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Top South Central Colleges and Universities

A list of 30 great colleges and universities in the South Central region

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The South Central region of the United States contains a wealth of public and private colleges and universities. My top picks range from small liberal arts colleges to giant public universities. The list includes religious and secular schools in rural and urban locations. The list contains some familiar names such as Rice and Texas A&M, but some of the selections may be less familiar to readers. The 30 colleges and universities below were chosen based on factors such as retention rates, graduation rates, student engagement, selectivity, financial aid. and value. I have listed the schools alphabetically to avoid the often arbitrary distinctions that separate #1 from #2, and because of the futility of comparing a large research university to a small liberal arts college.

The South Central Region

South Central Region

The 30 colleges and universities in the list below were selected from Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.

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Auburn University

Auburn University
booleansplit / Flickr
  • Location: Auburn, Alabama
  • Enrollment: 25,469 (20,446 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: over 140 degree programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; over 300 student clubs and organizations; strong Division I athletic programs within the Southeastern Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, see the Auburn University profile

Austin College

Austin College
austrini / Flickr
  • Location: Sherman, Texas
  • Enrollment: 1,353 (1,326 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church
  • Distinctions: high number of graduates go on to graduate school; emphasis on community service and study abroad; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; most students receive significant grant aid
  • For more information and admissions data, see the Austin College profile

Baylor University

Baylor University
genvessel / Flickr
  • Location: Waco, Texas
  • Enrollment: 15,029 (12,575 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university affiliated with the Baptist Church
  • Distinctions: 145 areas of study and 300 student organizations; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; Baylor Bears compete in the NCAA Division I Big 12 Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, see the Baylor University profile

Bellarmine University

Bellarmine University
Braindrain0000 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Louisville, Kentucky
  • Enrollment: 3,432 (2,640 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Catholic university
  • Distinctions: 12 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 19; strong internship program; study abroad opportunities in over 50 countries; NCAA Division II athletics
  • For more information and admissions data, see the Bellarmine University profile

Belmont University

Belmont University
EVula / Wikimedia Commons

Berea College

Berea College
Parkerdr / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Berea, Kentucky
  • Enrollment: 1,661 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: students come from 50 states and 60 countries; students pay no tuition; all students work 10 to 15 hours a week as part of the Labor Program; first coeducational and interracial college in the South
  • For more information and admissions data, see the Berea College profile

Birmingham-Southern College

Birmingham Southern College
goforchris / Flickr
  • Location: Birmingham, Alabama
  • Enrollment: 1,305 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private Methodist liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: good financial aid; strong student-faculty interaction; featured in Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; good financial aid
  • For more information and admissions data, see the Birmingham-Southern College profile

Centre College

Centre College Norton Center for the Arts
Arwcheek / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Danville, Kentucky
  • Enrollment: 1,309 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio; chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; good grant aid; "Centre Commitment" guarantees graduation in four years
  • For more information and admissions data, see the Centre College profile

Hendrix College

Hendrix College
WisperToMe / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Conway, Arkansas
  • Enrollment: 1,426 (1,415 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; featured in Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives; excellent value; curricular emphasis on active learning and international engagement
  • For more information and admissions data, see the Hendrix College profile
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