In Alabama, dozens of private and public institutions offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in addition to vocational training. As for online Alabama degrees, students will find distance education programs are available at almost all the state's big-name colleges and universities.
The public higher education system includes community colleges and technical schools for those who need vocational training or want to earn an associate degree. Graduates from those programs may go immediately into the workforce or transfer their credits toward a bachelor's degree at an Alabama college or university. The 2-to-4 Transfer Program and STARS system are two ways students can seamlessly move between public two-year and four-year institutions.
Among four-year colleges and universities, The University of Alabama System is most prominent. It includes three separate universities as well as a health system and enrolls more than 65,500 students annually. Other universities may stand alone or have a flagship campus with satellite locations.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Alabama
The flagship campus of The University of Alabama System is located in Tuscaloosa. It has a reputation for excellence and attracts top tier applicants from across the country. Its 2017 freshman class included 134 National Merit Finalists, and they joined dozens of Fulbright, Goldwater, Truman and Rhodes Scholars already on campus.
UA opened its doors in 1831 and is the oldest public university in the state. The university includes 13 colleges and schools including a School of Law, School of Social Work and Honors College.
On campus, students can participate in more than 500 organizations and clubs. However, those interested in online courses will find them at The University of Alabama as well. The school has several online degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
As one of the most recognizable names in higher education in the South, Auburn University is built on a tradition of academic excellence. Founded in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College, the university has undergone several transformations to become the institution it is today.
It currently has 15 colleges and schools offering more than 140 degree programs. Students can select from diverse fields of study such as engineering, forestry and veterinary medicine. Nine out of ten faculty members have the highest level of education possible in their field.
Auburn enrolled nearly 30,000 students during the 2017-2018 school year. Those studying on the school's campus can choose from more than 300 clubs and organizations, and the university provides study abroad opportunities and online programs as well.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham ranked solidly across virtually all metrics used to determine the top colleges in Alabama. It's known as an affordable school that is generous with financial aid. It also helps students succeed by offering a variety of support services.
While the University of Alabama at Birmingham was once an extension center of The University of Alabama, it is now a comprehensive world-class institution in its own right. It can trace its roots to 1859, and it became an independent university in 1969. Today, students can enroll in programs through 11 colleges and schools at UAB.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham is also one of the best online colleges for Alabama. It has a dozen online bachelor's degrees and many more online graduate programs.
With a campus in Birmingham, Samford University is another of the best Alabama universities. The school was founded in 1841 by the Alabama Baptist State Convention and was initially called Howard College. Today, it is an accredited Christian institution that features personalized instruction across a variety of fields.
Samford University includes 11 colleges and schools and offers professional education options through the Cumberland School of Law, Beeson Divinity School and McWhorter School of Pharmacy. Online degree programs are available as well.
Students at Samford benefit from a low student-faculty ratio and small class sizes. Courses are taught by faculty, rather than teaching assistants. There is also ample opportunity to take part in undergraduate research, internships and other programs that provide hands-on experience prior to graduation.
The University of Alabama System has another of the top schools in Alabama with this entry on the list. The University of Alabama in Huntsville is considered one of the nation's premier research universities, and its campus is home to 16 high-tech research labs and centers.
Originally formed as an extension center for The University of Alabama in 1949, the school became an autonomous institution in 1969. Today, it has eight colleges along with a graduate school. Both fully online and hybrid programs are available for distance learners.
UAH is known for being an affordable education option. It notes that many of its graduates go on to earn higher than average starting and mid-career salaries as compared to graduates of other schools in the state.
The University of North Alabama is another affordable option for students in the state. UNA says its tuition rates are among the lowest in Alabama and that a third of students receive institutional aid or an endowed scholarship from the university.
Established in 1830, the University of North Alabama is the oldest public, four-year institution in Alabama. Today, it has four colleges: arts and sciences, education and human services, business and nursing. Combined, they offer more than 140 majors and concentrations.
On-campus students take classes in Florence, but the university is also a good option for those wishing to earn an online bachelor's degree in Alabama. Its distance learning program includes a number of undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
In Mobile, the University of South Alabama provides an affordable education to a student body of more than 15,500. USA has a focus on research and academic excellence in addition to offering plenty of extracurricular options.
The school, known simply as South to many people, was founded in 1963 and has more than 100 majors from which students can choose. Its location along the Gulf Coast has leant itself well to research partnerships with firms working in the areas of marine science, environmental science and the region's growing aerospace industry.
As one of the best schools in Alabama, South offers education opportunities in both the liberal arts and professional fields such as medicine. The university is a charter member of the Sun Belt Conference and has 17 Division I sports teams.
Jacksonville State University likes to say it has the friendliest campus in the South. That vibrant sense of community, as well as affordable tuition and diverse degree programs, help make JSU one of the best colleges in Alabama.
The university was founded in 1883 and has grown to enroll more than 8,500 students. Nearly 80 percent of those enrolled receive financial aid, and the university distributes more than $80 million in scholarships, loans, grants and campus employments. Students can choose from more than 45 degree programs spanning the undergraduate and graduate levels.
On its Jacksonville campus, the university maintains six academic schools. There are also five academic support units to help students succeed in their studies. They offer services such as academic advising, tutoring and other learning assistance.
With a campus in Troy, this university gets high marks for being affordable and offering a wide range of degree choices. Troy University is also notable for offering a flexible learning environment, including access to online degrees.
Founded in 1887 as a school to train teachers, Troy University has since grown and expanded to now offer more than 170 academic majors and minors. It provides a number of educational services that are specialized to unique student populations such as adult learners, military members and those who were homeschooled.
Part of what makes Troy University one of the best Alabama colleges is its affordable tuition rate. The school also offers dual enrollment and accelerated track degree programs that may expedite graduation and further reduce costs.
The University of Mobile is another of the top schools in Alabama. The private, Christian institution is focused on providing Christ-centered education in nearly 50 areas of study. It is notable for small class sizes and the fact that 99 percent of its freshman class receive financial aid.
The university was founded at the request of the Mobile Baptist Association and began as Mobile College in 1961. The school became the University of Mobile in 1993. Today, it includes eight schools and colleges that offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Part of what makes the University of Mobile unique is its Focus Fridays. Classes are only held on Monday-Thursday to allow students the opportunity explore other interests on the last day of the school week.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Alabama
There are dozens of degree programs available to students at Alabama's four-year colleges and universities. However, these are the ones that have proven most popular in recent years.
In-Demand Careers in Alabama
Understanding which fields will be hiring in the years to come is an important part of selecting the right major. Here's a look at the jobs that may be hiring the most Alabama college graduates in the near future.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||38.6%||19,440||$19,960|
|Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians||38.1%||-||$64,230|
|Information Security Analysts||37%||1,570||$88,750|
|Computer Numerically Controlled Tool Programmers||35.4%||400||$49,820|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||35.1%||1,850||$104,740|
|Fiberglass Laminators and Fabricators||34.7%||310||$30,050|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||34.1%||11,800||$100,840|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||31.4%||520||$61,760|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||31.1%||1,790||$57,730|
|Operations Research Analysts||30.9%||670||$91,800|
|Industrial Engineering Technologists and Technicians||30.9%||980||$52,480|
|Molders, Shapers, and Casters, Except Metal and Plastic||25.8%||500||$34,200|
|Physical Therapist Aides||25.7%||970||$27,270|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians||24.7%||440||$24,800|
|Forest Fire Inspectors and Prevention Specialists||24%||40||$36,860|
|Locker Room, Coatroom, and Dressing Room Attendants||23.2%||70||$24,500|
|Rail-Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operators||23.2%||140||$48,160|
|Health Education Specialists||22.5%||440||$45,750|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Alabama
Regardless of whether you plan to study on-campus or earn an online bachelor's degree in Alabama, financial aid is available. Many grants and loans come from the federal government, but the state of Alabama offers aid as well. The Alabama Student Assistance Program is a need-based grant while the Alabama Student Grant Program provides money to eligible students enrolled in a participating independent college or university.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
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Renewable for 12 quarters or eight semesters.
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- The University of Alabama System
- Alabama Community College System
- Alabama Commission on Higher Education
- Alabama Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- The University of Alabama System, Accessed April 2017, http://uasystem.edu/
- Transferring, Alabama Commission on Higher Education, Accessed April 2017, http://www.ache.state.al.us/Content/StudentsParents/Transferring.aspx
- The AAICU 2-to-4 Transfer Program, Alabama Community College System, Accessed April 2017, https://www.accs.cc/index.cfm/academics/aaicu-2-to-4-transfer-program/
- Student Financial Assistance, Alabama Commission on Higher Education, Accessed April 2017, http://www.ache.state.al.us/Content/Departments/StudentAsst/StudentAsst.aspx
- By the Numbers, The University of Alabama, Accessed April 2018, https://www.ua.edu/about/bythenumbers
- Quick Facts, Auburn University, Accessed April 2018, https://www.auburn.edu/main/welcome/factsandfigures.html
- UAB History, The University of Alabama in Birmingham, Accessed April 2018, http://library.uab.edu/locations/archives/uab-history
- A Tradition of Excellence, Samford University, Accessed April 2018, https://www.samford.edu/programs/
- About UAH, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Accessed April 2018, https://www.uah.edu/about
- General Information, University of North Alabama, Accessed April 2018, https://www.una.edu/about/index.html
- USA: A Brief History, University of South Alabama, Accessed April 2018, http://www.southalabama.edu/aboutusa/historyofusa.html
- JSU At a Glance, Jacksonville State University, Accessed April 2018, http://www.southalabama.edu/aboutusa/historyofusa.html
- Welcome to the Office of Admissions, Troy University, Accessed April 2018, https://www.troy.edu/admissions/
- University of Mobile at a Glance, University of Mobile, Accessed April 2018, https://umobile.edu/about/at-a-glance/