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- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, accessed March 2, 2016, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed April 20, 2017: Transfer Degree Admissions, The University of Louisiana Monroe, http://ulm.edu/admissions/la-transfer-degrees.html; Articulation Agreements, Northwestern State University, https://registrar.nsula.edu/articulation-agreements-partnership-agreements/; About LSU Shreveport, Louisiana State University Shreveport, http://www.lsus.edu/about-lsus; Academic and Research Centers, Louisiana Tech University, http://www.latech.edu/about/research.php; Online bachelor's program ranks among Top 75 in nation, The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, http://www.louisiana.edu/news-events/news/20170111/online-bachelor%E2%80%99s-program-ranks-among-top-75-nation;
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- Best Colleges, U.S. News and World Report, accessed April 20, 2017: Louisiana Tech University, https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/la-tech-2008
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From the nine schools in the University of Louisiana system to the dozens of other institutions across the state, bachelor's degree students in Louisiana have a lot of options. Whether you'd prefer to earn your degree at a large university's flagship location, at a regional satellite campus or at a small independent college, it can help to know how the schools in the Pelican State stack up against each other statistically.
We pulled together a load of data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and other sources under the U.S. Department of Education umbrella and analyzed it using a detailed methodology that you can read all about at the bottom of the page. The schools that excelled in multiple categories of our analysis emerged as the best traditional and online colleges in Louisiana.
Some schools may have had additional upsides that weren't easy to quantify, such as student life amenities and articulation agreements with graduates of Louisiana community colleges. We'll mention some of those in the descriptions of the individual schools. Take a look at the list below the fold and find out which were Louisiana's best four-year colleges by the numbers.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Louisiana
These institutions stood a head above the rest when the dust settled. Let's start with No. 1:
Our top school focuses hard enough on distance education to mark it as one of best online colleges in Louisiana. Only one other school in the state offered a greater variety of degree programs in the virtual classroom than the 39 available at ULM. The Monroe campus also reported one of the state's lowest figures for average net price — a measure of the out-of-pocket cost of college after average grant and scholarship aid is deducted — placing at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively for low- and middle-income students.
Like all University of Louisiana System schools, ULM participates in the Louisiana Transfer Degree Guarantee. The program ensures the transfer of all 60 credit hours earned in an associate degree program at any of ten select community colleges in the state. Students must earn a C or better in each transferred course and maintain at least a 2.0 community college GPA.
McNeese State University placed among the top schools statewide on nearly every metric we tested. It racked up no fewer than 10 top-8 finishes among Louisiana schools, in a list of categories that includes graduation rate, average net price, median student debt of bachelor's degree graduates and raw affordability of tuition and fees.
The Lake Charles school was also among the best online colleges in Louisiana. It ranked No. 3 in the state for its array of distance education programs, and its nearly 50 percent of students enrolled in some form of distance education landed it the No. 7 spot in that category. McNeese is a member of the University of Louisiana System, and the city offers miles of water's-edge views thanks to its namesake Lake Charles.
Students hoping to earn an online bachelor's degree in Louisiana shouldn't overlook our No. 3 school. Northwestern State University was best in the state when it came to online enrollment, with more than 73 percent of students taking at least some of their coursework in the virtual classroom in 2015. It also offered the largest number of online degree programs among all the best online colleges in Louisiana.
The Natchitoches institution also made a strong showing in the financial aid category. NSU students receive the state's second-highest percentage of institutional grant aid per dollar of tuition and fees. The school also maintains transfer and partnership agreements with more than 30 community colleges and other universities in Louisiana.
Louisiana State University is by far the largest school on our list, with a student body of more than 31,000, so it should be no surprise that no other school in our top ten offers a greater variety of academic programs overall. There were 220 degrees available in LSU's No. 1-ranked degree catalog in 2015-16, as well as enough online programs to land it the No. 5 spot statewide in that category.
Students at the Baton Rouge school also tend to follow through with their degrees once they enroll. LSU posted the state's second-highest graduation rate, according to the NCES, and its retention rate for first- to second- year students was No. 4 in the state. LSU also featured the state's most affordable average net price for low-income students.
This institution in Louisiana's largest city provided students with the highest proportion of institutional grant aid per dollar of tuition and fees of any school in the state. Perhaps as a combined result of aid availability and a No. 5-ranked average net price, graduates of the University of New Orleans left school with the second-lowest median student debt burden in the state during 2014-15.
More than 37 percent of the student body at UNO was taking at least some of its coursework online in 2015, and the flexibility provisions for students don't stop there. UNO tied for No. 1 in the category of flexibility for campus-based students, offering measures such as credit exams for life experience, weekend/evening degree programs and placement services for students who complete their degrees.
Students graduated from Louisiana Tech University at the second-highest rate among schools on our list. Affordability may have contributed to its impressive graduation rate — it ranked No. 5 in the average net price category for low-income students and No. 7 for students with family incomes nearer to average. Graduates were also able to repay their student loans within three years at the second-highest rate of any school on our list.
This University of Louisiana System school has one of the largest portfolios of degree programs in Louisiana, ranking No. 4 in the state for its 123 on-campus offerings in 2015-16. Also a research pillar in Louisiana higher education, Louisiana Tech features dozens of specialized research centers that cover a wide range of disciplines.
Affordability was a bright spot for this Thibodeaux institution. Nicholls State University ranked No. 4 among schools on our list for its cost of tuition and fees, and it made the top five for its percentage of graduates who were able to pay back their student loans within three years.
Nicholls is also one of the best online colleges in Louisiana, thanks to more than 51 percent of its student body being enrolled in at least some distance education coursework. Only two other schools on our list can claim higher enrollment percentages in their online programs. Weekend and evening degree programs are available as well, and the school graduated its students at a higher rate than all but three other schools on our list.
It may be one of the smaller schools in our top 10, but Louisiana State University - Shreveport isn't short on opportunity. The raw cost of tuition and fees at the Shreveport campus ranked No. 3 in the state for affordability, for starters, and the average net prices for middle- and low-income students ranked at No. 1 and No. 2 statewide, respectively. Graduates also left LSUS with the third-lowest amount of college debt among all schools in the state.
The distance enrollment rate at LSUS was nearly 63 percent in 2015, enough to place it behind just one other school on our list in that category. The university has also recently instituted an eight-week semester plan, to allow students to complete their degree programs at an accelerated pace if they wish.
Students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette choose their major from the state's third-largest array of degree programs. The average net price at the Lafayette campus placed at No. 8 statewide for both middle- and low-income students, and more than 70 percent of graduates were able to repay their student loans in three years or fewer after leaving school.
ULL also deserves a second look if you're looking for an online bachelor's degree in Louisiana. U.S. News and World Report ranks the online undergraduate degrees available at the Lafayette school among the top 70 online schools nationwide. Remedial services are available on campus as well, if non-traditional students need a refresher before
The most affordable tuition and fees costs among all the schools in our top ten can be found at Louisiana State University - Alexandria. The costs of books and supplies, also, were lower than at any other school in the state, and LSUA students paid the second-most affordable average net price in the state in 2015.
Graduates of LSUA also left school with the state's lowest average student debt burden. If it weren't for its limited selection of academic programs and a three-year loan repayment rate that fell a bit below average, this small Alexandria school may have climbed a few spots in our rankings.
Most popular degree programs in Louisiana
It can be helpful to know which degrees are most popular among Louisiana students, whether you're still searching for the perfect major or you're already decided and want to know what your classmates are likely to be studying. Check out this list of Louisiana's top degree programs for the past year.
In-Demand Careers in Louisiana
The job market in Louisiana has grown over the last few years, and some of this season's occupations are hotter than others. Here's a rundown of the hottest careers for Louisiana graduates.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Metal-Refining Furnace Operators and Tenders||82.7%||-||$49,300|
|Software Developers, Systems Software||58.2%||1,180||$72,270|
|Software Developers, Applications||54.9%||1,420||$74,000|
|Interpreters and Translators||41.4%||70||$38,990|
|Computer and Information Research Scientists||33.3%||60||$84,010|
|Home Health Aides||33.3%||8,310||$19,820|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||33.1%||620||$58,040|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||30.9%||1,450||$46,060|
|Computer Systems Analysts||30.6%||1,900||$71,510|
|Physical Therapist Aides||30.2%||1,160||$23,300|
|Operations Research Analysts||30%||1,120||$47,830|
|Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic||25.9%||800||$42,350|
|Personal Care Aides||25.8%||33,410||$18,580|
|Industrial Machinery Mechanics||25.8%||7,230||$53,640|
|Orthotists and Prosthetists||25.7%||100||$83,390|
|Rolling Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic||25.7%||250||$35,700|
|Veterinary Technologists and Technicians||25.3%||1,120||$27,910|
|Forensic Science Technicians||23.6%||190||$50,720|
|Hearing Aid Specialists||23.5%||30||$45,050|
|Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians||23.2%||900||$41,470|
|Medical Appliance Technicians||23.2%||40||$36,360|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians||22.8%||210||$28,870|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Louisiana
There are several financial aid programs available exclusively to Louisiana residents:
- The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) features four different awards for students attending Louisiana public schools or member institutions of the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
- The Louisiana Go Grant program offers between $300 and $3,000 per year for students with financial need remaining after other sources of aid have been applied.
- The Rockefeller State Wildlife Scholarship may award up to a maximum of $12,000 for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in forestry, wildlife or marine science.
November 15 (Early Action admissions deadline)
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.25 GPA and full-time status.
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.6 GPA.
- University of Louisiana System - http://www.ulsystem.net/
- Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities - http://laicu.org/
- Louisiana Board of Regents - http://regents.louisiana.gov/page/about-regents
- Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance - http://www.osfa.la.gov/
- Louisiana Transfer Degree Guarantee - https://latransferdegree.org/
- Louisiana Community and Technical College System - https://www.lctcs.edu/