2024 Best Colleges & Universities in the South

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Best Colleges & Universities

The South is home to some of the finest colleges and universities in the United States, offering students a chance to receive a high-quality education in a region steeped in rich history and culture. Known for their picturesque campuses, engaging academic programs, and friendly communities, these institutions attract students from across the country and around the world. Many of them are recognized for their commitment to academic excellence, world-class facilities, and unrivaled opportunities for research, service learning, and personal growth.

Southern colleges and universities cater to a wide variety of interests and goals, featuring diverse courses of study, ranging from liberal arts to business management, engineering to environmental science, and beyond. Students attending colleges in the South can expect to find schools that emphasize the importance of engaging academic experiences, coupled with a focus on developing well-rounded individuals who are prepared to tackle the challenges of the modern workforce. The picturesque landscapes, vibrant cities, and welcoming college towns also provide the perfect backdrop for students to build their futures.

CollegeRanker is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.


To evaluate the best colleges in the South, this article uses a series of data-driven metrics that considers various aspects of each institution. These aspects are essential when determining the overall performance and value of a college for students, particularly for those from diverse backgrounds and with varying financial needs.

Firstly, the graduation rate is an essential factor to consider as it reflects on the institution’s quality of education and the ability to support students throughout their studies. Institutions with high graduation rates often have strong faculty members and an environment conducive to academic success.

Financial resources also play a vital role in determining a college’s value, as it influences affordability for students. This includes factors such as financial aid, in-state tuition, and student loans. Colleges that offer generous financial aid packages and reasonable tuition fees contribute to the overall financial well-being of their students and help to minimize the burden of student loans.

The representation of African-American students in the college’s enrollment can provide an insight into the institution’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, ensuring that students from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to access quality education.

Student-faculty ratio is another important element to consider since a lower ratio often leads to a more personalized learning experience and closer connections with faculty members. This is particularly relevant for students pursuing rigorous programs like mechanical engineering, where access to knowledgeable instructors and hands-on experiences is crucial.

The size of the institution, specifically in terms of enrollment, impacts students’ college experience in various ways – from campus resources and extracurricular activities to networking opportunities. Both large universities and small colleges have their advantages depending on students’ preferences and needs.

The availability and quality of online programs at a college are essential for students who prefer or require remote learning opportunities. A strong online program ensures flexibility and accessibility for students and reduces the impact of distance or personal commitments on their education.

Finally, aspects like internships and alumni network are vital when considering post-graduation opportunities for students. Colleges that offer a strong network and support for securing internships and job placements can enhance students’ career prospects and contribute to the overall value of their education.


Florida is home to some of the best colleges in the South, offering a variety of academic programs, student amenities, and opportunities for students who wish to live on campus. Here, we’ll briefly explore the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of Miami, focusing on their reputations, campus life, and semester-based academic calendars.

University of Florida

The University of Florida is a leading public college known for its strong academic programs and research opportunities. With a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses, students can explore various fields of study and develop valuable skills for their future careers. Living on campus is encouraged, with numerous residence halls and housing options available for both freshman and upperclassmen.

  • Academic Calendar: The University of Florida follows a semester-based academic calendar, allowing students to plan their schedules and academic progress effectively.
  • Reputation: As one of the top public colleges in the South, the university consistently ranks highly in national and international college rankings.

Florida State University

Another prestigious public college, Florida State University offers an exceptional learning environment with a diverse range of academic programs. Known for its supportive and inclusive community, the university provides a pleasant atmosphere for students living on campus.

  • Campus Life: Students have numerous opportunities to engage in extracurricular activities, such as joining clubs, participating in sports, and attending cultural events.
  • Academic Calendar: Just like the University of Florida, Florida State University also follows a semester-based academic calendar, ensuring students have ample time to complete their coursework and prepare for exams.

University of Miami

The University of Miami is a renowned private college in Florida, offering a dynamic and innovative range of degree programs. While being a private institution, the university maintains a commitment to providing a quality education and fostering a nurturing environment for its diverse student body.

  • Living on Campus: Students are encouraged to live on campus during their first year, with a variety of housing options and residential communities available.
  • Academic Calendar: The University of Miami follows the same semester-based academic calendar as its public counterparts, giving students the stability and predictability needed to manage their academic lives effectively.

In summary, Florida boasts several excellent academic institutions for students seeking the best colleges in the South. The University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of Miami all offer vibrant campus experiences, diverse academic programs, and semester-based academic calendars, ensuring their students have a well-rounded educational experience.


Georgia Institute of Technology

The Georgia Institute of Technology, often referred to as Georgia Tech, is a prominent institution for higher education in the South. Located in Atlanta, the campus boasts a vibrant community that balances a strong emphasis on technology and innovation with the charm of a southern college. Georgia Tech offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs focused mainly on engineering, computing, and sciences.

With competitive tuition rates and various financial aid opportunities, Georgia Tech is an attractive choice for many students seeking quality education in the South. The institute is committed to making higher education accessible and has extensive support for scholarships and financial aid programs.

Emory University

Emory University is a top-tier private institution in Atlanta known for its strong programs in the liberal arts, sciences, and healthcare. Its picturesque campus seamlessly blends modern facilities with the elegance and charm of southern colleges. Emory offers a diverse array of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, emphasizing interdisciplinary collaboration and a strong commitment to research.

Tuition at Emory is on par with other prestigious private universities, but the institution is dedicated to helping eligible students cover the cost of education through an array of financial aid options, including scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study opportunities.

University of Georgia

The University of Georgia (UGA) is a well-regarded public research university with a rich history dating back to 1785. Located in Athens, UGA’s campus is a blend of historical architecture and modern facilities. As a flagship institution, UGA offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs in various disciplines, including arts, sciences, business, education, and more.

UGA is committed to affordable higher education for its students, offering competitive tuition rates and ample financial aid resources. In-state students benefit from lower tuition while out-of-state students may be eligible for various scholarships and financial aid programs. The university’s dedication to accessibility and excellence makes it a prominent choice among southern colleges.

North Carolina

Duke University

Duke University is a prestigious private institution in Durham, North Carolina. It is consistently ranked among the top national universities in the United States. The university is renowned for its rigorous academics and vibrant campus life, offering students numerous sports and clubs to participate in. Duke’s athletic teams, known as the Blue Devils, are highly competitive and contribute to the university’s strong sense of pride and community.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) is a top public institution and the flagship campus of the University of North Carolina system. With a storied history dating back to 1789, UNC offers students a rich education that balances academic excellence with a diverse array of extracurricular activities. Sports play an important role in this community, and UNC’s Tar Heels have built a strong reputation for success, particularly in basketball.

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

North Carolina State University at Raleigh (NC State) is a renowned public institution and a significant contributor to the Research Triangle, an employment hub for technology and science industries in North Carolina. As one of the largest universities in the state, NC State provides students with a wide range of academic offerings and supportive resources. In addition to its strong academic focus, NC State is known for its extensive clubs and organizations, as well as for its competitive sports programs within the Atlantic Coast Conference.


University of Virginia

The University of Virginia, located in Charlottesville, is known for its strong academics, rich history, and beautiful campus environment situated near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the university offers a wide range of majors and hosts numerous student organizations to inspire students both inside and outside the classroom. As a public institution, the cost of attending the University of Virginia is relatively affordable when compared to private schools in the region.

College of William & Mary

The College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg, is the second oldest higher education institution in the United States, having been founded in 1693. As a public research university, it offers a unique combination of history, academic excellence, and affordability. The campus is renowned for its beautiful brick buildings and thriving student life. Numerous student organizations contribute to the vibrant campus community, and its proximity to historic Williamsburg provides additional cultural and educational opportunities.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Commonly known as Virginia Tech, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is located in Blacksburg and is recognized for its outstanding engineering, science, and technology programs. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the campus provides a picturesque environment for students to pursue their studies. Virginia Tech offers a variety of student organizations and activities to enhance learning and foster a strong sense of community. As a public university, the cost of attending Virginia Tech is competitive, making it an excellent option for students seeking a high-quality education at an affordable price.

Each of these esteemed Virginia institutions offers students unique opportunities in terms of academics, extracurricular activities, and campus culture. By considering factors such as location, cost, and individual preferences, prospective students can make an informed decision about which college is the best fit for them.


University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin is a top public research institution located in the bustling city of Austin. The campus is known for its vibrant community, innovative academic programs, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities. The university has a strong focus on research and offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in various fields, including engineering, business, and education.

Rice University

Rice University is a private research university located in Houston, Texas. It is known for its excellent academic programs, low student-to-faculty ratio, and picturesque campus. Its location in Houston allows students to enjoy the city’s cultural offerings and economic opportunities while pursuing their studies. Rice offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degrees across various disciplines, such as science, engineering, and liberal arts. The university is also in close proximity to a beach, for students who enjoy spending time by the water.

Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University is one of the largest universities in the United States, with its main campus in College Station. It is known for its strong engineering, agricultural, and veterinary medicine programs. The university boasts a rich sports culture and strong traditions, such as the Corp of Cadets and the Aggie Ring. Students at Texas A&M have access to state-of-the-art campus facilities, as well as the diverse landscape of the surrounding area, which includes both beach and mountain environments perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.


Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University is a private research institution located in Nashville, Tennessee. Founded in 1873, the university has a strong reputation for its academic excellence, NCAA Division I athletics, and innovative research. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate majors in a wide range of fields, including engineering, nursing, education, arts and science, and business management.

The university is known for its impressive research facilities, which focus on interdisciplinary collaboration. This environment fosters advanced learning and innovation, attracting top-tier faculty and researchers. The campus comprises state-of-the-art learning facilities, libraries, and recreational areas, allowing students to thrive academically and holistically.

University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee (UT) is a public land-grant research university with its flagship campus located in Knoxville, Tennessee. Established in 1794, UT is one of the oldest public institutions in the US. It is a member of the NCAA Division I, and its athletic teams compete in the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

UT offers a wide range of undergraduate majors across 15 colleges, including arts and sciences, engineering, nursing, and business. The university also provides numerous opportunities for student involvement, including more than 400 registered student organizations.

At UT, research plays a crucial role in promoting academic excellence. The university encourages undergraduate and graduate research projects, helping students to explore various fields, collaborate with faculty members, and develop practical skills. The University of Tennessee is not only an academic powerhouse, but also a vital contributor to the state’s economy, culture, and overall progress.

South Carolina

University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina (USC) is a leading public research institution. It consistently ranks among the top colleges in the South due to its strong academic programs and vibrant campus life. USC offers a wide array of academic programs to suit the needs and interests of its diverse student body.

Students at USC have access to a variety of extracurricular activities, with over 500 clubs and organizations, including fraternities and sororities. Greek life plays a significant role in campus life, contributing to a well-rounded college experience. Living on campus is highly encouraged for first-year students, as it helps build connections and fosters a sense of community.

Notable alumni from the University of South Carolina include numerous leaders in various fields, such as business, politics, and entertainment. Their accomplishments serve as a testament to the institution’s commitment to nurturing talent and fostering success.

Clemson University

Clemson University is another highly ranked public university in South Carolina. Known for its exceptional academic programs, Clemson offers a broad range of undergraduate and graduate degrees. The university also boasts a strong commitment to research, which helps to advance knowledge in various fields of study.

Beyond academics, Clemson University is home to a thriving social scene, with numerous clubs and organizations for students to participate in. Sororities and fraternities are a significant part of campus life, providing ample opportunities for networking and socializing.

College rankings include both the University of South Carolina and Clemson University among the best colleges in the South. These institutions offer diverse academic programs and foster an engaging campus environment, making them attractive options for students pursuing higher education.

Living on campus is an essential part of the college experience, and both universities offer a variety of housing options to accommodate students’ needs. With ample opportunities to get involved, make lifelong connections, and receive a world-class education, South Carolina is home to some of the best colleges in the South.


University of Alabama

The University of Alabama, established in 1831, is a public research university located in Tuscaloosa. It is the flagship campus of the University of Alabama System and offers a wide range of academic programs, including engineering, humanities, and social sciences. The institution boasts a strong athletic program and is well-known for its football team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, which has a storied history and a dedicated fan base.

Rollins College, situated in the beautiful city of Charleston, South Carolina, is an excellent option for students interested in a smaller, liberal arts college experience. It is renowned for its South Carolina Corps of Cadets and the elite varsity rifle team.

The Citadel, also known as The Military College of South Carolina, is a prominent institution for students pursuing a military education. Located in Charleston, The Citadel focuses on leadership development and is home to the renowned South Carolina Corps of Cadets.

In Newport News, Virginia, Christopher Newport University is an excellent choice for students looking for a comprehensive education. Nestled alongside the James River, this institution offers various undergraduate and graduate programs in disciplines such as business, biology, and psychology. The university is committed to providing hands-on learning experiences to its students and is also well-regarded for The Mariners’ Museum, which features maritime history displays and artifacts.

One of the most picturesque campuses in the South can be found at Appalachian State University, located in Boone, North Carolina. This public institution provides a variety of academic programs, ranging from the arts and humanities to the health sciences. Additionally, the university’s dedication to research, sustainability, and community engagement ensures its status as a vital contributor to the region’s growth and development.