The Top 15 Best Schools for Your Money in the South - Best Value Schools

The Top 15 Best Schools for Your Money in the South

Finding the right school for you can depend on many different factors. Price, location, available scholarships, teacher-to-student ratio, and retention rate are just a few categories that are taken into consideration when finding the best college. There are a number of different lists ranking the best colleges in the South, but we wanted to focus on one of the most important factors when making our list: affordability and value.

We’ve looked at regionally accredited public and private schools that have a total cost of attendance (minus the average financial aid) below the typical cost per one year of college. In addition to affordability, we’ve ranked these schools based on retention rates, teacher-to-student ratio, average ACT score, academic programs, 6-year graduation rates, and Forbes rankings.


15. University of Mary Washington – Net Price $15,074

Located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the University of Mary Washington (UMW) is right between Richmond and Washington, D.C. and offers students unique internship opportunities, research excursions, and recreational opportunities. UMW, a public college, also offers students three different colleges: arts and sciences, business, and education. 40 different majors and programs of study are available, making for a wide range of options for learning. With an average class size of 22 students and a 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio, UMW gives students a unique and personal school experience. This is especially evident in the 83% freshman retention rate and 74% of students that graduate within six years.

Net Price: $15,074 per year Number of Majors: 40 Class Size: 22 Student to Teacher Ratio: 15:1 Retention Rate: 83% 6 Year Graduation Rate: 74%


14. Asbury University – Net Price $19,418

A private university in Wilmore, Kentucky, Asbury University is Christian liberal arts school that offers 50 majors across 17 departments. Asbury University has a 81% freshman retention rate with 34% of incoming freshman being in the top 10% off their graduating high school classes. Asbury University also has a 65% six year graduation rate. The 1,325 students at Asbury University represent 44 different states and 18 different countries. Asbury University is dedicated to academic excellence and spiritual vitality, encouraging students to study, worship and serve together.

Net Price: $19,418 per year Number of Majors: 50 Retention Rate: 81%


13. University of Central Florida – Net Price $15,033

The large public university, University of Central Florida, is located in Orlando, Florida on a 1,415-acre main campus. University of Central Florida is known for being selective with incoming freshman, averaging a 3.9 GPA, and 1244 SAT score. With 210 degree programs within 13 different colleges, University of Central Florida offers students a wide variety of academics to study. The University of Central Florida was ranked as one of the nation’s “Most Innovative” universities in the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges 2016 guide rankings.

Net Price: $15,033 per year Number of Majors: 210


12. Converse College – Net Price $18,663

Located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Converse College is a private women’s school that focuses on voice, value, and vision. They believe in reaching and maximizing all students’ potential. More than 90% of students receive some form of financial aid or scholarships at Converse College. Converse offers more than 30 undergraduate majors in liberal arts and career-focused majors. They also have options for double and self-designed majors allowing students to pick and choose their own path. With a 1:12 teacher-to-student ratio each student gets personal attention and mentoring. Every Converse student gets the opportunity to participate in research, creative projects, service projects, internships and study travel.

Net Price: $18,663 per year Number of Majors: 30 Student to Teacher Ratio: 12:1


11. Texas A&M University – Net Price $11,323

Just outside of Houston, Austin, and Dallas, Texas A&M University stands in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M aims to set a standard as a world-class university by combining knowledge, research, and innovation. With more than 130 undergraduate degree programs, students at Texas A&M have many opportunities to learn and discover the major right for them. Texas A&M has many top-rated programs in Agriculture and Life Sciences, Architecture, Business, Engineering, and Education, and Human Development. Texas A&M also aims “to develop leaders of character dedicated to serving the greater good.” They believe all students and teachers should live by their six core values:  excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service.

Net Price: $11,323 per year Number of Majors: 130


10. Auburn University – Net Price $17,014

One of the largest universities in the South, Auburn University has had a long tradition of keeping education at the forefront. At Auburn students can choose from over 140 degrees and 300 different student organizations to learn and stay involved in the “Auburn Spirit.” Auburn is full of traditions and student involvement. Auburn has a freshman retention rate of 90% and focuses on a low teacher-to-student ratio.

Net Price: $17,014 per year Number of Majors: 140 Retention Rate: 90%


9. University of Tennessee – Net Price $16,062

Located in Knoxville, Tennessee, the University of Tennessee is known for being the first public university chartered west of the Appalachian Divide. At the University of Tennessee, incoming freshman have an average high school GPA of 3.89 and an average ACT score of 27. The University of Tennessee’s 21,893 undergraduate students represent 112 different countries and enjoy a 17:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Students have the opportunity to choose between 300+ degree programs and 170+ majors, concentrations, and specializations. With an 85% freshmen retention rate, it is obvious students love life at the University of Tennessee.

Net Price: $16,062 per year Number of Majors: 170+ Student to Teacher Ratio: 17:1 Retention Rate: 85%


8. Transylvania University – Net Price $21,092

Located in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, Transylvania University offers small class sizes that are arranged to promote discussion and collaboration. The average class size is 13 students and offers a 11:1 student-to-teacher ratio. This private liberal arts university offers students 38 different majors and 37 minors to choose from. They also have opportunities to study abroad, design their own major, or take preparation courses for careers in law, medicine, engineering, and accounting.

Net Price: $15,074 per year Number of Majors: 38 Class Size: 13 Student to Teacher Ratio: 11:1


7. St. Edward’s University – Net Price $21,895

St. Edward’s University has been awarded and ranked many different titles in the past few years: an “up-and-coming” university, a best college for veterans, a “champion of access and success,” a “best bang for the buck,” and has even scored highly on the National Survey of Student Engagement. St. Edward’s is a Catholic and liberal arts university that offers more than 60 majors. St. Edward’s goal is to develop a global world view and commitment to social justice within students. They combine curriculum with an internship, research, service, and a capstone project to give students a well-rounded education.

Net Price: $21,895 per year Number of Majors: 60+


6. Union University – Net Price $21,944

A rigorous Christian university, Union University has been rated by Kiplinger as one of the top 100 universities in the nation for both academic quality and affordability. Union University is the oldest institution affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and focuses on promoting excellence and character development in service to Church and society. Union has an impressive freshman retention rate of 92%, a 10:1 student-to-teacher ratio, and offers students over 100 different programs of study.

Net Price: $21,944 per year Number of Majors: 100 Student to Teacher Ratio: 10:1 Retention Rate: 92%


5. North Carolina State University – Net Price $12,129

North Carolina State was founded to create economic, societal, and intellectual prosperity for the people of North Carolina and the country as a whole. This university focuses on research and application-driven discovery. Students have a variety of programs to choose from: science, technology, engineering, math, design, the humanities and social sciences, textiles, and veterinary medicine. North Carolina State has a freshman retention rate of 92% and commits to engaging new students in their first year.

Net Price: $12,129 per year Retention Rate: 92%


4. University of Georgia – Net Price $12,862

The University of Georgia is known as a public university that is committed to serious inquiry. They live by the motto “to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things.” Located in Athens, Georgia, the University of Georgia has a graduation rate of 83% and offers students a variety of majors to study. The University of Georgia also offers students plenty of ways to get involved. They have nearly 650 student organizations and mix campus life with the life and culture of Athens.

Net Price: $12,862 per year 6 Year Graduation Rate: 83%


3. Duke University – Net Price $19,116

Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University is a prestigious university that averages freshman ACT scores above 30. Duke University is also loved by the 14,950 students with a 97% freshman retention rate and a six year graduation rate of 95%. Students also get quality instruction from teachers with a 8:1 student-to-teacher rate. Duke University offers students a wide variety of studies with schools for arts and sciences, law, divinity, medicine, nursing, engineering, business, public policy, and environment.

Net Price: $19,116 per year Student to Teacher Ratio: 8:1 Retention Rate: 97% 6 Year Graduation Rate: 95%


2. Virginia Tech – Net Price $19,096

Virginia tech is a technical institution in Blacksburg, Virginia. Ranked 38th in university research in the United States, Virginia Tech offers over 90 different bachelor’s degree programs in nine different colleges. Although large, Virginia Tech still offers students a 16:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Virginia Tech has been given many awards for academics and student life. Princeton Best College List ranked Virginia Tech 2nd in happiest students, 3rd in best campus food, and 4th in best quality of life and students that love their college.

Net Price: $19,096 per year Number of Majors: 90+ Student to Teacher Ratio: 16:1


1. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill – Net Price $11,994

As the nation’s first public university, University of North Carolina chapel Hill is known for innovative teaching, research, and public service. UNC-Chapel Hill offers 78 bachelor’s programs through 14 schools. UNC-Chapel Hill has a 97% freshman retention rate and a 90% six year graduation rate. Although a large university, UNC-Chapel Hill still has a rather small student-to-teacher ratio of 13:1 and 87% of classes have fewer than 50 students. UNC-Chapel Hill has often been recognized for its high standard of academics along with its affordability. It has been ranked 1st among the 100 best United States public colleges and universities that offer students high-quality academics at an affordable price according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine 15 times.

Net Price: $11,994 per year Number of Majors: 78 Class Size: ~50 Student to Teacher Ratio: 13:1 Retention Rate: 97% 6 Year Graduation Rate: 90%