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
- The University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa, AL
- University of Alabama in Huntsville - Huntsville, AL
- Auburn University - Auburn, AL
- Athens State University - Athens, AL
- University of Montevallo - Montevallo, AL
- University of South Alabama - Mobile, AL
- University of Alabama at Birmingham - Birmingham, AL
- Jacksonville State University - Jacksonville, AL
- Samford University - Birmingham, AL
- University of North Alabama - Florence, AL
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.
2020 Best Colleges in Alabama
The University of Alabama
|Tuscaloosa, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 68%||
One of the oldest public universities in the South, the University of Alabama also ranks as the largest college in the state, enrolling more than 38,000 students annually. Founded in 1820 in Tuscaloosa, the school boasts a national profile due to its research and academic programs, as well as its Crimson Tide football team -- one of the winningest teams in NCAA history. UA's sprawling 1,900-acre campus is home to more than a dozen schools and colleges, and the university offers nearly 200 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
UA students can choose from a comprehensive selection of academic programs encompassing the liberal arts, STEM, business, healthcare, and most other academic and professional fields. Undergraduate offerings include diverse programs, such as media arts, environmental engineering, music therapy, and religious studies. UA's size and strong funding opportunities translate to a host of support services for students, including comprehensive tutoring, academic advising resources, and one of the largest college libraries in the state.
University of Alabama in Huntsville
|Huntsville, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
The University of Alabama in Huntsville serves more than 9,000 students annually across nine distinct colleges. Students pursue a variety of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in fields such as the arts and humanities, business, education, engineering, and nursing. UAH offers an assortment of campus-based and distance programs. Given the nearby presence of the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command and the Marshall Space Flight Center, UAH holds a reputation for top science and engineering programs.
UAH offers 89 bachelor's degrees, with undergraduate courses available in more than 100 areas of study. Students benefit from various educational and professional opportunities, including study abroad programs and comprehensive career services. Current students can connect with thousands of career opportunities through UAH's career services, including internships and co-op learning. Graduates can also take advantage of a substantial alumni network that encompasses the federal, private, and nonprofit sectors.
|Auburn, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 77%||
With an enrollment of more than 23,000 students, Auburn University is the second-largest college in Alabama and one of the state's two flagship public colleges. Auburn offers academic programs through 12 schools and colleges, including agriculture, architecture and design, liberal arts, and veterinary medicine. Students can choose from diverse degree offerings, such as aerospace engineering, apparel merchandising, art history, applied discrete mathematics, and music.
As a top Alabama college, Auburn hosts a sizeable distance education program that offers bachelor's and master's degrees. Students can complete online courses in most academic subjects, along with several fully or primarily online degrees, such as nursing, computer science, and business administration. Several of Auburn's professional colleges also offer online continuing education and certificate programs, including tracks in agriculture, education, and engineering, and pharmacy.
Athens State University
|Athens, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
A public school based in northern Alabama, Athens State University enrolls around 3,500 students annually across on-campus and online programs. Students can pursue a variety of graduate and undergraduate degrees through three main colleges: arts and sciences, business, and education. Athens State offers several bachelor's programs and two graduate tracks (i.e., global logistics and supply chain management and religious studies) entirely online.
Athens State is an upper-division college, meaning the school only offers the final two years of undergraduate study, along with many full-length graduate degrees. Undergraduate applicants must complete their first two years of courses at another institution (often a community college) before transferring to Athens State to complete their upper-division credits. Undergraduates must possess a minimum transfer GPA of 2.0 and at least 36 transferable credits, at least 15 of which must meet general education requirements.
University of Montevallo
|Montevallo, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
The only public liberal arts college in Alabama, the University of Montevallo enrolls around 2,600 students annually on its main campus in the middle of the state. The school ranks among the top universities in Alabama and oversees many graduate programs, with degrees available in English, business administration, education, and speech language pathology. UM also offers around two dozen bachelor's degrees in subjects including environmental studies, exercise and nutrition science, communication, and political science.
UM emphasizes the intersection of education and community activism, and most programs include experiential learning components such as internships or service-learning projects. For example, candidates in the school's education for the deaf and hard of hearing program often intern at deaf schools and other special education environments. Community involvement builds practical skills and professional connections that can serve students after graduation.
University of South Alabama
|Mobile, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 40%||
A public college based in Mobile, the University of South Alabama serves around 15,000 students annually across 10 schools and colleges. Students can pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in fields such as business, education, engineering, and medicine, with on-campus and fully online programs available. The school's distance education offerings include bachelor's programs in nursing and interdisciplinary studies, along with graduate programs such as education media, sports management, and accounting.
As a comprehensive public school, USA offers a variety of special learning opportunities for students, including an extensive study abroad program. Participants can explore more than 800 study abroad opportunities in over 60 countries worldwide, with faculty-led programs, exchange programs, and university partnership programs available. Study abroad students can visit countries such as Germany, South Korea, Peru, and Japan, gaining unique perspectives on culture and various academic subjects.
University of Alabama at Birmingham
|Birmingham, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
One of the state's major public research schools, the University of Alabama at Birmingham enrolls more than 21,000 students annually, with academic programs in more than 120 areas of study. The college's size enables it to offer a comprehensive array of resources and support services for students, from academic advising to career counseling. Undergraduates also benefit from the opportunity to participate in research, service-learning activities, and other forms of community engagement.
The college is also home to the UAB Health System -- one of the country's largest academic health science centers. Along with the UAB Hospital, the college hosts a vast assortment of medicine and healthcare programs offered at all academic levels and in most common disciplines. Undergraduates can pursue majors in the health professions, nursing, public health, and a pre-professional program in medicine. UAB also offers dual-degree programs that combine medicine with fields such as public health or business.
Jacksonville State University
|Jacksonville, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 37%||
A public college based in northeastern Alabama, Jacksonville State University enrolls more than 8,500 students through campus-based and online courses. Known for its strong business programs, JSU also offers an assortment of degrees in fields such as economics, family and consumer sciences, library media, manufacturing systems technology, and physical education. The school also offers several fully online degrees in areas including education, business, and public administration.
JSU maintains flexible undergraduate admission requirements that make the school accessible to most Alabama students. Applicants typically need to hold a minimum GPA of 2.0, though the school offers conditional acceptance options for students whose GPA falls below this requirement, including testing accommodations for applicants with documented learning disabilities. Students must also submit SAT or ACT scores, with a typical composite score of 20 required for the ACT and 1030 required for the SAT.
|Birmingham, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 76%||
Founded in 1841, Samford University ranks among the oldest colleges in Alabama and throughout the South. Today, the school enrolls about 5,600 students annually from its main campus in Homewood, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees across 10 colleges and schools. As a non-denominational Christian college, Samford encourages both academic and religious development through a variety of secular and non-secular educational programs, with on-campus and fully online options available.
Samford offers a large selection of undergraduate majors, concentrations, and minor options, including programs in acting and directing, Christian education and missions, creative writing, global and cultural studies, and music and worship. Distance students can also select online options -- primarily available at the graduate level -- in fields such as business administration, design studies, environmental management, and gifted education. Distance programs may require some on-campus components, such as in-person orientation sessions.
University of North Alabama
|Florence, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
Established in 1830 in Florence, the University of North Alabama is the state's oldest public university and one of the country's first coeducational institutions. UNA currently serves around 7,600 students through campus-based and online courses, with bachelor's and master's degrees available through five colleges and schools. Students can pursue programs in areas such as foreign languages, professional marketing, marine biology, public history, and political science. Many programs offer fully online enrollment that require no campus visits.
Students at UNA benefit from extensive support services, including the University Success Center, which hosts college advising services and a variety of tutoring services. The school's Center for Writing Excellence and Mathematics Learning Center assist with writing and math assignments of all types and levels, with free drop-in tutoring available. UNA also offers general tutoring services for many academic subjects, including biology, economics, geography, history, and Spanish.
Birmingham Southern College
|Birmingham, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 66%||
A private liberal arts college affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Birmingham-Southern College serves around 1,200 students annually. BSC enrolls only undergraduate students, offering five types of bachelor's degrees: arts, fine arts, music education, musical arts, and science. Degree candidates can choose from more than 50 majors and minors, including subjects such as applied computer science, Asian studies, environmental studies, musical theater, and sociology. BSC offers a selection of online courses but no fully online degrees.
BSC supports students through a variety of service-learning opportunities, primarily offered through the school's Krulak Institute for Leadership, Experiential Learning, and Civic Engagement. This institute connects students to internships, study abroad opportunities, community service, and leadership building programs. Students draw connections between academic study, professional practice, and community engagement. These programs encourage students to develop their sense of civics as well as a strong resume.
University of Mobile
|Mobile, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
A private, Baptist-affiliated college, the University of Mobile enrolls around 1,600 students annually across programs in the arts and sciences, healthcare, business, Christian studies, and education. Students can pursue academic and professional programs at all levels, including associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs. UMobile's degree offerings encompass subjects as diverse as criminology, music performance, kinesiology, marriage and family counseling, and Christian leadership.
UMobile emphasizes the intersection of education and professional practice through its "prac-academics" program, which gives students the opportunity to apply their learning to various field experiences. The program enables students to earn academic credit for various experiences related to their field of study. For example, music majors might tour with a performing ensemble, while education majors might teach at local schools. Students can work with the UMobile advisors to determine effective field placement activities.
Spring Hill College
|Mobile, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
A Jesuit-affiliated liberal arts college based in Mobile, Spring Hill College is the oldest institution of higher education in Alabama, with a history dating back to 1830. The school currently serves around 1,400 students annually and offers a wide selection of bachelor's programs and a smaller selection of graduate programs. SHC offers degrees in fields including natural sciences, humanities, business, and social sciences. Students can also choose from less common concentration options, such as actuarial math and marine biology.
SHC also hosts an international campus in Bologna, Italy, which offers students the chance to participate in study abroad opportunities that last anywhere from a few weeks to an entire school year. The study abroad program builds language skills, introduces students to international culture, and explores human rights and other key global issues. Students commonly travel across Europe and North Africa as part of their experience.
University of West Alabama
|Livingston, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 33%||
Based in Livingston, the University of West Alabama serves more than 5,000 students annually through campus-based and online courses. This public university oversees 90 different fields of study through five academic colleges: business and technology, education, liberal arts, natural sciences and mathematics, and nursing. Students can pursue associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees, including options such as public safety, library media, athletic training, conservation and field biology, and quantitative finance.
UWA's Student Support Services office provides a variety of resources specifically for first-generation, low-income, and disabled students. Designed to support students throughout their academic journey, the program offers interconnected services including one-on-one counseling, comprehensive academic advising, peer tutoring, study strategies development, and career counseling. The Student Support Services office also hosts workshops and information sessions that help students adjust to the college experience.
Other students at UWA receive individualized advising from dedicated academic advisors and faculty members.
|Troy, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
One of Alabama's major public schools, Troy University serves more than 18,000 students annually though four campus locations and a popular online branch. The college operates a main campus in Troy along with satellite locations in Dothan, Montgomery, and Phenix City. Students can choose from dozens of academic programs and professional certificates offered through five academic colleges: arts and sciences, communications and fine arts, education, health and human services, and business.
As a major provider of online education in Alabama, Troy offers more than 70 fully online degrees, including bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs. Distance education offerings encompass a variety of professional fields, such as global business management, teacher leadership, sport management, criminal justice, and nursing practice. Most programs use a primarily asynchronous format, which allows students to complete coursework at their convenience. However, some courses may include live video conferencing sessions.
|Huntsville, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
A historically black university that is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Oakwood University serves a small student body of about 1,800 learners. The school hosts bachelor's and master's programs grouped under five distinct schools and colleges: arts and sciences, business, education and social sciences, nursing and health professions, and religion. Students can choose from dozens of academic and professional programs, such as biology, English and foreign languages, business administration, elementary education, and pastoral studies.
Located in Huntsville, Oakwood University offers significant support to all students, including a four-year plan that emphasizes undergraduate success. First-year students develop a career map related to their professional aspirations before shadowing a professional in their field of interest during their second year at school. During their first and third years, students receive employment readiness training, preparing them for interviews and job searches. The school also holds regular career and job fairs for all academic disciplines.
Auburn University at Montgomery
|Montgomery, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 28%||
Part of the Auburn University System, Auburn University at Montgomery enrolls around 5,200 students annually across more than 90 fields of study at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. AUM's academic programs include business, liberal arts and social sciences, education, nursing and health sciences, and general sciences. The school also hosts several hybrid programs and 18 fully online degrees, including tracks in homeland security, instructional technology, nursing, and geographic information systems.
The school's Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching encourages student and faculty connections, while the Connected Reading program requires all incoming first-year students to read a selected book that reflects AUM values and encourages campus-wide conversations and a spirit of learning outside the classroom. AUM also encourages innovation and excellence in teaching through its Faculty Development Institute.
|Montgomery, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 18%||
A Christian school affiliated with the Churches of Christ, Amridge University serves around 700 students from its campus in Montgomery. Though small in enrollment size, the school offers a wide assortment of associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, including 35 fully online programs. Amridge maintains four academic colleges: business and leadership, general studies, education and human services, and theology. Some of the school's degree offerings include human development and family therapy.
Amridge students benefit from several helpful resources, including a dedicated Career Services Center and a laptop program. The school's Career Services Center assists with job connections, internships, resume building, and interview coaching to support students before and after graduation. Amridge's laptop program enables students to purchase a new laptop at a greatly reduced price, complete with the Microsoft Office software suite and a comprehensive three-year service agreement.
|Tuskegee, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
Based in Macon County, Tuskegee University ranks as one of the top historically black universities in the country and one of the top schools in the South. TU enrolls around 3,100 students annually and offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in fields including architecture, visual arts, aerospace science engineering, food and nutritional sciences, and supply chain management. TU also offers a wide selection of online courses and two fully online graduate degrees in environmental science and environmental management.
TU provides ample support for on-campus and online students, including academic advising, library resources, and tutoring services. Advisors assist students with enrollment, course selection, and finding additional school services. The school's libraries offer information resources and research support, with online assistance also available for distance students. Additionally, tutoring is available in most academic subjects -- including math, science, and writing -- through TU's Center of Academic Excellence and Innovative Learning.
|Montgomery, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 28%||
A Christian school affiliated with the Churches of Christ, Faulkner University serves around 3,500 students from its main campus in Montgomery, as well as at satellite campuses in Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile. The school offers a diverse selection of degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels, as well as academic, professional, and religious programs. Distance learners can also complete many programs entirely online, such as biblical studies, sports psychology, criminal justice, and counseling.
Faulkner University provides several dedicated support services for students, including counseling, student success services, and career services. Student success services help with degree planning and course counseling, and learners can use career services to find internships and get career planning aid, including resume reviews and interview training. The school's counseling center offers individualized, confidential counseling for physical and emotional wellbeing.
|Talladega, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Founded in 1867, Talladega College is one of the oldest historically black colleges in Alabama. Today, the school enrolls around 2,500 students annually and offers undergraduate programs through four academic divisions: business and administration, humanities and fine arts, natural sciences and mathematics, and social sciences and education. Talladega hosts one online graduate program: a master of computer information systems. This flexible, asynchronous degree takes about 18 months to earn.
Talladega also offers an accelerated bachelor's program in organizational management, which is designed for working adult students looking to quickly complete a degree. Using a combination of online and evening courses, this program explores general principles of organizational management applicable to many businesses, government organizations, and nonprofits. Program applicants must be at least 23 years old and possess at least 45 transferable college credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA.
|Montgomery, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 37%||
A Methodist institution based in Montgomery, Huntingdon College serves a student body of approximately 1,100 learners. The school's small size leads to individualized attention for students, with an average class size of just 17 pupils and a student-to-faculty ratio of 14-to-1. The school maintains a core curriculum rooted in the liberal arts and offers undergraduate degrees in a diverse array of subjects, including applied mathematics, athletic training, ministry and theology, music education, and veterinary medicine.
Huntingdon's educational philosophy extends beyond the classroom, and most students participate in experiential learning activities such as study abroad trips, internships, and service learning. Short-term travel/study trips typically occurring during a student's senior year, with most travel expenses covered by the school's general tuition rate. Past study abroad destinations have included Iceland, Scotland, Australia, Kenya, and China. Students can also participate in the Irish-American Scholars Program, which lasts between a semester and a year.
|Marion, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
A Baptist-affiliated women's college based in Marion, Judson College is one of the country's oldest higher education institutions for women, with a history that dates to 1838. This small school enrolls approximately 250 students annually and offers undergraduate programs in five major areas: humanities and fine arts, professional studies, sciences, social sciences, and pro-professional programs. Judson's pre-professional degrees prepare students for various career paths in fields such as dentistry, law, medicine, and veterinary practice.
Judson also offers several distance education programs, including business administration, English, music, psychology, and religious studies. Many courses use a self-paced format that enables students to complete assignments within a designated time period -- usually 2-4 months. These self-paced courses typically use a learning contract that determines the maximum length of study, though students have the option to complete courses faster. Other online courses follow a more traditional schedule with weekly assignments.
Alabama State University
|Montgomery, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 15%||
A historically black university based in Montgomery, Alabama State University serves around 5,400 students annually across more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs. The school's academic offerings encompass liberal arts, business, education, health sciences, science and mathematics, and visual and performance arts. The school also oversees a continuing education department that offers professional training and community classes. ASU hosts several online graduate programs, including library media and applied technology.
ASU offers a variety of study abroad opportunities for undergraduates, with options that last from a week to an entire school year. The school maintains partnerships with several colleges and universities throughout the U.S. territories, Canada, Europe, and Asia, including the University of North British Columbia, the University of Guam, and the University of Stirling in Scotland. ASU also offers an intensive, week-long business program in South Korea.
|Tuscaloosa, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 28%||
A historically black, Presbyterian-affiliated, liberal arts college based in Tuscaloosa, Stillman College serves around 650 students annually. The school offers bachelor's degrees through three academic divisions: arts and sciences, business, and education. Though small in terms of its enrollment, Stillman hosts academic and professional programs in many subjects, including psychology, supply chain management, elementary education, and visual arts. The college also offers a specialized certificate in theology, which students can earn in 5-12 months.
For working professionals interested in earning a degree but unable to commit to full-time on-campus courses, Stillman offers an accelerated management program, which uses a mixture of online and evening campus courses. Designed for adult students, this program requires applicants to possess at least 60 transferable college credits -- the equivalent of an associate degree -- with at least six credits in economics and three credits in marketing. Students who lack these prerequisites can complete Stillman's campus-based, pre-business administration program.