2022 Top Public Colleges and Universities in Alabama

Public colleges and universities are often the most affordable option for students pursuing higher education, but it’s not just affordability that makes these institutions attractive. Public institutions also rank highly among the best colleges and universities in many states, Alabama included.

Public colleges and universities receive state and federal funding. Although they generally have larger class sizes than private institutions, they also tend to offer a wide variety of academic programs, diverse student bodies, and prestigious research opportunities.

2022 Best Public Colleges and Universities in Alabama

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

  1. #1

    University of Alabama at Birmingham

    Birmingham, AL

    Graduation Rate

    63%

    Enrollment

    22,080

    Format

    Online, In person

    From its campus in Birmingham, Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham awards degrees as a public institution. Instructors bring expertise in their fields. Students who complete an academic or technical program often enter the workforce right away. Learners spend an average of 488 per credit at the school. At the accredited school, learners qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. The institution reports that 95% of students receive aid, and 48% receive loans. The school reports a graduation rate of 63%. Applicants can expect admission rates of 74%. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements and start dates. University of Alabama at Birmingham is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  2. #2

    Auburn University

    Auburn, AL

    Graduation Rate

    79%

    Enrollment

    30,460

    Format

    Online, In person

    Located in Auburn, Alabama, Auburn University often ranks among the best schools. The institution offers multiple degree-granting programs. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help students meet their professional goals. Learners can earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in 1-2 years, or a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Some programs may no longer require standardized tests for admission. A test score waiver makes it easier to apply. The admissions department provides additional resources on applying to the school. Financial aid helps degree-seekers pay for their education. Auburn University has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. #3

    Athens State University

    Athens, AL

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    2,941

    Format

    Online, In person

    A top-ranked school, Athens State University enrolls learners in programs from its campus in Athens, AlabamaStudents study with experts in many different fields. With academic and technical tracks, the programs help learners reach a variety of career goals. Depending on the program, students can spend anywhere from a few months up to as many as seven years earning their degree or certificate. Applicants may qualify for a standardized test score waiver. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to apply. The admissions department provides additional resources on submitting an application. Degree-seekers also use financial aid to cover their educational costs. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  4. #4

    Jacksonville State University

    Jacksonville, AL

    Graduation Rate

    41%

    Enrollment

    9,021

    Format

    Online, In person

    Jacksonville State University, a public institution in Jacksonville, Alabama, enrolls learners in multiple programs. With both academic and technical programs, this school can help students reach their educational goals. The institution's bachelor's programs incorporate lower-division and upper-division requirements. Undergraduates also complete general education credits. In upper-division classes, degree-seekers learn advanced concepts in their major. Enrollees receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The amount students pay per credit on average is unknown. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Jacksonville State University has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  5. #5

    Troy University

    Troy, AL

    Graduation Rate

    47%

    Enrollment

    16,436

    Format

    Online, In person

    Located in Troy, Alabama, Troy University enrolls students as a public institution. The institution's faculty brings expertise in multiple fields. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or a bachelor's degree. The institution's average cost per credit is unknown. At the accredited institution, learners qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. At the institution, 92% of students receive aid and 63% receive loans. The school reports a graduation rate of 47%. The admission rate for prospective students is 88%. Prospective students can contact the admissions office for more information about applying. Troy University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  6. #6

    Northeast Alabama Community College

    Rainsville, AL

    Graduation Rate

    46%

    Enrollment

    2,981

    Format

    In person

    Northeast Alabama Community College, located in Rainsville, Alabama, offers 42 programs for degree-seekers. The institution's top-ranked programs offer students a challenging course of study. The school provides a student-to-faculty ratio of 18-to-1. The institution reports that approximately 93% of enrollees receive financial aid. The public school reports a graduation rate of 46%. Students should explore how workplace experience makes them more competitive employee candidates. The admission rate is unknown at this time. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements.

  7. #7

    University of West Alabama

    Livingston, AL

    Graduation Rate

    35%

    Enrollment

    5,653

    Format

    Online, In person

    University of West Alabama, located in Livingston, Alabama, often ranks as one of the best colleges. The college offers multiple degree-granting programs. With academic and technical tracks, the programs help learners reach a variety of career goals. At the school, students typically complete an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in 1-2 years, or a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. Test-optional policies make it easier to apply. Admission advisors can provide more information on the application process. Learners also use financial aid to pay for their college degree. University of West Alabama holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  8. #8

    J F Ingram State Technical College

    Deatsville, AL

    Graduation Rate

    30%

    Enrollment

    485

    Format

    In person

    From its Deatsville, Alabama campus, J F Ingram State Technical College enrolls learners in 37 programs. The institution's programs offer a rigorous course of study. According to the institution, the student-to-faculty ratio stands at 8-to-1. A total of 100% of students receive some form of financial aid. The school reports a 30% graduation rate. Experiential learning opportunities help graduates on the job market. We do not currently have data on the school's admission rate. Some programs operate with a test-optional policy for admissions. Prospective students can contact an admission advisor to learn more about applying.

  9. #9

    University of Alabama System Office

    Tuscaloosa, AL

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    Not Provided

    Format

    Not Provided

    The institution's many rigorous academic programs rank among the best in the nation. The student-to-instructor ratio is currently unavailable. The average amount of aid awarded per student is not available. There is no available data on how many students graduate. The institution understands that hands-on experience makes graduates more competitive in the job market. We do not currently have data on the school's admission rate. Some programs operate with a test-optional policy for admissions. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements.

  10. #10

    Strayer University - Montgomery Campus

    Montgomery, AL

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    Not Provided

    Format

    Not Provided

    Strayer University - Montgomery Campus, located in Montgomery, Alabama, enrolls students as a public institution. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps learners reach their professional goals. Students strengthen their knowledge of the field by completing coursework. Applicants may qualify for a standardized test score waiver. This makes it easier to enroll. Learners benefit from support services, which include tutoring and career counseling. The school's cost per credit is unknown. Learners at the accredited school can pay for their educational costs with federal student aid programs. The institution's accreditation is unavailable.

Why Choose a Public College or University in Alabama?

Choosing a college is one of the most critical decisions in a person’s life. In Alabama, there are many top public and private colleges and universities to choose from.

A public college or university education provides many benefits, including an enriching campus experience with many activities and cocurricular programs from which to choose. Public colleges and universities typically charge less tuition than private schools, making public education a more accessible and affordable option for many students.

However, some students might not thrive at a public college or university. Some learners need or want more attention and personalized advising from instructors, which they can more easily access at a private school with smaller class sizes.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), students in Alabama can choose between 19 public four-year colleges and universities. The state of Alabama also belongs to the Academic Common Market and has a regional reciprocity agreement with other Southern states, which offer comparable tuition rates. According to a 2022 National Student Clearinghouse Research Center survey, over 60% of Alabama college students in the fall 2015 cohort completed their degrees within six years.

Pros and Cons of Attending a Public College or University in Alabama

Pros

Students at public colleges and universities in Alabama tend to pay less tuition than private school attendees.Public schools typically offer more degree programs and majors.Students usually gain more access to research facilities and opportunities.Public colleges and universities typically offer more cocurricular activities and programs, contributing to more enriched higher education experiences.

Cons

Students do not get as much access to scholarships and federal grants as private school learners.Larger class sizes can mean getting less attention from instructors and student services staff.Students who do not thrive in independent learning environments might prefer private college settings.Private institutions often enroll more diverse students, including individuals from other countries.

Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Colleges and Universities in Alabama

All public colleges and universities are nonprofit institutions. Private institutions may be nonprofit or for-profit. Nonprofit schools obtain their funding from tuition, state and federal governments, endowments, and donations. They primarily serve to educate the public, with boards of trustees and education administrators typically undertaking their management.

In contrast, private for-profit schools exist to make money for their shareholders and investors. They receive their funding primarily from tuition and fees. Graduates of these schools generally experience lower employment rates than students from nonprofit institutions.

These schools also do not typically hold accreditation, creating challenges for students who want to transfer credit hours to other institutions. According to NCES, 21 private, for-profit schools exist in the state of Alabama.

How Much Does It Cost to Attend a Public College or University in Alabama?

According to NCES, in-state students at public four-year institutions in Alabama paid an average of about $10,320 in tuition and fees during the 2019-2020 academic year. Out-of-state tuition at the same schools averaged roughly $26,520 during the same year. NCES also reports that room averaged $5,700 and board, $4,470.

According to NCES, in 2021-2022, in-state students paid about $26,420 for tuition, fees, room, and board at Auburn University, one of Alabama’s most expensive public institutions. In contrast, one of the least costly schools for in-state students the same year was Auburn University at Montgomery, which charged $16,230 for tuition, room, and board.

Although public school students typically save money on tuition, they still need to consider other college-related expenses, such as student services, on-campus healthcare, technology, books, and supplies.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Public Colleges and Universities in Alabama

How many public colleges and universities are there in Alabama?

The state of Alabama hosts 19 public four-year colleges and universities, which enrolled over 170,000 students during the 2020-2021 academic year, according to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

According to NCES, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa is one of the biggest schools in the state, with an undergraduate student body of more than 31,000. This school ranks highly in the nation among other public institutions, along with Auburn University, Jacksonville State University, and Troy University.

What is the most expensive public college or university in Alabama?

Auburn University is one of the most expensive schools in Alabama. In-state students pay over $26,000 each year in tuition, room, and board. Although public higher education typically costs less than private institutions, it is often still a significant investment.

College has become increasingly expensive in the last several decades. Rising tuition, growing administrative costs, and state and federal funding decreases have contributed to theseincreased costs.

What is the least expensive public college or university in Alabama?

Auburn University at Montgomery is one of the least expensive public universities in Alabama, costing a total of $16,228 each year in tuition, room, and board.

Because they receive federal and state funds, endowments, and private donations, several public four-year colleges can offer many students an affordable education. Individuals can apply for scholarships, financial aid, and other programs to defray the cost of higher education.

What is the biggest public college or university in Alabama?

Among the big public schools in the state, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa boasts the largest enrollment, with more than 31,000 full-time undergraduate students.

This school was founded in 1831 as Alabama’s flagship university. As the oldest public four-year institution in the state, the University of Alabama consists of 12 colleges and schools and offers more than 70 undergraduate programs.

Is a public college or university right for me?

A publiccollege or university education can be an affordable and viable option for many students, especially individuals who cannot afford to go to a private institution. In addition to lower tuition and other costs, public schools tend to offer more majors and degree programs, which might suit students who are unsure about their academic and career goals.

Also, many of the best public schools in Alabama provide ample cocurricular activities and groups that students can join to enhance their college experiences.