Alabama’s Best Public Colleges & Universities of 2021

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in Alabama provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Alabama’s Best Public Colleges & Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in Alabama

The 54 colleges and universities in Alabama allow students to pursue associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in many fields all over the state. Some of the most notable degree areas include law, nursing, biology, history, engineering, and religious studies.

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Students hoping to obtain a four-year degree at a larger university can attend one of the two largest — as well as rivalry — schools, the University of Alabama and Auburn University. Both schools’ tuition is about $11,000, though the University of Alabama’s student population, at nearly 36,000 students, is larger than Auburn’s. Students also have the option of attending one of Alabama’s 18 private higher education institutes, many of which have religious affiliations. Tuition costs and student populations range greatly among these schools, from $36,000 to $4,000 and nearly 15,000 students to less than 100, letting students factor in their budget with their class size demands.

Additionally, students who need more flexibility can take advantage of the satellite campuses, like at the University of North Alabama, or the 70 online degree programs offered at the University of Alabama, to easily obtain their degrees. For more information on higher education in Alabama, check out some of the state’s top programs and their corresponding career paths.

For die-hard football fans and lovers of sweet tea, obtaining a higher education degree in Alabama can seem like an obvious choice. The Yellowhammer State, however, is also home to a unique mixture of coastal, mountainous, and swamp environments, making it a great choice for students who love soaking up the outdoors.

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What are Alabama’s Colleges & Universities?


Alabama’s Best Overall

What is a public college? And what is the difference between a private and public college?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models — one is a private company with private funding; the other is owned by the state and receives both state and federal funding to operate. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of private vs. public college, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a four-year degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a four-year public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually.

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The following list of Alabama’s best public colleges and universities is composed entirely of schools offering four-year undergraduate degree programs. We’ve identified 14 public universities in Alabama that satisfy the following three conditions:

  1. It must receive direct funding from the state.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. Its offer a broad range of bachelor’s degree programs.

How do we determine Alabama's best public colleges and universities?

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call “Concentrated Influence”. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

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10 Best Public Colleges & Universities in Alabama

  1. #1

    Auburn University

    #298 institution's historical influence
    #1155 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    79%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1235/28

    Auburn, AL

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    What is Auburn University known for?

    Auburn University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Education
    • History
    • Economics
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    University of Alabama

    #184 institution's historical influence
    #94 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    36K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1210/27

    Tuscaloosa, AL

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    What is University of Alabama known for?

    University of Alabama’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Education
    • History
    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    University of Alabama at Birmingham

    #428 institution's historical influence
    #1232 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1227/25

    Birmingham, AL

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    What is University of Alabama at Birmingham known for?

    University of Alabama at Birmingham’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    University of Alabama in Huntsville

    #1005 institution's historical influence
    #1326 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1363/28

    Huntsville, AL

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    What is University of Alabama in Huntsville known for?

    University of Alabama in Huntsville’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Education
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    University of Montevallo

    #2719 institution's historical influence
    #1372 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/22

    Montevallo, AL

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    What is University of Montevallo known for?

    University of Montevallo’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Education
    • Literature
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Communications
    • Social Work
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Jacksonville State University

    #1831 institution's historical influence
    #686 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/21

    Jacksonville, AL

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    What is Jacksonville State University known for?

    Jacksonville State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    University of South Alabama

    #1064 institution's historical influence
    #1190 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    14K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/23

    Mobile, AL

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    What is University of South Alabama known for?

    University of South Alabama’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    Alabama A&M University

    #2559 institution's historical influence
    #546 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    29%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    925/17

    Normal, AL

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    What is Alabama A&M University known for?

    Alabama A&M University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    Troy University

    #1536 institution's historical influence
    #720 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    13K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1010/21

    Troy, AL

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    What is Troy University known for?

    Troy University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Literature
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    University of North Alabama

    #2003 institution's historical influence
    #726 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1097/23

    Florence, AL

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    What is University of North Alabama known for?

    University of North Alabama’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

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