acquiring South Texas Junior College assets to create a downtown educational center back in the early 1970s. The school’s mid-career pay is an impressive $90,900.
- Enrollment: 14,640
- In-State Tuition: $8,664
- Out-of-State Tuition: $21,024
- Graduation Rate: 44.4%
16. Austin Peay State University
Austin Peay is a 4-year public university in lovely Clarksville, TN. The university was named after the state’s governor who governed nearly one century ago. About 10% of Austin Peay graduates earn STEM degrees. The school has a 67% retention rate.
- Enrollment: 11,048
- In-State Tuition: $8,627
- Out-of-State Tuition: $14,171
- Graduation Rate: 38.8%
17. Alcorn State University
Located in rural Claiborne County, this Mississippi university is quite charming. The school is named after former Mississippi governor James L. Alcorn. The university’s mid-career pay is nearly $70,000. Furthermore, just under 20% of Alcorn State University graduates earn STEM degrees.
- Enrollment: 3,523
- In-State Tuition: $7,320
- Out-of-State Tuition: $7,320
- Graduation Rate: 30.8%
18. Palm Beach State College
This public college originally launched as the first public community college in the state of Florida way back in 1933. Palm Beach State College is one of the country’s leading post-secondary institutions for associate degrees. However, Palm Beach State also offers bachelor’s degrees. Students from more than 160 nations comprise Palm Beach State College’s 48,000+ student body.
- Enrollment: 46,870
- In-State Tuition: $2,444
- Out-of-State Tuition: $2,444
- Graduation Rate: 24.6%
19. Broward College
Situated in lovely Fort Lauderdale, Broward College is a key component of the Florida College System. Founded more than 60 years ago, this college has grown from a learning institution with 701 students and a 28 member faculty into one that serves 67,000 students.
- Enrollment: 67,000
- In-State Tuition: $3,537
- Out-of-State Tuition: $10,779
- Graduation Rate: 27.4%
20. The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith
This 4-year public research university is one of 14 campuses that comprise the University of Arkansas system. In-state tuition is quite affordable though those hailing form states outside of Arkansas will pay double the rate of Arkansas residents.
- Enrollment: 6,229
- In-State Tuition: $5,754
- Out-of-State Tuition: $13,026
- Graduation Rate: 27.1%
21. Louisiana State University (Alexandria)
Founded more than 60 years algo, this public learning institution provides undergraduate degrees across a wide array of disciplines. In fact, LSU’s Alexandria campus is the sole public university in all of Central Louisiana.
- In-State Tuition: $6,669
- Out-of-State Tuition: $14,024
- Graduation Rate: 23.2%
22. Kentucky State University
This historically black college was founded way back in 1886. The school became a land grand post-secondary academic institution four years later. In fact, KSU was the second university to be state-supported in all of Kentucky. Nearly 15% of all KSU graduates earn a STEM degree. The university’s mid-career pay is slightly more than $68,000.
- Enrollment: 2,171
- In-State Tuition: $9,190
- Out-of-State Tuition: $13,040
- Graduation Rate: 18.7%
23. Lee University
Lee University is consistently ranked as one of the top post-secondary academic institutions in the Southeast. The school emphasizes spiritual growth while students pursue their academic interests. The school has nearly 20 sports teams, an abundance of quirky clubs and countless nearby sites for camping/hiking.
- Enrollment: 5,189
- In-State Tuition: $19,540
- Out-of-State Tuition: $19,540
- Graduation Rate: 49.6%
24. Oklahoma State University (Oklahoma City)
Originally founded in 1961 as Oklahoma State University Technical Institute, this public institute is revered as a key component of the Oklahoma State University system. The Oklahoma State University–Oklahoma City mid-career pay rate is $63,600. Its early career pay is just under $39,000.
- In-State Tuition: $5,034
- Out-of-State Tuition: $10,872
- Graduation Rate: 12.7%
Our rankings of the best colleges in the south are largely based on affordability. College tuition has spiraled out of control at many of the country’s top post-secondary academic institutions, making the prospect of attending college quite daunting for families lacking the financial means to do so. This is precisely why we have squared our focus on affordable southern colleges and universities. Aside from affordability, we also factor in graduation rate, acceptance rate, programs offered and additional information when developing our rankings.
To determine the rankings of the best affordable colleges in the south, we studied and evaluated the factors listed above, letting each comprise equal portions of the college’s score. However, above all, tuition matters the most. Affordable colleges with a solid reputation and an acceptable graduation rate are worthy of a higher rating simply because they make it easier for students lacking financial means to obtain a college degree and fulfill their true potential.
If you are launching your college search or have a general idea of what your major might be, any of the colleges and universities listed above would serve as a solid starting point. Each of these post-secondary academic institutions is respected and provides the opportunity to study without zapping your family’s savings.
We understand pinpointing the perfect school for your idiosyncratic needs is inherently challenging. This is precisely why we have worked so hard to create a list of affordable schools that will help you develop your potential and maximize your career earnings. If you would like more information about our ranking process or if you are looking for information about colleges and universities with specific characteristics in mind, reach out to us today or take a look at our methodology page.
If you work for a school that is not on our list and feel as though your academic institution is deserving of consideration for the next update, contact us. We are constantly searching for the country’s top colleges and universities to provide aspiring college graduates with the information they need to make a well-informed decision.