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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
We gathered information important to students -- tuition cost, schedule flexibility, student services availability and more -- and analyzed it to sort out the best colleges and universities in Louisiana from the rest. Tap the methodology button for the specifics on how we did it, and check out the ten top Louisiana schools in our list below.
Louisiana State University is the largest institution in the state by far, boasting a student body of more than 30,000, so it should be no surprise that it's also one of the top schools in Louisiana for academic diversity. There are more than 200 total study plans available at LSU, including over 20 certificate programs and nearly 50 doctoral degrees, plus online courses.
What's more, if you're worried about paying for college, LSU has some encouraging student aid statistics. More than $300 million in financial aid and scholarships are awarded each year, and approximately two thirds of students leave school with a student debt balance of zero.
Extra focus is given to a few particular research areas at this Baton Rouge school. Don't overlook LSU if you're interested in a materials science, biotechnology, communication, energy, coastal environments or high-performance computing degree program.
Students who want to live in a close-knit college town while they earn their traditional or online degrees might find just what they're looking for at Louisiana Tech University. The city of Ruston, where the institution is located, has a total population of around 22,000 people -- not even double the university's total enrollment of around 13,000.
Not only that, but outdoor amenities galore can be found in and around town. Several lakes, hiking trails, mountain biking areas and city and state parks scattered around the region are ripe for exploration.
Also a research pillar in Louisiana higher education, this University of Louisiana System school features dozens of specialized research centers that cover a wide range of disciplines. The Institute for Micromanufacturing, Center for Applied Physics Studies and Center for Instructional Technology are just a few of the more than 20 resource centers available for students working on their degrees.
Student success is one of the most important metrics by which the best schools in Louisiana can be judged, and this largest institution in the University of Louisiana System has been watching its student success numbers rise. The graduation rate at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, for example, has shot upward nearly 50 percent in the last decade.
Enrollment of students is on the rise here as well, with Fall 2017 enrollment surpassing 19,000 and setting a new university record. Incoming undergraduates here can choose from more than 75 degree programs, while aspiring graduate students are treated to a catalog of 30+ master's programs.
ULL also offers one of the larger distance education catalogs among accredited Louisiana universities, which could be good news for those who prefer online courses. Nearly 10 different flavors of MBA can be earned as online degrees here, as well as degrees in nursing, educational leadership and health and wellness.
The University of Louisiana at Monroe is another of the top colleges and universities in Louisiana for online study. It offers degrees at every point on the academic spectrum, from an Associate of General Studies (A.G.S.) plan on up to a selection of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degrees.
There's also special upside for aspiring entrepreneurs at ULM. The campus is a member of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) network, which provides technical and management assistance to small businesses.
Like other 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 participating associate degree programs. Students must earn a C or better in each transferred course and maintain at least a 2.0 community college GPA.
Founded as Lake Charles Junior College in 1939, McNeese State University became an accredited four-year college in 1954 and took its current name in 1970. To hear the school tell it, though, the future of its students is more exciting than its history.
McNeese recently became just the second school in the entire U.S. to offer a minor in innovation engineering, designed to help students learn the process of developing their ideas into market-viable products and services. The six-course minor takes a step-by-step approach to the innovation process and includes a project section in which students work to make their ideas a reality.
This University of Louisiana System school is no slouch when it comes to nature's bounties, either. Its home city offers miles of water's-edge views, thanks to its namesake Lake Charles.
Students who prefer a small-school feel are likely to find what they're looking for at Loyola University New Orleans, where undergraduate enrollment comes in right around 2,500 and the ratio of ten students per faculty member is nearly 40 percent better than the national average of 16:1.
Despite its small size, Loyola offers close to 60 undergraduate study plans and more than 10 graduate and professional degree programs. It was founded in the Jesuit Catholic tradition, but the core liberal arts curriculum is largely secular -- one religious studies course is required -- and students of all faiths are welcome.
Ecclesiastical programs are available here, however, if you're searching Louisiana colleges for the right faith-based degree. Loyola students can even earn a fully online master's degree in pastoral studies or religious education, ideal for those who could benefit from online degree programs.
Tulane University in New Orelans began its life as a medical college in 1834, and its eye toward high achievement hasn't dimmed in the 180 years since its founding. Tulane is a member of the Association of American Universities, a group of top-level research universities that includes prestigious institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Stanford, MIT and seven of the eight Ivy League schools.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching rates Tulane as a university with "very high research activity," and the facts seem to bear that out. Faculty and students at Tulane are involved in hundreds of sponsored research projects each year, in subjects like global health, medicine, the biosciences and more.
Dozens of majors and minors are available from the six schools in Tulane's undergraduate college. Graduate students have access to full-fledged schools of law, medicine and social work for working on their degree programs.
Another University of Louisiana System school, the University of New Orleans offers more than 35 Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) programs. Students who want to synthesize concepts and perspectives from multiple fields of study can enroll in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (B.I.S.) program, for which they develop an integrated learning plan instead of following a curriculum dictated by the university.
Students at UNO tend to land financial aid assistance, according to the numbers, and they don't stay unemployed for long after graduation. More than 75 percent of students here get some kind of financial help, and nearly 90 percent of graduates report being employed within two years.
What's more, New Orleans is establishing itself as a hotspot for tech innovation and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneur magazine recently profiled the "Silicon Bayou" as a city on the rise.
This Thibodeaux institution is relatively young among Louisiana colleges, having been founded in 1948, but it's not exactly lagging behind its more senior counterparts. Nicholls State University has a total enrollment of more than 6,100 students and a catalog that features over 100 graduate and undergraduate degree programs.
Education is one of the most widely covered subjects at Nicholls. Undergraduates have numerous flavors of education degree available, and graduates can choose from 11 degrees and concentrations.
One building on campus is a special treat for one group of cooperative learners as well as the student body at large. The Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls features a retail bakery location that culinary students operate for two hours each week, gaining experience in their field while serving muffins and pastries to their fellow students.
Many Louisiana universities move their operations to new sites as they expand as institutions, but Northwestern State University has stood firm since the beginning. The Natchitoches campus where it currently stands still contains remnants of the same structure where its teacher education classes were first conducted in 1884.
Its campus may be the oldest continually occupied university site in Louisiana, but the school's approach to education is anything but stuck in the past. Dozens of online degrees are available through the eNSU Global Campus initiative, including more than 30 degrees and concentrations for online graduate students.
If you're hoping to go to community college for your first two years and then transfer to a university, NSU can help. Check with a registrar to learn more about the transfer agreements in place with numerous community colleges in the state.
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|
|Software Developers, Applications||63.7%||1,160||$76,700|
|Information Security Analysts||50.3%||460||$76,710|
|Operations Research Analysts||36.7%||450||$59,270|
|Home Health Aides||36.1%||8,570||$20,500|
|Software Developers, Systems Software||32.1%||1,200||$75,250|
|Personal Care Aides||29.2%||33,470||$18,990|
|Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic||28.6%||110||$52,250|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||27.7%||2,790||$65,090|
|Computer User Support Specialists||26%||3,590||$45,250|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||25.8%||810||$112,080|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||25.2%||2,610||$50,460|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||24%||790||$70,750|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||23.8%||1,530||$47,270|
|Veterinary Technologists and Technicians||23.7%||1,150||$26,000|
|Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers||23.6%||1,560||$22,730|
|Orthotists and Prosthetists||23.4%||160||$82,370|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||23.4%||700||$57,310|
|Computer Systems Analysts||22.5%||1,930||$72,230|
|Medical Appliance Technicians||22.2%||70||$30,920|
|Computer Network Architects||22%||350||$80,480|
|Computer Hardware Engineers||21.4%||270||$83,090|
|Physical Therapist Aides||21.3%||1,410||$26,840|
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.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable for up to four years if recipient continues to be enrolled as a full-time student, completes a minimum of 24 credit hours with a grade of "D" or higher (at the end of each spring semester), maintains a minimum 2.3 GPA at the end of each spring semester for the first 24 hours earned, maintains a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA at the end of each spring semester once 48 hours have been earned, and maintains steady academic progress for every other semester.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable if recipient maintains full-time enrollment, completes a minimum of 24 credit hours with a grade of "D" or higher at the end of each spring semester, maintains a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA at the end of each spring semester, and maintains steady academic progress for every other semester.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable if recipient continues to be enrolled full-time every semester, completes a minimum of 24 credit hours with a grade of "D" or higher at the end of each spring semester, maintains a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA at the end of each spring semester, and maintains steady academic progress for every other semester.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 2.0 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/
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/