2018 Best Bang for the Buck Rankings: South

Below are our rankings of America’s Best Bang for the Buck Colleges—our exclusive list of schools ranked according to how well they help non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices. The list is created by isolating the social mobility metrics from the main rankings of four-year institutions. Click here for detailed methodology, here for all of our other rankings, and here to download the full data set.

RankName8-year graduation ratePell/non-Pell graduation gapStudents receiving Pell GrantsFirst-gen studentsMedian earningsPredicted median earningsNet priceLoan repayment rate
1Berea College (KY)63%-31%83%40%$33,399 $28,556 $3,458 72%
2William Carey University (MS)65%19%63%37%$34,696 $30,287 $17,771 54%
3Texas A&M University-Texarkana (TX)*71%1%48%47%$35,961 $32,938 $7,379 60%
4Louisiana College (LA)45%35%43%37%$40,394 $35,702 $12,897 67%
5Univ. of Houston-Clear Lake (TX)*75%N/A40%46%$47,407 $42,051 $11,155 64%
6Alice Lloyd College (KY)46%22%55%47%$32,640 $30,503 $11,392 59%
7Univ. of TX-Rio Grande Valley (TX)*52%-4%63%55%$40,702 $39,134 $3,102 60%
8Univ. of Arkansas-Monticello (AR)*38%7%58%55%$32,392 $28,619 $10,038 45%
9Texas A&M International Univ. (TX)*51%-1%51%49%$44,893 $41,121 $6,143 57%
10Texas A&M University-College Station (TX)*80%-11%22%31%$54,659 $52,585 $8,788 85%
11Harding University (AR)66%29%27%21%$38,935 $40,504 $14,449 75%
12Tusculum College (TN)53%-4%57%47%$38,997 $35,098 $16,543 58%
13Southeastern OK State Univ. (OK)*42%-13%46%51%$34,648 $34,380 $7,371 60%
14Sam Houston State University (TX)*60%-9%43%43%$42,360 $37,485 $11,315 65%
15Northeastern State University (OK)*44%-10%49%43%$35,454 $32,467 $7,337 56%
16Univ. of Science & Arts of Okla. (OK)*52%-11%42%42%$31,767 $29,779 $5,997 61%
17John Brown University (AR)70%-14%29%32%$46,601 $43,324 $16,572 80%
18King University (TN)73%-24%47%51%$41,245 $39,817 $17,730 71%
19Texas Woman's University (TX)*51%-17%44%42%$44,789 $35,606 $7,463 63%
20Mississippi Univ. for Women (MS)*53%-5%47%39%$34,252 $33,851 $9,976 58%
21Blue Mountain College (MS)57%-13%51%38%$30,972 $30,728 $9,670 63%
22Arkansas Tech University (AR)*47%-4%43%49%$34,304 $31,607 $10,108 56%
23Midway University (KY)53%2%51%52%$36,418 $34,167 $18,520 57%
24Bryan College-Dayton (TN)54%7%35%41%$35,508 $39,586 $13,787 76%
25University of Texas-El Paso (TX)*50%-10%58%42%$39,696 $36,919 $5,858 59%
26Trinity University (TX)81%-7%16%18%$54,362 $54,631 $14,413 90%
27Vanderbilt University (TN)93%-4%14%12%$63,229 $63,710 $6,873 88%
28University of Tennessee-Martin (TN)*51%-15%48%44%$35,202 $34,403 $7,257 60%
29Strayer University-Memphis (TN)°23%N/A69%52%$49,949 $36,474 $26,647 31%
30Lincoln Memorial University (TN)46%-7%50%45%$37,376 $34,361 $11,709 61%
31Univ. of Arkansas-Fort Smith (AR)*35%-1%49%50%$30,860 $31,347 $7,437 54%
32Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OK)41%9%35%45%$46,932 $42,001 $20,737 69%
33Southern Univ. and A&M College (LA)*39%15%67%41%$32,974 $37,275 $12,184 31%
34University of Houston-Victoria (TX)*66%-10%45%46%$39,591 $42,023 $8,966 61%
35Henderson State University (AR)*39%-11%54%43%$35,356 $29,945 $10,068 55%
36Texas College (TX)44%4%89%50%$24,002 $30,159 $14,128 22%
37So. Arkansas Univ.-Campus (AR)*42%-4%50%43%$35,412 $32,851 $10,394 51%
38Le Moyne-Owen College (TN)33%-5%79%48%$28,246 $28,990 $8,897 21%
39East Central University (OK)*41%-16%44%48%$35,100 $32,500 $5,956 55%
40Alcorn State University (MS)*50%-8%76%35%$30,616 $30,475 $14,944 31%
41Tennessee State University (TN)*48%-5%62%41%$35,411 $34,343 $9,900 38%
42Univ. of Houston-Downtown (TX)*44%-1%46%50%$43,172 $43,633 $6,823 50%
43Williams Baptist College (AR)47%-6%47%40%$32,481 $30,307 $13,707 63%
44University of Texas-Arlington (TX)*54%-3%37%43%$46,953 $47,272 $12,282 65%
45University of North Texas (TX)*60%-2%36%36%$43,066 $45,067 $9,005 65%
46Texas Wesleyan University (TX)54%3%45%45%$41,093 $34,680 $23,319 51%
47St. Mary's University (TX)62%-11%50%44%$46,252 $48,239 $15,898 67%
48Saint Edward's University (TX)67%2%34%31%$45,638 $46,401 $17,185 69%
49Northwestern OK State Univ. (OK)*43%-3%34%44%$36,214 $36,389 $6,687 64%
50Jackson State University (MS)*51%-5%65%33%$29,556 $30,244 $13,789 39%
51Texas State Univ.-San Marcos (TX)*63%-3%35%37%$44,430 $43,816 $11,408 67%
52Martin Methodist College (TN)45%22%53%46%$30,903 $30,469 $19,451 46%
53Belhaven University (MS)46%-5%56%40%$37,129 $35,536 $16,999 54%
54Middle Tennessee State University (TN)*52%-4%44%38%$36,864 $36,024 $10,180 59%
55Southwestern University (TX)74%-8%27%23%$49,010 $47,186 $19,085 87%
56Louisiana State Univ.-Alexandria (LA)*31%16%40%47%$32,015 $33,359 $7,873 45%
57Texas A&M University-Commerce (TX)*60%-11%50%44%$37,672 $36,430 $7,851 50%
58Tougaloo College (MS)51%-48%90%29%$27,956 $24,564 $12,784 41%
59LA State Univ./Agri. & Mech.l Coll. (LA)*68%-14%20%28%$47,149 $44,749 $9,203 75%
60Midwestern State University (TX)*48%-8%38%40%$39,134 $39,721 $7,982 64%
61University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (AR)*31%-17%71%42%$27,288 $27,620 $7,776 34%
62University of Oklahoma-Norman (OK)*67%-17%23%30%$48,055 $44,017 $14,341 75%
63Campbellsville University (KY)39%0%44%44%$32,529 $31,432 $14,569 59%
64Oklahoma Baptist University (OK)48%-11%36%28%$36,807 $35,152 $14,932 77%
65Georgetown College (KY)66%-16%36%29%$42,074 $40,077 $16,554 80%
66Rice University (TX)92%-5%16%14%$62,620 $70,347 $7,633 92%
67Fisk University (TN)37%45%57%28%$33,794 $35,201 $21,674 39%
68Tennessee Wesleyan College (TN)45%-23%37%46%$36,807 $34,819 $10,466 66%
69University of Texas-Tyler (TX)*51%-12%36%39%$42,311 $41,656 $11,125 65%
70Cameron University (OK)*28%-8%47%48%$33,994 $31,576 $8,856 52%
71Jarvis Christian College (TX)22%16%93%43%$25,624 $26,105 $17,210 24%
72Murray State University (KY)*58%-20%33%37%$35,908 $38,057 $8,417 68%
73Brescia University (KY)33%-36%56%46%$37,420 $32,134 $10,003 65%
74Nicholls State University (LA)*47%-13%38%48%$35,804 $39,606 $9,471 60%
75Millsaps College (MS)65%35%21%N/A$46,143 $49,970 $16,769 74%
76Kentucky Wesleyan College (KY)45%-3%49%36%$35,618 $36,891 $14,249 64%
77Oklahoma State University-Main (OK)*63%-14%28%30%$44,227 $43,713 $11,097 72%
78Bethel University (TN)42%-5%54%55%$36,956 $38,151 $17,286 44%
79West Texas A&M University (TX)*51%-13%38%41%$40,647 $39,721 $10,121 65%
80Sul Ross State University (TX)*36%-6%57%49%$37,780 $35,502 $12,171 49%
81Austin Peay State University (TN)*42%-17%52%43%$34,701 $34,758 $10,805 51%
82Prairie View A&M University (TX)*43%-3%66%36%$34,542 $37,094 $9,369 37%
83Oklahoma Panhandle State Univ. (OK)*40%7%34%43%$35,299 $39,589 $10,806 57%
84Dillard University (LA)39%-13%76%39%$33,695 $32,136 $17,080 39%
85University of Phoenix-Tennesee (TN)°28%-3%65%54%N/A$36,030 $17,605 31%
86University of St. Thomas (TX)52%4%32%37%$49,274 $49,709 $17,447 65%
87Christian Brothers University (TN)53%-15%41%34%$44,993 $46,457 $7,868 57%
88University of Central Oklahoma (OK)*43%-10%34%38%$38,734 $37,848 $10,558 63%
89Northwestern State Univ. of LA (LA)*48%-12%40%44%$34,554 $36,799 $10,775 52%
90Lee University (TN)56%-5%36%36%$33,281 $35,712 $15,843 65%
91Mississippi Valley State Univ. (MS)*34%-12%74%42%$22,745 $29,336 $10,173 38%
92Tarleton State University (TX)*48%-8%40%43%$41,351 $39,111 $14,057 64%
93University of the Ozarks (AR)48%-25%43%39%$35,170 $35,253 $13,721 67%
94Texas Lutheran University (TX)45%-13%39%38%$44,279 $41,030 $16,303 70%
95East Texas Baptist University (TX)43%-14%46%39%$38,119 $32,393 $18,329 61%
96Texas Tech University (TX)*63%-11%28%31%$48,100 $46,395 $12,728 75%
97Grambling State University (LA)*37%-1%80%42%$28,396 $30,518 $15,865 27%
98McNeese State University (LA)*47%-12%35%41%$37,370 $38,051 $8,745 55%
99University of TX Permian Basin (TX)*48%-14%23%47%$43,768 $48,039 $4,930 64%
100Central Baptist College (AR)37%-5%43%42%$35,010 $38,590 $13,557 62%
101Wiley College (TX)28%-16%77%47%$27,143 $22,872 $13,563 26%
102University of Texas-Austin (TX)*81%-12%25%27%$54,309 $58,676 $13,369 82%
103Univ. of Mary Hardin-Baylor (TX)52%-10%42%32%$42,012 $39,245 $20,794 69%
104Eastern Kentucky University (KY)*49%-17%42%42%$34,238 $34,464 $9,708 59%
105Tennessee Technological Univ. (TN)*57%-21%35%40%$37,977 $38,300 $12,294 69%
106Bellarmine University (KY)67%-11%25%26%$45,840 $44,940 $21,365 80%
107Maryville College (TN)56%-19%45%36%$37,067 $39,866 $14,632 75%
108Carson-Newman College (TN)51%-14%40%34%$36,157 $36,542 $13,400 67%
109Howard Payne University (TX)46%-10%44%38%$37,274 $35,130 $16,869 59%
110University of Louisiana at Lafayette (LA)*54%-13%32%40%$38,429 $40,004 $8,545 63%
111University of Pikeville (KY)42%-6%45%51%$29,664 $34,233 $16,412 56%
112University of Central Arkansas (AR)*47%-19%41%36%$37,322 $37,694 $11,494 61%
113Stephen F. Austin State Univ. (TX)*50%-16%41%38%$40,195 $39,102 $11,456 61%
114University of Texas-San Antonio (TX)*43%-2%43%39%$44,433 $43,901 $10,088 61%
115Southwestern Adventist University (TX)40%-6%51%34%$38,879 $36,020 $17,751 60%
116Lane College (TN)35%-23%92%47%$24,367 $25,792 $12,449 16%
117University of Texas at Dallas (TX)*72%-4%35%31%$50,730 $60,857 $10,199 71%
118Southwestern Christian University (OK)44%-24%60%48%$27,245 $34,136 $12,604 55%
119Southeastern Louisiana Univ. (LA)*42%-11%35%42%$36,007 $37,961 $9,490 56%
120Kentucky State University (KY)*25%-1%60%42%$27,831 $28,802 $7,882 31%
121Rogers State University (OK)*26%-17%45%45%$32,733 $32,476 $11,772 54%
122Southern Nazarene University (OK)46%-28%43%36%$46,448 $43,236 $12,393 69%
123Wayland Baptist University (TX)35%-7%35%47%$40,805 $41,285 $14,627 58%
124University of the Cumberlands (KY)38%4%38%47%$33,389 $37,894 $15,905 63%
125Bacone College (OK)27%2%69%44%$31,416 $28,402 $23,818 38%
126University of Houston (TX)*53%-6%38%41%$49,520 $52,863 $12,031 67%
127Paul Quinn College (TX)9%6%84%45%$28,556 $29,254 $13,833 25%
128Schreiner University (TX)46%5%41%36%$38,069 $38,666 $16,727 62%
129Northern Kentucky University (KY)*43%-13%33%41%$36,464 $41,845 $6,227 62%
130Transylvania University (KY)72%-11%25%20%$41,757 $44,052 $18,157 84%
131LeTourneau University (TX)49%-18%34%34%$49,284 $45,209 $18,648 64%
132Oral Roberts University (OK)38%7%43%28%$35,203 $36,678 $19,262 68%
133University of Southern Mississippi (MS)*55%-22%48%33%$36,314 $36,530 $11,916 59%
134Lindsey Wilson College (KY)49%-16%61%48%$27,743 $29,867 $15,239 49%
135Thomas More College (KY)51%-13%27%41%$46,348 $45,161 $17,162 67%
136Southwestern OK State Univ. (OK)*43%-16%36%43%$37,971 $39,761 $9,614 61%
137Union College (KY)37%-9%53%48%$32,032 $31,982 $15,882 50%
138Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TX)*48%-7%49%49%$40,195 $42,942 $10,708 52%
139McMurry University (TX)41%-13%49%37%$38,123 $36,200 $18,485 62%
140Philander Smith College (AR)40%-20%74%42%$25,228 $31,726 $15,024 40%
141Langston University (OK)*26%-3%72%42%$27,947 $30,684 $10,715 29%
142LA State University-Shreveport (LA)*38%-11%35%42%$35,969 $38,675 $7,408 48%
143Asbury University (KY)68%-22%33%26%$34,896 $36,475 $22,985 81%
144University of Memphis (TN)*49%-3%47%39%$37,021 $37,704 $11,922 44%
145Lyon College (AR)50%-13%44%36%$39,173 $40,616 $12,539 65%
146Sewanee-University of the South (TN)79%-7%19%15%$39,732 $44,931 $15,154 86%
147Hardin-Simmons University (TX)54%-12%33%35%$39,885 $40,339 $18,329 71%
148University of Louisville (KY)*55%-6%29%33%$39,327 $43,714 $12,960 67%
149Loyola University-New Orleans (LA)64%-13%31%21%$44,059 $45,296 $19,947 74%
150Centre College (KY)82%-8%14%N/A$44,941 $48,845 $17,521 86%
151University of Tennessee (TN)*70%-16%29%25%$43,217 $47,928 $14,249 73%
152AR State Univ.-Main (AR)*46%-20%45%41%$32,484 $34,664 $11,185 53%
153East Tennessee State University (TN)*51%-18%42%42%$34,595 $36,048 $14,067 59%
154University of Kentucky (KY)*62%-16%24%28%$42,610 $42,297 $13,488 72%
155Xavier University of Louisiana (LA)46%-16%53%31%$47,604 $48,152 $17,719 51%
156Austin College (TX)76%-15%28%23%$48,363 $50,809 $18,145 80%
157Mid-America Christian University (OK)43%-13%40%53%$39,138 $39,513 $20,253 52%
158University of Louisiana-Monroe (LA)*42%-13%35%39%$36,560 $38,076 $7,907 55%
159Huston-Tillotson University (TX)36%-11%66%45%$31,415 $33,052 $16,904 33%
160Trevecca Nazarene University (TN)56%-15%36%36%$39,843 $44,820 $15,547 67%
161Oklahoma City University (OK)59%1%20%27%$40,192 $40,373 $26,218 73%
162Delta State University (MS)*44%-23%44%33%$33,994 $34,583 $12,625 52%
163University of Mississippi (MS)*65%-17%27%25%$41,203 $43,112 $12,590 67%
164Western Kentucky University (KY)*49%-18%35%39%$34,501 $37,830 $11,189 56%
165Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TX)*48%-11%40%41%$42,318 $43,022 $14,434 63%
166Southern Methodist University (TX)78%-2%15%19%$55,203 $58,516 $22,182 80%
167Lamar University (TX)*40%-12%42%42%$39,437 $37,951 $12,186 49%
168Angelo State University (TX)*37%-15%37%42%$38,580 $41,948 $11,530 62%
169University of Arkansas (AR)*64%-17%23%28%$43,729 $46,358 $12,793 71%
170Rhodes College (TN)80%-12%14%11%$50,387 $53,583 $20,026 90%
171Concordia University-Texas (TX)39%-5%40%37%$41,306 $45,396 $18,552 64%
172Mississippi College (MS)55%-17%34%23%$38,632 $40,549 $14,783 62%
173Our Lady of the Lake U.-San Antonio (TX)45%-6%58%47%$39,240 $43,088 $16,709 48%
174Cumberland University (TN)50%-7%34%43%$36,954 $41,714 $17,108 59%
175Mississippi State University (MS)*62%-22%33%25%$40,294 $43,590 $14,615 69%
176Kentucky Christian University (KY)35%-4%47%40%$29,943 $35,066 $18,462 62%
177Morehead State University (KY)*46%-23%37%46%$31,876 $35,093 $10,116 51%
178Rust College (MS)20%-44%87%45%$23,099 $24,630 $9,626 26%
179Freed-Hardeman University (TN)53%-20%31%24%$36,971 $39,612 $15,449 70%
180Union University (TN)66%-20%28%32%$39,625 $47,071 $22,443 72%
181University of the Incarnate Word (TX)52%-10%40%45%$43,921 $49,391 $18,750 56%
182Louisiana Tech University (LA)*52%-17%21%33%$41,407 $45,390 $8,024 66%
183Ouachita Baptist University (AR)57%-15%28%25%$38,276 $40,687 $16,702 75%
184University of Dallas (TX)68%-16%21%15%$45,243 $47,866 $21,302 80%
185University of Holy Cross (LA)21%-31%48%47%$39,640 $38,371 $10,825 53%
186Abilene Christian University (TX)62%-16%26%25%$41,149 $43,199 $21,476 74%
187Univ. of Tennessee-Chattanooga (TN)*44%-8%35%30%$37,117 $41,943 $10,743 58%
188Southern Univ. New Orleans (LA)*23%-3%59%51%$28,852 $36,821 $8,093 25%
189Houston Baptist University (TX)42%-11%47%39%$45,479 $45,723 $19,272 55%
190Belmont University (TN)72%-13%17%17%$41,390 $44,897 $27,349 82%
191Hendrix College (AR)76%-13%19%15%$40,902 $48,099 $20,463 81%
192University of New Orleans (LA)*39%-3%33%41%$38,434 $45,952 $8,394 57%
193Centenary College of Louisiana (LA)52%-23%35%24%$42,341 $40,543 $21,263 71%
194Lubbock Christian University (TX)48%-20%35%38%$39,069 $43,564 $18,574 67%
195Texas Christian University (TX)75%-13%13%18%$49,926 $51,605 $23,702 84%
196Oklahoma Christian University (OK)50%-11%28%21%$36,509 $44,739 $15,513 75%
197University of Arkansas at Little Rock (AR)*36%-17%39%41%$34,452 $41,225 $12,635 50%
198Dallas Baptist University (TX)58%-5%29%34%$42,717 $44,804 $21,763 60%
199DeVry University-Texas (TX)°30%-10%56%50%$46,100 $49,492 $28,399 43%
200Sullivan University (KY)°31%N/A57%50%$30,463 $38,785 $26,025 42%
201Southern Adventist University (TN)54%-28%37%20%$38,184 $42,111 $17,814 73%
202South College (TN)°34%6%62%53%$24,395 $33,768 $27,495 39%
203Southwestern Assemb. of God U. (TX)41%-20%53%36%$32,674 $35,676 $23,780 57%
204Tulane University of Louisiana (LA)71%-12%14%21%$54,755 $61,311 $23,388 72%
205Baylor University (TX)72%-15%20%21%$49,676 $53,592 $28,367 78%
206Texas Southern University (TX)*24%-6%65%41%$31,172 $35,862 $18,728 29%
207University of Tulsa (OK)71%-18%14%23%$44,525 $58,743 $21,594 78%
208Free Will Baptist Bible College (TN)34%-35%42%36%$30,121 $34,666 $18,172 57%
209Spalding University (KY)51%-44%44%41%$42,197 $42,904 $18,265 55%
210Lipscomb University (TN)62%-22%25%23%$39,739 $48,392 $20,872 76%
Definitions:
Median earnings: median annual earnings 10 years after entering college.
Pell/non-Pell graduation gap: graduation rate for Pell students minus the graduation rate for non-Pell students; a positive number indicates that students who receive Pell grants graduate at a higher rate than those who don’t, and vice versa.
First-gen students: percent of students who are the first in their family to go to college.
Predicted median earnings: expected median annual earnings based on student demographic data, adjusted for institutions’ location and academic mission.
Net price: actual cost of attendance for first-time, full-time, in-state students with family incomes below $75,000 per year over the last three years.
Loan repayment rate: percent of students who pay back at least $1 in loan principal within 5 years of leaving college.
* = public
° = for-profit