2021 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 grad rate gapNumber of Pell graduatesActual vs. predicted Pell enrollmenPercent of graduates above 150% of poverty lineNet price of attendance for families below $75,000 incomePercent of loan principal remaining 5 years laterPredicted principal remaining
1Berea College (KY)66%-23%23740%72%285089%99%
2Texas A&M University at College Station (TX)*82%-8%1517-2%89%1420463%76%
3Vanderbilt University (TN)92%-4%1973%87%635061%61%
4Texas A&M International Univ. (TX)*51%1%3139%78%3592101%108%
5Rust College (MS)30%23%7912%71%10435121%135%
6North American University (TX)75%10%254%85%11340121%106%
7Rice University (TX)92%-4%1453%84%755251%53%
8Tougaloo College (MS)45%11%6431%72%12652131%133%
9University of Texas at Arlington (TX)*56%-1%5784%88%1170698%100%
10Univ. of Texas at Rio Grande Valley (TX)*51%-4%93920%78%3387100%108%
11LeMoyne-Owen College (TN)21%-12%1719%100%9262125%134%
12Alice Lloyd College (KY)35%37%472%74%1313199%87%
13Trinity University (TX)81%-18%657%84%1514051%65%
14University of Texas at Austin (TX)*80%-10%14681%86%1312569%65%
15King University (TN)73%-9%4210%90%1997295%92%
16Texas A&M University at Texarkana (TX)*57%-6%2511%83%9149106%105%
17Univ. of Texas at Permian Basin (TX)*48%8%50-13%83%963692%94%
18Alcorn State University (MS)*38%1%17425%85%14546126%131%
19Midwestern State University (TX)*51%-8%123-6%90%851898%98%
20Tennessee Wesleyan University (TN)57%-13%337%84%924895%88%
21University of Houston at Victoria (TX)*56%-6%24-1%86%8638107%104%
22Bryan College (TN)52%-6%400%83%1398376%90%
23Oklahoma Baptist University (OK)57%-16%934%85%1692982%87%
24Centre College (KY)85%2%50-1%81%1673364%59%
25Grambling State University (LA)*50%8%21520%75%18341132%132%
26University of Texas at El Paso (TX)*50%-9%68118%80%7583108%113%
27University of Texas at Tyler (TX)*54%-1%931%86%969092%95%
28Univ. of Houston at Downtown (TX)*42%4%1651%80%7068112%105%
29Lincoln Memorial University (TN)57%-7%455%90%1401297%93%
30John Brown University (AR)70%-15%667%82%1928073%81%
31University of Tennessee (TN)*69%-13%7917%87%1501184%78%
32Univ. of Arkansas at Fort Smith (AR)*33%-7%143-4%83%9377104%94%
33Northeastern State University (OK)*42%-14%1369%85%8262107%101%
34Texas State Univ. at San Marcos (TX)*62%-11%849-2%86%1211892%94%
35Sam Houston State University (TX)*59%-9%469-2%86%1140697%99%
36Prairie View A&M University (TX)*43%-15%35514%86%11466123%123%
37Maryville College (TN)55%-9%7512%78%1690182%82%
38Milligan University (TN)65%-13%475%88%1840581%80%
39Mississippi Valley State Univ. (MS)*56%4%10111%73%15551130%130%
40University of Texas at San Antonio (TX)*47%0%7328%84%1113298%94%
41Cumberland University (TN)61%-12%35-9%92%2174890%93%
42Tarleton State University (TX)*55%-7%269-5%86%1641498%93%
43Southeastern OK State Univ. (OK)*34%-14%781%86%7175101%101%
44University of Texas at Dallas (TX)*69%-5%33118%83%1148684%67%
45University of Houston (TX)*56%-3%7918%83%1284891%86%
46Bethel University (TN)45%-4%871%86%14523112%105%
47University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (AR)*29%-13%1327%78%10148125%128%
48Bellarmine University (KY)65%-8%106-1%90%2151975%76%
49Ouachita Baptist University (AR)65%-21%60-1%81%1599275%75%
50Sewanee at University of the South (TN)79%-4%70-6%81%1762065%63%
51Blue Mountain College (MS)55%-21%179%88%10676107%88%
52Oklahoma State University at Main (OK)*61%-19%5110%87%1112485%84%
53University of Tennessee at Martin (TN)*50%-16%27510%83%9224103%94%
54Hendrix College (AR)78%-12%515%81%1584466%63%
55LeTourneau University (TX)55%2%58-1%85%1998199%87%
56Howard Payne University (TX)45%0%58-8%84%2008393%91%
57Texas Woman's University (TX)*54%-17%219-1%87%7680102%107%
58LA State University at Baton Rouge (LA)*68%-15%648-5%85%1252683%82%
59Tennessee Technological Univ. (TN)*57%-13%3456%86%1364385%84%
60Southern Adventist University (TN)62%3%73-1%82%2055791%82%
61University of Oklahoma at Norman (OK)*64%-15%511-1%87%1743380%80%
62University of the Cumberlands (KY)62%-5%95-3%84%1676697%96%
63Northwestern OK State Univ. (OK)*31%-11%36-7%84%806688%97%
64St. Edward's University (TX)62%-5%18011%79%1971790%85%
65Texas Tech University (TX)*62%-11%588-6%87%1378685%83%
66University of Kentucky (KY)*62%-17%5892%88%1464584%82%
67University of St. Thomas (TX)59%-6%538%80%1646392%88%
68Southwestern University (TX)73%-11%67-5%85%2092563%69%
69West Texas A&M University (TX)*51%-13%185-3%85%1072999%90%
70Texas Lutheran University (TX)52%-10%71-10%82%1699387%85%
71Middle Tennessee State University (TN)*48%-11%6397%84%10946101%98%
72Thomas More College (KY)47%-13%40-10%92%1658490%86%
73University of Holy Cross (LA)40%-3%7-11%90%13829111%106%
74Christian Brothers University (TN)49%-15%663%89%9772101%90%
75Southwestern OK State Univ. (OK)*37%-11%92-4%87%1054891%88%
76Jackson State University (MS)*44%-10%26416%82%14105129%136%
77Union University (TN)65%-9%861%88%2384381%83%
78Austin College (TX)71%-4%685%76%1715171%65%
79Schreiner University (TX)51%-8%51-3%81%1919790%87%
80Mississippi Univ. for Women (MS)*59%-18%393%84%10523115%103%
81Wayland Baptist University (TX)50%-9%30-5%83%20532107%108%
82Southern Nazarene University (OK)39%2%56-5%84%1715493%89%
83St. Mary's University (TX)60%-13%18714%83%16535100%88%
84Stephen F. Austin State Univ. (TX)*48%-12%441-2%88%10118100%96%
85Concordia University at Texas (TX)48%-13%281%90%2069295%95%
86Austin Peay State University (TN)*39%-15%21117%80%11972108%104%
87Murray State University (KY)*54%-23%2312%84%1009095%86%
88Northwestern State Univ. of LA (LA)*39%-11%1921%84%10899112%104%
89Oral Roberts University (OK)46%-10%797%77%1897198%94%
90Southeastern Louisiana Univ. (LA)*43%-15%286-6%84%11134103%97%
91East Texas Baptist University (TX)41%-10%55-3%85%1926596%92%
92Kentucky State University (KY)*26%-11%60-5%83%8157129%119%
93Southwestern Adventist University (TX)43%1%35-2%77%18979104%99%
94Southwestern Christian University (OK) ^^39%-4%13-2%77%13718108%101%
95Oklahoma Panhandle State Univ. (OK)*30%3%14-7%77%977699%91%
96Jarvis Christian College (TX)19%-1%1822%72%13592130%135%
97East Central University (OK)*40%-15%81-1%82%8536108%102%
98University of Central Oklahoma (OK)*42%-10%2310%83%13813102%93%
99University of North Texas (TX)*61%-25%7015%84%1024594%92%
100University of Tennessee at Southern (TN)*35%-13%5312%86%1786099%90%
101Texas Christian University (TX)77%-5%151-11%87%2589669%70%
102Northern Kentucky University (KY)*45%-18%241-1%88%674297%93%
103Freed-Hardeman University (TN)55%-21%575%83%1512284%81%
104University of Pikeville (KY)58%-15%595%81%17102103%95%
105Millsaps College (MS)67%-1%27-18%90%1961184%73%
106Oklahoma Christian University (OK)51%-17%54-3%85%1698974%77%
107University of the Ozarks (AR)45%-14%33-5%77%1294191%88%
108University of Memphis (TN)*48%-16%43912%83%12114115%110%
109Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OK)49%-13%22-2%84%2396390%97%
110Our Lady of the Lake U. at San Antonio (TX)47%1%8113%83%16602108%99%
111Eastern Kentucky University (KY)*47%-21%3386%83%11801102%89%
112Angelo State University (TX)*41%-13%189-12%84%1113797%93%
113University of Louisville (KY)*53%-14%3892%86%1412593%88%
114Lindsey Wilson College (KY)43%-10%10910%80%15178104%100%
115Texas A&M University at Commerce (TX)*55%-10%164-4%84%10706109%103%
116Sul Ross State University (TX)*36%0%444%74%12374108%106%
117Rogers State University (OK)*24%-10%23-3%83%13605106%106%
118Henderson State University (AR)*37%-12%13911%82%12840110%101%
119South University at Austin (TX)°16%40%0-5%79%23927117%102%
120Dillard University (LA)42%-10%10116%76%16467127%127%
121Delta State University (MS)*39%-14%61-7%88%11701109%101%
122McMurry University (TX)40%-7%45-2%83%19943102%96%
123Louisiana College (LA)40%-16%370%85%13000101%97%
124Cameron University (OK)*23%-13%542%83%7845107%106%
125Lane College (TN)28%-5%8920%66%13004129%134%
126Southern Methodist University (TX)80%-10%133-2%88%2629075%65%
127Transylvania University (KY)73%-6%560%77%2056173%64%
128Arkansas Tech University (AR)*45%-20%239-3%81%11064104%96%
129Brescia University (KY)37%-17%185%76%1151397%96%
130Univ. of Tennessee at Chattanooga (TN)*49%-11%3184%85%1118597%87%
131Oklahoma City University (OK)67%-10%42-3%83%2116580%78%
132Tennessee State University (TN)*39%-23%2386%86%10734124%130%
133Mid-America Christian University (OK)40%-1%173%74%16327112%108%
134Morehead State University (KY)*47%-18%266-1%82%11083107%90%
135LA State Univ. at Alexandria (LA)*28%-5%13-23%81%7754111%110%
136Bacone College (OK) ^^22%-3%133%81%22100117%124%
137University of Arkansas (AR)*62%-20%476-5%87%1354887%78%
138Southern Univ. and A&M College (LA)*35%-18%18010%84%15252128%128%
139Abilene Christian University (TX)61%-15%135-3%82%2423780%80%
140Tusculum College (TN)42%-16%5612%81%15770104%100%
141McNeese State University (LA)*44%-17%169-9%84%11022106%95%
142University of Dallas (TX)68%-19%451%76%1798670%71%
143Nicholls State University (LA)*46%-19%135-1%83%10539106%92%
144So. Arkansas Univ. at Campus (AR)*39%-19%1057%88%12824111%97%
145Carson-Newman College (TN)50%-14%888%86%1621889%85%
146Wiley College (TX) ^^34%-10%2911%70%15642130%127%
147University of Mississippi (MS)*62%-20%439-1%85%1169798%84%
148University of Southern Mississippi (MS)*52%-24%32816%82%13156112%106%
149Univ. of Mary Hardin at Baylor (TX)47%-17%1025%85%2268289%88%
150Williams Baptist University (AR)43%-3%29-9%85%1661397%87%
151Kentucky Wesleyan College (KY)38%-12%3110%81%2044395%84%
152University of Tulsa (OK)69%-20%64-6%87%1863971%69%
153Rhodes College (TN)81%-11%64-5%77%1764972%58%
154Randall University (OK)36%7%46%65%14765104%97%
155Lamar University (TX)*38%-17%185-2%87%11094110%107%
156University of the Incarnate Word (TX)55%-7%2160%83%21372106%98%
157Arkansas State Univ. (AR)*48%-19%2849%86%12163111%97%
158Georgetown College (KY)57%-11%49-7%82%1617788%77%
159Univ. of Science & Arts of Okla. (OK)*42%-20%161%82%6475101%90%
160University of Louisiana at Monroe (LA)*43%-17%2091%84%9785108%104%
161LA State University at Shreveport (LA)*34%-12%35-3%81%8444115%101%
162University of Central Arkansas (AR)*45%-19%30712%84%13705104%97%
163University of Louisiana at Lafayette (LA)*50%-18%388-1%84%1053299%92%
164Asbury University (KY)61%-11%664%73%2478883%83%
165Louisiana Tech University (LA)*49%-16%184-9%85%925190%86%
166Harding University (AR)64%-20%150-4%84%1601581%76%
167Langston University (OK)*24%-13%2811%81%12626128%126%
168Huston-Tillotson University (TX)28%-14%312%82%16822124%121%
169East Tennessee State University (TN)*49%-20%32711%81%11754100%92%
170Kentucky Christian University (KY)29%-10%25-12%81%17821100%95%
171Hardin-Simmons University (TX)52%-21%47-1%84%1798696%88%
172Trevecca Nazarene University (TN)54%-16%41-1%80%1657387%93%
173William Carey University (MS)61%-16%4612%79%17229116%106%
174Lee University (TN)52%-15%1429%77%1637697%82%
175Belmont University (TN)70%-9%128-3%80%2856371%73%
176Lubbock Christian University (TX)54%-19%373%85%2159497%85%
177Central Baptist College (AR)32%-7%8-7%75%15609105%94%
178Midway University (KY)42%-9%132%84%21256106%95%
179Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi (TX)*46%-10%226-2%84%15884100%94%
180Houston Baptist University (TX)41%-15%968%82%1928894%90%
181Welch College (TN)39%-7%13-1%70%1980491%86%
182Baylor University (TX)73%-13%423-3%85%2798578%68%
183Texas College (TX)16%8%200%69%16235126%121%
184Philander Smith College (AR)36%-35%4019%75%14725130%131%
185Mississippi State University (MS)*61%-24%4332%86%15005101%86%
186Western Kentucky University (KY)*47%-21%3661%83%12173102%94%
187Southern Univ. at New Orleans (LA)*30%-12%33-6%73%7203128%129%
188Union College (KY)35%-18%343%N/A17237107%100%
189University of North Texas at Dallas (TX)*21%-9%133%N/A6291N/A114%
190Crowley's Ridge College (AR)35%-9%7-7%74%14070107%86%
191Texas A&M University at Kingsville (TX)*43%-14%2304%81%12251104%98%
192Lipscomb University (TN)58%-17%89-1%84%2203078%76%
193Xavier University of Louisiana (LA)42%-17%13712%78%17204118%108%
194Southwestern Assemb. of God U. (TX)43%-16%4310%76%23794103%99%
195Campbellsville University (KY)38%-22%79-7%79%17219100%98%
196Texas Wesleyan University (TX)49%-3%29-8%85%22914109%94%
197Art Institute of San Antonio (TX)°26%-4%99%67%21493107%104%
198Texas Southern University (TX)*27%-11%1775%79%19682129%137%
199University of New Orleans (LA)*40%-8%136-3%79%10180103%93%
200Dallas Baptist University (TX)59%-10%55-8%83%2386399%86%
201Lyon College (AR)44%-1%34-4%70%1621590%74%
202Belhaven University (MS)39%-18%37-7%78%16568116%109%
203Univ. of ArkansasŃMonticello (AR)*31%-21%583%71%10908110%107%
204University of Arkansas at Little Rock (AR)*37%-30%89-1%85%13075112%110%
205Tulane University (LA)67%-7%129-7%82%2180684%67%
206Loyola University at New Orleans (LA)59%-15%1334%73%1814190%85%
207Centenary College of Louisiana (LA)49%-19%28-6%72%2104775%76%
208Spalding University (KY)44%-24%230%86%22078110%97%
209Mississippi College (MS)54%-22%74-4%84%15473106%84%
210Fisk University (TN)42%-18%4211%77%26717129%119%
211Paul Quinn College (TX)14%-42%715%64%10381129%128%
Definitions:
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.
* = public
° = for-profit
^^ Under heightened financial monitoring by the U.S. Department of Education