With dozens of universities, private institutions and community colleges, Mississippi offers a wide range of educational opportunities. From the 20,000+ enrolled at Mississippi State University to the 555 enrolled at Blue Mountain College, the state attracts students from across the country. Part of the draw may be its ranking as one of the least expensive states in the nation. While this is a plus, we realize many other factors also go into the school selection process. To aid in this decision-making, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Mississippi, including the top four-year and two-year schools.

We have included essential factors in our database creation, including acceptance, retention, graduation and enrollment rates. Keeping in mind today's students' growing concern over post-graduation debt, we have also included the metric of student loan default percentages. Using these critical elements in our algorithm, we provide you with the best of the best. The following is a showcase of the results: the top two-year and four-year colleges in Mississippi.

Best Colleges in Mississippi

Recent statistics revealed that less than half of the students enrolled at public colleges in Mississippi were attending four-year schools. Mississippi's postsecondary education system as a whole awards fewer bachelor's degrees than the national average. However, the University of Mississippi in Oxford, established in 1848, continues to draw students from around the globe. The state's other biggest four-year school, Mississippi State University, was ranked among the leading major research universities in the nation by the Carnegie Foundation.

These and other institutions continue to offer significant opportunities for four-year education in Mississippi. At the top of this list of opportunities is financial savings. Mississippi students pay less than the national average for four-year tuition and fees. Also top-ranking is medical career opportunities. Renowned as the site of the world's first heart and lung transplants, the University of Mississippi Medical Center is one of the largest employers in the state. With many options offering varied prospects, we have streamlined the decision-making process by offering the following list of the top four-year schools in Mississippi.

Best Community Colleges in Mississippi

Mississippi's two-year schools provide courses for a university track, technical skills, industry-specific education, general education and GED preparation. The state's fifteen community and junior colleges make up the Mississippi Community College Board. The Mississippi Community College Foundation was created to support these community colleges and their students. It provides grants, scholarships, special licensure and other helpful programs. A recent ranking of community colleges nationwide gave Mississippi top standings, with five of its schools slotted in the top 100 and two in the top 15. The state's two-year schools are also ranked as some of the more affordable. Students pay less than the national average for two-year tuition and fees. To help choose which of these opportunities is best for you, we offer the following list of the top two-year schools in Mississippi.

Living In Mississippi

If you're thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in Mississippi, continuing reading to learn more about living in the Magnolia State.

From its coastal beaches to its Civil Rights chronicles, this state overflows with natural and historical appeal. Mississippi is home to 3 million people, residing in mostly rural areas. The state includes many agricultural sectors, controlled mostly by industrial farms.

While often ranked low among the states in income and health, Mississippi also offers the nation's lowest cost of living. It has one of the lowest per capita income rates and comes in at eight percent below the national average for cost of living. The state is also known as the birthplace of blues music and holds the title of most religious state.

Popular destinations in Mississippi include the Natchez Trace Parkway, Vicksburg National Military Park and Cemetery and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The capital city of Jackson offers museums and the State Capitol, and is home to roughly half the schools in Mississippi. Packed with Civil Rights and Civil War history, the state offers a rich past for students to explore.

Mississippi's geography divides it into five distinct regions. Each offers its own unique attractions and culture. The following is an overview of these areas.

Regional Spotlight

Hills Region
  • Major Cities: Oxford, Tupelo, Corinth
  • Attractions: Birthplace of Elvis Presley, Home of William Faulkner, Shiloh National Military Park
  • Cost of Living: Tupelo
  • Popular Schools: University of Mississippi
Delta Region
  • Major Cities: Tunica, Yazoo City, Greenville
  • Attractions: Delta Blues Museum, Mississippi Blues Trail, Great River Road State Park
  • Cost of Living: Greenville
  • Popular Schools: Mississippi Valley State University, Delta State University, Mississippi Delta Community College
Pines Region
  • Major Cities: Columbus, West Point, Philadelphia, Meridian
  • Attractions: Natchez Trace Parkway, Home of Tennessee Williams
  • Cost of Living: Columbus
  • Popular Schools: University of Southern Mississippi, William Carey University
Capital/River Region
  • Major Cities: Jackson, Vicksburg, Natchez
  • Attractions: State Capitol, Vicksburg National Military Park
  • Cost of Living: Jackson
  • Popular Schools: Jackson State University, University of Mississippi Medical Center
Coastal Region
  • Major Cities: Gulfport, Pascagoula, Biloxi
  • Attractions: Beaches, Boating, Casino Row
  • Cost of Living: Gulfport
  • Popular Schools: University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Virginia College

Residency

In-state tuition rates can save students significantly. To qualify, students must establish residency in Mississippi. Specific requirements may vary by school, but the common denominator is to demonstrate intent to reside in Mississippi for more than schooling.

For Minors:

Mississippi determines the residency of a minor based on their guardian. The residence of a person under 21 years of age is awarded the residence of his or her father, mother or legal guardian. If only one parent has custody, it is that parent's residency status that is shared by the minor. If a parent is a member of the faculty or staff of any institution in Mississippi, he or she may be classified as a resident for attendance at the school where the parent is employed. Because specific guidelines may vary by school, be sure to research residency requirements for any school that is considered.

For Adults:

Mississippi defines residency as the place an adult resides with the intention of remaining there indefinitely, or has plans to return there permanently if temporarily absent. Typically, schools require a minimum of 12-month residency in the state prior to admission for in-state residency and tuition to be granted.
The state makes the following exceptions/rules for adult residency:

  • A married person may claim the residence status of his or her spouse.
  • Members of the United States Armed Forces stationed in Mississippi, as well as their spouses and children, may be classified as residents.

Additional Resources for Mississippi College Students

Financial Resources

Education Nonprofits

State Links and Resources

Rankings Archive

Best Colleges in Mississippi of 2017
Rank School Location
1 Mississippi College Clinton, MS
2 Millsaps College Jackson, MS
3 Mississippi State University Mississippi State, MS
4 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS
5 University of Mississippi University, MS
6 Blue Mountain College Blue Mountain, MS
7 Tougaloo College Tougaloo, MS
8 Mississippi Valley State University Itta Bena, MS
9 Mississippi University for Women Columbus, MS
10 Delta State University Cleveland, MS
Best Community Colleges
Rank School Location
1 Southwest Mississippi Community College Summit, MS
2 Pearl River Community College Poplarville, MS
3 East Mississippi Community College Scooba, MS
4 Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson, MS
5 Holmes Community College Goodman, MS
6 Meridian Community College Meridian, MS
7 East Central Community College Decatur, MS
8 Jones County Junior College Ellisville, MS
9 Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville, MS
10 Mississippi Delta Community College Moorhead, MS
11 Coahoma Community College Clarksdale, MS
12 Itawamba Community College Fulton, MS
13 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Perkinston, MS
14 Hinds Community College Raymond, MS
15 Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia, MS
Best Colleges in Mississippi of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Mississippi University for Women Columbus, MO
2 Millsaps College Jackson, MS
3 Mississippi Valley State University Itta Bena, MS
4 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS
5 Blue Mountain College Blue Mountain, MS
6 University of Mississippi University, MS
7 Mississippi State University Mississippi State, MS
8 Bellhaven University Jackson, MS
9 Mississippi College Clinton, MS
10 Jackson State University Jackson, MS
11 Delta State University Cleveland, MS
Best Community Colleges
Rank School Location
1 Coahoma Community College Clarksdale, MS
2 Pearl River Community College Poplarville, Ms
3 East Central Community College Decatur, MS
4 Southwest Mississippi Community College Summit, MS
5 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Perkinston, MS
6 Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia, MS
7 Mississippi Delta Community College Moorhead, MS
8 Southeastern Baptist College Laurel, MS
9 Jones County Junior College Ellisville, MS
10 Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson, MS
11 Itawamba Community College Fulton, MS
12 Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville, MS
13 Meridian Community College Meridian, MS
14 East Mississippi Community College Scooba, MS
15 Holmes Community College Goodman, MS
16 Hinds Community College Raymond, MS