The University System of Georgia (USG) is one of the largest in the country, with a total full-time enrollment of more than 325,000 students across 26 institutions. These include four research universities, four comprehensive universities, nine state universities and nine state colleges.
Including the USG system, there are 99 four-year schools in the state, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). These Georgia colleges and universities include public and private institutions that offer campus-based and/or distance learning programs.
With so many options, figuring out which of the best universities in Georgia might be right for you can be a daunting task. What are the differences between the main campus of a large university and its satellite locations? Are you looking for a school that makes it easy for students to transfer class credits earned in a community college program? Which schools have the state's top programs for your major? Information like this can be hard to find, especially if you don't have time to hunt up all the facts you need.
We gathered data from the NCES and other U.S. Department of Education sources on nearly 50 schools in Georgia and analyzed it with our 13-point methodology. Schools that stood out in multiple categories earned the right to be called the best schools in Georgia, online or campus-based. When you're done reading about them below, you can also find out who made the cut for best community colleges in Georgia.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Georgia
Georgia colleges include community colleges, public universities and private institutions. To find the top colleges in Georgia for four-year degrees, we used a methodology that considered factors such as graduation rate, tuition and program prominence. According to that criteria, these are the top Georgia universities.
The University of Georgia describes itself as the birthplace of higher education in America. Chartered in 1785, it was the first state-chartered university. Today, it is considered one of the "Public Ivies" and has garnered a reputation for offering affordable, quality academic programs.
The 17 colleges and schools within UGA enroll nearly 39,000 students annually. Among those students are dozens of Rhodes Scholars, Truman Scholars, Fulbright Student Scholars and other award winners. The UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication administers the distinguished Peabody Awards program, and the university is home to the world's first stand-alone academic school devoted to ecology.
If you're looking to attend one of the best schools in Georgia, UGA makes getting to class convenient. In addition to its main campus in Athens, there are four extended campuses located elsewhere in the state. Online degrees and certificates are also available.
Few colleges are as a synonymous with research as Emory University. The private school generates nearly $690 million in research funding annually. Yet, it still maintains a strong emphasis on teaching and has a prominent liberal arts program.
Founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1836, Emory University now has 11 colleges at the undergraduate and graduate levels. More than 15,000 students are enrolled in degree programs that are taught by faculty who have included such prominent members as former President Jimmy Carter, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. Its famous alumni include a long list of business executives, entertainment figures, government officials and health care researchers.
Among the school's notable programs are a master's degree in bioethics and a highly sought after Doctor of Medicine. Emory University has its campus in the historic Druid Hills neighborhood of Atlanta.
More commonly known as Georgia Tech, the Georgia Institute of Technology provides a technologically focused education like online courses in disciplines spanning engineering, science, business and liberal arts. The school was founded in 1885 and today enrolls more than 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
When it comes to academics, Georgia Tech has six colleges and 28 schools conferring bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. The institute places a strong emphasis on experiential learning and the use of technology in the classroom. There are also cooperative education and global experience options available as well as programs that promote entrepreneurship. Graduate students looking for the best online colleges in Georgia may find the degree program they need at Georgia Tech.
Head to Georgia Southern University to find another of the best colleges in the state. The institution says it's the largest comprehensive university south of Atlanta. It enrolls more than 26,000 students and is also one of the best schools in Georgia for online degrees, offering an extensive collection of distance learning programs.
Georgia Southern can trace its roots back to 1906. While it has grown significantly since that time, the school touts itself as being a "large-scale, small-feel" university. As part of the University System of Georgia, the school offers a wide range of academic and extracurricular activities. The university embraces core values that include lifelong learning and integrity.
Georgia Southern has its main campus in Statesboro. There is also an Armstrong campus in Savannah and a Liberty campus in Hinesville. Its more popular majors include exercise science, biology and mechanical engineering.
Georgia College and State University goes by the shortened name of Georgia College. It was founded in 1889 as a college for women but is a coeducational institution today. Nearly 6,000 undergraduate students are enrolled in the institution's four colleges.
Those four colleges provide degree programs in business, education, health sciences and the liberal arts. Georgia College offers small class sizes which may ensure more personalized attention than what could be found at a larger university. Plus, there are amble opportunities to gain real-world experience prior to graduation thanks to service learning, internship, study-abroad and research programs offered to students.
Georgia College has its campus in Milledgeville, which is about a two-hour drive from Atlanta. The school is a public institution.
Mercer University is not only one of the top universities in Georgia but also one of the oldest. The school was founded in 1833 by the Georgia Baptist Convention. While Mercer is no longer formally affiliated with the Baptist Church, it continues to embrace Baptist principles.
Nearly 9,000 students are enrolled at Mercer University. They can choose from programs in 12 schools and colleges with various degree programs. The school promotes an educational environment that encourages hands-on learning, discovery and service to others. Its notable alumni include Confederate General Robert E. Lee, author Steve Berry and Dr. Spencer Bidwell King III, a pioneer in cardiology. The university's engineering program has produced more than dozen Goldwater and SMART Scholars in the past five years.
Degree programs are available through Mercer University's three campus locations: Macon, Atlanta and Savannah. The university also operates three medical school sites and three regional academic centers.
Drawing more than 53,000 students from more than 170 nations and territories, Georgia State University prides itself on providing a rich learning experience that is enhanced by world-class faculty. The Southern Economic Journal has said the university's economics faculty is among the best in the state, and the National Jurist named its law school as a top value in the nation.
Students can choose from more than 250 programs, ranging from associate to graduate degrees, in 100 fields of study. These are offered through Georgia State's 11 colleges and schools which have classes at six campus locations in the Atlanta metro area.
Over the years, Georgia State has earned accolades for being innovative, ethnically diverse and committed to teaching. It also has a highly rated first-year experience for its freshmen.
To the north of the state, students will find that the University of North Georgia is one of the best universities in Georgia. It has been designated a State Leadership Institution and also serves as The Military College of Georgia. As a member of the University System of Georgia, it is one of the largest public institutions in the state.
While UNG only came into being a few years ago in 2013, it was created by merging colleges that had histories dating back to 1873. The university's nearly 20,000 students can select from degree programs offered in six colleges as well as an institute for environmental and spatial analysis. Its most popular programs include psychology, biology and management.
The University of North Georgia has campuses in Blue Ridge, Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville and Oconee. Those looking for an online college in Georgia will also find programs for distance learners here.
As a private institution, Berry College takes a unique approach to higher education. The college's LifeWorks program guarantees students access to eight semesters of paid, professional development experience. It's a learning method that leans heavily on mentorship to help students obtain the skills and knowledge needed for success in life.
Approximately 2,000 students are enrolled at Berry College, and the school has an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Nearly all the professors at the school have a Ph.D. or an equivalent degree.
Under The Berry Compact, the school offers students a thoughtful four-year course of study, and more than 40 majors, minors and concentrations are available. While most Berry College degrees are at the undergraduate level, it does have a Master of Business Administration and graduate degrees in education.
Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design is now known as SCAD and The University for Creative Careers. Not only is it one of the top colleges in Georgia, but it is also an international institution with locations in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong and Lacoste, France. Online learning options are also available.
SCAD is a private, non-profit institution with more than 14,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. The school has more than 40 majors and 75 minors, and degrees can be earned at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
As another of the best colleges in Georgia, the University of West Georgia is the state's seventh largest public university. It started out as a two-year school in 1906 and gradually expanded its programming until it became a university in 1996.
Today, UWG has more than 13,000 students enrolled in its six colleges. Dozens of degree programs are available and include bachelor's, master's, specialist and doctoral degrees. The university also confers several certificates. Popular undergraduate programs include biology, psychology and management while media, elementary education and teacher education attract the most graduate students.
The University of West Georgia has campuses in Carrollton and Newnan. Students also have the option to take classes online.
Georgia Southwestern State University offers students a personalized learning environment. The university enrolls fewer than 3,500 students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, and the average class includes only 20 students.
While GSW is relatively small, it has more than 60 programs of study available. These include bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and an education specialist degree. The university is regularly lauded for its affordability, and its nursing and business and computing programs have been ranked highly by several organizations.
Founded in 1906, GSW is a part of The University System of Georgia. In addition to offering classes on its Americus campus, the school has several fully online programs including an online MBA and an online Master of Nursing.
Not all the best schools in Georgia are large universities. Brenau University, with a student body of about 3,800, also makes the cut. The school was founded in 1878 as the Georgia Baptist Female Seminary. While the university still maintains a women's college, it also has a co-educational undergraduate school.
Brenau University is also one of the top colleges in Georgia for online degrees. The school's robust distance learning program offers fully online degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, including an associate degree in elementary education and a Masters of Accounting. Courses are offered on an accelerated pace so students can graduate and enter their chosen career more quickly.
Students who want to study in a classroom can do so on the main campus in Gainesville or at one of four other campus locations. On campus, Brenau University offers small class sizes, Greek life and 14 varsity sports teams.
Columbus State University is an affordable institution that enrolls more than 7,800 students each year, including a significant number of military and veteran students. With a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, classes can provide personalized attention from quality instructors.
Located about 100 miles southwest of Atlanta, CSU offers approximately 75 programs of study in fields such as business, nursing and education. Through CSU Online, distance learners can earn one of dozens of certificates and degrees from the comfort of their home. These programs may have accelerated course schedules, and options include an RN to BSN program and a Master of Public Administration.
Students who would rather learn on campus can take classes at either the school's main campus or RiverPark campus. Founded in 1958, Columbus State is part of The University System of Georgia.
Located in the foothills of northeast Georgia, Toccoa Falls College is a private, Christian institution. It was founded in 1907 and is affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
More than 1,670 students are enrolled at TFC, and the college says 100 percent of them receive institutional financial aid. Although originally a Bible college, TFC now offers approximately 76 majors and minors in fields such as business administration, nursing and the liberal arts. Classes are taught from a Christian worldview and integrate Biblical teachings.
TFC also has more than a dozen degrees for those who want or need the flexibility of online learning. Online programs are offered at the associate, bachelor's and master's level and cover a mix of majors such as business, general studies and youth ministries.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Georgia
Being aware of the most popular campus-based and online bachelor's degrees in Georgia can help you get a good picture of your fellow students' approach to higher learning. Whether you're hoping to stick with the crowd or venture out on a less well-traveled path, take a look at this list of traditional and online Georgia degrees with the highest enrollment numbers in the past year.
Costs, Financial Aid and Scholarships in Georgia
How much you pay for college will depend partly on where you decide to go to school. Public colleges and universities are typically cheaper than their private counterparts. If you decide to start your degree program at a two-year school, you could save even more.
Here's a look at the average tuition for Georgia institutions from 2017-2018, broken down by the type of school and resident and non-resident rates. This data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics:
- Public 2-Year Schools (in-state): $2,901
- Public 2-Year Schools (out-of-state): $8,090
- Public 4-Year Schools (in-state): $7,206
- Public 4-Year Schools (out-of-state): $21,957
- Private 4-Year Schools: $27,813
While these are the published prices, students often pay less. In fact, many of the best universities in Georgia offer generous financial packages to attract qualified students. Read our guide on How to Pay for College to learn how to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
Georgia students and their families also have access to some helpful state-run financial aid programs that can make it easier to afford an education:
- Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE), funded by the Georgia lottery, offers scholarships and grants.
- The Path2College 529 Plan is a tax-exempt college savings plan for parents.
- The Georgia Student Finance Commission offers a range of grant, loan and scholarship programs for in-state students.
For many public and institutional scholarship and grant programs, the first step toward determining your eligibility is filling out the FAFSA. There are also private scholarships offered by nonprofit organizations and industry groups, and these may have separate applications. Learn more, with our guide to college scholarships, and check out the sample of scholarships you can find in Georgia below.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable if recipient maintains minimum 3.0 GPA and continues to demonstrate satsifactory academic progress.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.0 GPA and demonstrates satisfactory academic progress.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable if recipient demonstrates satisfactory academic progress and is able to document 20 hours of community service annually.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Careers in Georgia
If you know what career fields are experiencing the highest demand for new applicants, you can make a more informed decision about the path of study that's most likely to lead to a winning career after graduation. For instance:
- Georgia has grown into one of the top filming locations in the world, ramping up demand for workers in the entertainment industry.
- The state is projected to have one of the most significant nursing shortages in the country through 2030, according to a 2017 government report. That means plenty of job opportunities might be available for those entering the health care field.
- As the nation's leading source of biomass, Georgia's energy industry is poised to innovate and expand in the years to come.
Of course, you don't want to pick a career solely on an occupation's job growth. It's also important to select a field of interest to you. Taking a career quiz is one way to determine which job might be a good fit.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Rotary Drill Operators, Oil and Gas||67.2%||50||$47,620|
|Film and Video Editors||43.2%||1,410||$65,050|
|Bus Drivers, Transit and Intercity||40.4%||2,680||$27,350|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||38.8%||1,100||$62,850|
|Set and Exhibit Designers||38.7%||620||$49,100|
|Computer Numerically Controlled Tool Programmers||36%||220||$48,550|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||35.3%||2,570||$55,010|
|Physical Therapist Aides||33.8%||890||$28,410|
|Camera Operators, Television, Video, and Film||33%||1,360||$59,980|
|Farmworkers, Farm, Ranch, and Aquacultural Animals||32.3%||480||$34,050|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||32.1%||1,060||$77,270|
|Transit and Railroad Police||31.8%||30||$68,650|
|Radio, Cellular, and Tower Equipment Installers and Repairers||31.1%||170||$60,490|
|Producers and Directors||30.7%||5,110||$83,240|
|Orthotists and Prosthetists||29.6%||330||$68,590|
|Entertainment Attendants and Related Workers, All Other||29.4%||240||$26,670|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians||29.1%||990||$30,620|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||29%||21,300||$69,290|
|Cargo and Freight Agents||28.9%||3,870||$45,940|
|Hearing Aid Specialists||28%||280||$49,080|
- University System of Georgia - http://www.usg.edu/
- Georgia Student Finance Commission - http://gsfc.georgia.gov/
- College Goal Georgia - http://collegegoalga.com/
- Georgia Higher Education Alliance - http://www.gahea.org/
- Georgia Department of Labor - http://dol.georgia.gov/
- Technical College System of Georgia - https://tcsg.edu/
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points, and each school was then scored on a 100-point scale:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
- The average amount of aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2017-18
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2016-17
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2018
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2018
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2014-15
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
- 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 2018-19 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed April 2020, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=GA&ic=1
- About, Georgia State University, Accessed April 2020, https://www.gsu.edu/about/
- Quick Facts, Berry College, Accessed April 2020, https://www.berry.edu/about/quick-facts
- SCAD Facts, Savannah College of Art and Design, Accessed April 2020, https://www.scad.edu/about/scad-glance/scad-facts
- About GSW, Georgia Southwestern State University, Accessed April 2020, https://www.gsw.edu/about-gsw/index
- About Us, Columbus State University, Accessed April 2020, https://www.columbusstate.edu/aboutus/index.php
- About, Toccoa Falls College, Accessed April 2020, https://tfc.edu/about/
- UGA by the Numbers, University of Georgia, Accessed April 2020, https://www.uga.edu/facts.php
- About Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech, Accessed April 2020, https://www.gatech.edu/about
- About Georgia College, Georgia College, Accessed April 2020, https://www.gcsu.edu/about
- About Us, Georgia Southern University, Accessed April 2020, https://www.georgiasouthern.edu/about/
- About, University of North Georgia, Accessed April 2020, https://ung.edu/about/index.php
- About Mercer, Mercer University, Accessed April 2020, https://www.mercer.edu/about-mercer/
- Points of Pride, Emory University, Accessed April 2020, http://www.emory.edu/home/about/points-pride/index.html
- Snapshot of Brenau University, Brenau University, Accessed April 2020, https://www.brenau.edu/about/quickfacts/
- About UWG, University of West Georgia, Accessed April 2020, https://www.westga.edu/about-uwg/
- Average undergraduate tuition and fees and room and board rates charged for full-time students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control and level of institution and state or jurisdiction: 2016-17 and 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed April 2020, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_330.20.asp?current=yes
- Decade of Growth: Georgia's Film Industry has $9.5 billion impact in 2017, Ellie Hensley, March 27, 2020, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Accessed April 2020, https://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2020/03/27/georgia-s-film-industry-has-9-5-billion-impact-in.html
- The need for nurses is growing in Georgia. How will hospitals keep up with the demand? Samantha Max, November 12, 2018, The Telegraph, https://www.macon.com/news/local/article221351830.html
- Energy, Georgia Department of Economic Development, Accessed April 2020, https://www.georgia.org/industries/energy
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2017-18, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2020 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.