Why go to College in Alabama?
Even though most people know Alabama for its world-renowned barbeque or its countless college football championship titles, there is much more to love about the state. Colleges and universities in Alabama are home to some of the best on-campus and online programs in the country, with every major, minor, and degree level. Many of these Alabama schools also boast gorgeous campuses where students can enjoy the state’s mild weather.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Alabama’s population to be just shy of five million people. This population is the most concentrated in the state’s major cities, including Birmingham and Montgomery.
As a southeastern state, Alabama has a relatively mild climate. Winter temperatures don’t often drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average high in summer is 94 degrees. This climate is ideal for enjoying the high-energy outdoor sporting events Alabama colleges are known for.
- Number of Higher Learning Institutions
There are 129 higher learning institutions in Alabama, including two-year, four-year, and vocational schools. This gives students a wide variety of schools to choose from, across the state and online.
- Sporting Events
Alabama is known for its impressive college athletics, especially its football teams. The University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide football team has claimed 16 national titles. Each year, UA and their state rivals, Auburn University, compete at the Iron Bowl, a highly anticipated event for fans across the state.
Students at Alabama colleges enjoy a variety of nightlife options, including pubs, breweries, bars, clubs, and lounges. Alabama’s popular coastal town, Gulf Shores, is home to a number of popular beach bars and restaurants.
What Options are Available for Colleges in Alabama?
On-campus colleges in Alabama are ideal for students seeking a traditional college experience. These colleges generally offer on-campus housing, such as dorm rooms, suites, and apartments. Alabama’s college campuses are known for their historic charm and sprawling green spaces. Students attending on-campus colleges have opportunities to participate in campus-based clubs, intramural sports, and organizations and to attend sporting events. On-campus programs provide an immersive experience for students who are able to live on campus or commute from home.
Students looking for flexibility benefit from online or distance programs. Online colleges in Alabama are just as rigorous and comprehensive as their on-campus counterparts, without requiring students to attend classes on a physical campus. Online degree programs are offered in a number of formats, including asynchronously, in which students are not required to log on or complete work at specific times. These programs allow students to complete coursework on their own time, from wherever they are.
Online colleges in Alabama are great options for both in-state and out-of-state students. Although some schools have certain residency requirements, these programs can largely be completed from anywhere in the world. However, even though an online program eliminates the need to visit campus, online students may choose to take advantage of the same services and resources available to on-campus students.
Some students choose to enroll in on-campus programs but take some courses online. Others are primarily online students who take some on-campus courses. This mixed approach is called a hybrid program, and some online schools in Alabama allow, or require, students to pursue this path.
Some online degree programs require a short residency, usually a few days to a few weeks, for which even out-of-state students are required to visit the school’s home campus in Alabama. Similarly, there may be exclusively online elements to traditional on-campus degree programs.
Popular Degree Programs in Alabama
The degrees conferred in different states tend to reflect the state’s major industries. However, because there is not a degree in football, the most popular degree programs in Alabama are school counseling and business administration, according to Business Insider. Both of these popular degrees are offered by many online colleges in Alabama.
A degree in school counseling prepares students to work as counselors in a variety of educational settings. Generally, students who earn a bachelor’s degree in this field go on to earn a master’s degree.
This degree provides a broad look at the fundamentals of business and entrepreneurship. This major is especially popular in Alabama, likely because of growing business opportunities in the state’s major cities.
BEST ONLINE COLLEGES IN ALABAMA FOR 2017
In this section, you will find a list of the best online schools in Alabama. This resource is a great place to begin your search for the best school for your educational needs. If you’re interested in a school on this list, visit the school’s website for specific information about majors, tuition costs, and online programs.
The University of AlabamaTuscaloosa, AL
Admissions Rate 54%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 67%
Online Enrollment 9%
The University of Alabama is a large, land-grant university and the flagship institution in the state. The school boasts many programs that aren't found elsewhere in the state, on topics such as metallurgical engineering. The university is also home to several online programs on topics such as engineering, business, and law. Online classes at Alabama are taught asynchronously via Blackboard, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace.
All distance learners at Alabama pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residence. Alabama is part of the SEC Academic Initiative, which advances the academic reputation of SEC universities by providing increased study abroad opportunities and promoting collaboration between schools. Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Alabama at BirminghamBirmingham, AL
Admissions Rate 60%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 55%
Online Enrollment 20%
University of Alabama at Birmingham was founded in 1969 and is the only R1 research institution in the state. As one of the three University of Alabama system schools, UAB is a state-run, public university and one of the best online colleges in Alabama. The school offers a wide range of academic programs and specializes in medical, healthcare, and medical imaging disciplines.
University of Alabama at Birmingham delivers distance learning programs in four different forms: entirely online, mostly online with some on-campus requirements, hybrid, and programs with primarily online course delivery that require students to have access to campus. The school offers more than 100 distance learning programs, many of which are business degrees. UAB is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Auburn UniversityAuburn, AL
Admissions Rate 78%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 90%
Graduation Rate 73%
Online Enrollment 4%
Auburn University is a public research institution and the second largest university in the state with nearly 30,000 students. Auburn is considered the second flagship institution in the state after its SEC athletic rival, the University of Alabama. The school began as a land-grant institution that emphasized agriculture- and mechanics-focused educations.
Auburn is now a land-, sea-, and space-grant university and also one of the best online schools in Alabama, with distance programs in dozens of areas. Students can earn an online bachelor's degree in a variety of different disciplines, such as accounting, computer science, or education. There are also a variety of professional credit and personal enrichment programs that are ideal for adult learners. Auburn is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Judson CollegeMarion, AL
Admissions Rate 63%
Default Rate 12%
Retention Rate 70%
Graduation Rate 41%
Online Enrollment 22%
Judson is a private, Christian college located in Marion that is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention. It is also one of the oldest women's colleges in the U.S. The school is primarily a liberal arts college, but also features pre-professional programs. While it is still a women's college, Judson is still one of the best online colleges in Alabama because its distance learning programs are available to both men and women.
Judson’s distance learning program allows students to earn bachelor's degrees in disciplines like business, education, and criminal justice. Courses are taught through Moodle and students have six months to complete each self-paced course. Judson is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of South AlabamaMobile, AL
Admissions Rate 78%
Default Rate 8%
Retention Rate 73%
Graduation Rate 36%
Online Enrollment 20%
University of South Alabama is a public research university that is home to one of the only medical schools in the state, with colleges in allied health, pharmacology, nursing, and medicine. The school serves more than 15,000 student each year on the school's 1,200-acre main campus in Mobile, as well as online. USA is among the best online colleges in Alabama, offering a variety of distance learning programs through the school’s eCampus.
Distance learners can earn four bachelor's degrees and 10 graduate programs online, offering 450 courses that can be completed at a student's own pace. Online students can also complete on-campus courses at the school's Baldwin County regional campus. Admissions requirements vary based on students, with different criteria for transfer and freshman students. USA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of MobileMobile, AL
Admissions Rate 61%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 75%
Graduation Rate 45%
Online Enrollment 4%
University of Mobile is a small, private university located in Prichard that is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention. It is also one of the premier online schools in Alabama, offering several different distance learning programs. Online students can earn degrees in Christian ministry, education, psychology, or nursing. The school's online programs are ideal for working adults who have to balance full-time jobs with their education.
The school boasts programs in more than 40 disciplines and emphasizes a low student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. This allows all students to receive some individualized instruction from their instructors. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED with a minimum GPA of 2.75 and submit valid ACT or SAT test scores to be considered. University of Mobile is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of North AlabamaFlorence, AL
Admissions Rate 58%
Default Rate 15%
Retention Rate 76%
Graduation Rate 38%
Online Enrollment 15%
University of North Alabama is public university located in Florence that serves the entire region, including the Muscle Shoals area. The school offers a wide range of academic disciplines for students to choose from, including programs on dozens of subjects like history, education, or business. UNA is one of the best colleges in Alabama in part because of its unique programs in music entertainment and user technology experience.
Courses are delivered through Canvas and advising and writing services are available for distance learners. Tests are delivered online either through Canvas or in a lockdown browser. The school has many notable alumni in politics, entertainment, and athletics, including Ronald McKinnon and Pulitzer Prize Winner Thomas Stribling. UNA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Amridge UniversityMontgomery, AL
|Default Rate 9%||Retention Rate 67%||Graduation Rate 40%||Online Enrollment 100%||
Amridge is a private, Christian university located in downtown Montgomery that is affiliated with the Churches of Christ. In fact, the school’s main campus is located near Auburn University Montgomery, with both sharing the same two-story building. The school was started as a seminary training and religious school in the 1960s, but has since expanded its academic offerings and now is among the best online schools in Alabama.
Amridge offers more than 30 online programs, including a bachelor's in information systems management, a master's in family therapy, and a doctorate in biblical studies. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent and a minimum GPA as defined by your program to be considered. Amridge is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Troy UniversityTroy, AL
Admissions Rate 92%
Default Rate 14%
Retention Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 33%
Online Enrollment 38%
Troy is a comprehensive public university that was founded in 2005 as a merger of several local schools, including Troy State University. The school serves 20,000 students each year on its picturesque campus in Troy. It is also one of the top online schools in Alabama, offering a wide variety of undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs.
Students can earn any of dozens of academic programs online, on topics like global business marketing, Latin American politics, and sports management. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.0, with transfer students with a minimum GPA of 2.0 automatically admitted to Troy Online. NFL player Demarcus Ware is one of the school’s best known alumni, as well as many politicians and several astronauts, including Kevin Ford. Troy is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Alabama in HuntsvilleHuntsville, AL
Admissions Rate 81%
Default Rate 8%
Retention Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 49%
Online Enrollment 5%
University of Alabama in Hunstville is a public research university with a small, urban campus in Huntsville. The school is one of the best online colleges in Alabama and one of three University of Alabama system schools. UAH has long been connected to NASA and the rocket development programs, and as a result offers a variety of technology and space programs.
Distance learners can enroll in one of 21 online programs, some of which are offered in a hybrid format. The school's aerospace engineering program is one of the most popular online degrees. Some courses are delivered synchronously with chat and live video conferencing, while others classes are self-paced and offered through Canvas or Panopto. UAH is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Jacksonville State UniversityJacksonville, AL
Admissions Rate 67%
Default Rate 13%
Retention Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 31%
Online Enrollment 17%
Jacksonville State University is a public university that was founded in the 1800s in Jacksonville as a teacher college. Today, the school maintains this tradition of offering strong educational programs and serves more than 10,000 students each year. Jacksonville State has an international house on campus where 20 U.S. students live with 20 international students and share a variety of languages and cultures together. Students can also study at JSU online in one of the school’s many distance learning programs.
The school offers bachelor's and master's degrees online in a variety of disciplines, such as criminal justice, education, computer science, and business. Online courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. JSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of West AlabamaLivingston, AL
Admissions Rate 73%
Default Rate 11%
Retention Rate 66%
Graduation Rate 29%
Online Enrollment 51%
Jacksonville State University is a public, coeducational university that was originally founded in Livingston as a school for women. It is one of the best online schools in Alabama, offering 60 undergraduate and 10 graduate degrees in a variety of disciplines, although education is the most popular course of study. Students have the option of enrolling in a master of education or master of art in education, each of which offers a variety of specializations.
UWA’s motto is “Do Something that Matters.” Most online courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. However, many of these courses also include a practicum requirement that may involve a campus visit. UWA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Faulkner UniversityMontgomery, AL
Admissions Rate 57%
Default Rate 14%
Retention Rate 57%
Graduation Rate 21%
Online Enrollment 20%
Faulkner is a private, Christian university located in Montgomery that is affiliated with the Churches of Christ. The school is named after newspaper publisher and local politician James Faulkner. The school is one of the few online colleges in Alabama to offer doctoral programs. Faulkner features associate, bachelor's, master's, and two doctoral programs in Bible studies and the humanities. Students can earn other degrees in criminal justice or rehabilitation psychology.
Faulkner operates a Great Books program, which feature works that are thought to constitute an essential foundation of literature in Western culture. Admission requirements vary greatly from program to program, so prospective students should check the school's website for more information before applying. Faulkner is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Athens State UniversityAthens, AL
|Default Rate 8%||Online Enrollment 55%||
Athens State is one of the best online colleges in Alabama. It was founded in the 1800s as a Methodist women's academy and today offers a variety of degree completion programs. The school offers a variety of online bachelor's degrees on topics like technical instruction, accounting, and management, as well as master's degrees in supply chain management or religious studies. The school also allows students to complete a minor or a certificate program in one of these areas. However, financial aid at Athens state is earmarked for students seeking a degree.
All online students must meet the same financial aid requirements as on-campus students. Distance learners have access to many on-campus student resources, including the mathematics lab and writing center. Athens State is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Auburn University at MontgomeryMontgomery, AL
Admissions Rate 79%
Default Rate 13%
Retention Rate 65%
Graduation Rate 20%
Online Enrollment 6%
Auburn University at Montgomery is a public university that offers a variety of online degrees in liberal arts, science, and nursing programs. The school serves nearly 5,000 students each year on its 500-acre campus just outside of downtown Montgomery. The university offers distance learning programs from five of its colleges: arts and sciences, business, education, nursing, and public policy and justice.
Online classes at AUM are delivered through Blackboard and are taught by the same faculty who teach on-campus courses. The school offers courses both entirely online and in a hybrid format. These hybrid courses only require one or two in-person meetings each semester. The school offers Virtual Reference Services, allowing students to easily complete research remotely. AUM is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
How We Ranked the Schools
To determine the best programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online master’s in management information systems programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.
Education Trends in Alabama
According to data from the U.S. Census and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, education trends in Alabama are similar to national averages. The percentage of adults over 25 with a graduate degree is lower than the national average, but the state’s percentage of tax revenue allocated to higher education is above average. The table below compares educational trends in Alabama to the national averages.
|Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census|
|Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student||$5,774||$6,954|
|Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education||9.5%||5.8%|
|Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree||7.8%||8.1%|
|Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree||14.8%||18.5%|
|Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher||8.7%||11.2%|
Paying for College in Alabama
Even though some online colleges in Alabama offer lower tuition and fees than their on-campus counterparts, researching tuition prices is an important step in finding the right school for you. Tuition prices vary not only by school, but also by year, so it’s important to find updated, current information. The cost to attend online schools in Alabama may not include fees associated with on-campus programs, but there may be distance learning fees to consider.
Tuition and fees include the cost of courses and university-related fees, such as technology fees. These prices do not include a number of other costs students incur, such as books, transportation, rent, and board. Average tuition prices in Alabama are a little above the national average, but they are still lower than tuition costs in many other states.
Every student should take full advantage of financial aid. Financial aid comes in a few different forms, many of which are readily available to all applicants. Funds awarded in the form of scholarships do not have to be paid back. On the other hand, student loans are borrowed funds that do eventually have to be paid back, often with interest. Therefore, scholarships and grants are the best types of funds to finance your education.
To be considered for financial aid, you must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This form must be renewed and resubmitted each year of enrollment, even for students attending online colleges in Alabama.
Cost for Online Programs in Alabama
Online schools in Alabama require students to complete and submit the FAFSA to be considered for financial aid. Online students have the same financial aid opportunities as on-campus students, including scholarships, grants, and student loans. However, students enrolled in online colleges in Alabama tend to save money on costs such as transportation, childcare, and campus-specific fees. Online programs typically carry similar tuition rates to their on-campus counterparts, but non-tuition savings make online programs more cost-effective.
Cost of Living by Region
Alabama’s cost of living varies greatly and can impact both the cost of your education and your future career. Rent and home prices, in particular, have the largest impact on budgets and should be considered when selecting a school. The table below compares the median rent and home prices of two major cities in Alabama with major cities in surrounding states.
Scholarships for Alabama College Students
- Alabama Student Assistance Program
$300-2,500; available to Alabama residents enrolled in accredited state colleges or universities.
- Alabama Student Grant Program
$1,200; merit-based award available based on state funds; must be enrolled in an eligible Alabama college to apply.
- Police Officer’s and Firefighter’s Survivors Educational Assistance Program
Amount varies; grant covers tuition, books, fees, and supplies for eligible spouses and dependents of Alabama firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty.
- Alabama National Guard Education Assistance Program
Amount varies; award based on financial need for Alabama National Guard members.
- ASE Credit Union Scholarship
$1,000; available to members or dependents of members of the ASE Credit Union, with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
- Haynes Life Flight 2 Memorial Scholarship
$2,000; award for students pursuing a degree in nursing and/or an EMT/paramedic certification at a school in Alabama, with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
- Todd Webb Scholarship Fund
$1,000; must be a graduate of an Alabama high school and must be attending the University of Alabama, studying in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
- Crimson Achievement Scholar
$8,000; must be an incoming freshman in-state student at the University of Alabama, with a 25 ACT score or a 1200 SAT score and a minimum 3.5 GPA.
- Horatio Alger State Scholarship
Amount varies; must be a high school senior demonstrating financial need and displaying personal integrity and perseverance.
- J.L. Bedsole Scholars Program
$1,000–$6,000; must be a graduate of a high school in an eligible Alabama county, with a minimum 2.5 GPA, and must be attending a college in Alabama.
Can all Scholarships be Used for Online Programs?
Most scholarships can be used for any type of program, whether it is online or in-person. However, if you are awarded a scholarship or plan to apply for one, verify requirements with the organization awarding the scholarship, as some have additional stipulations. For example, even if a scholarship may be used toward online colleges in Alabama, it may only be awarded to students in a particular major or field.
Employment Outlook in Alabama
Employment opportunities in Alabama are varied and vast, with an unemployment rate slightly lower than the national average. Graduates seeking employment in areas such as administrative support, sales, and production will find ample job opportunities in Alabama, as these industries are thriving in the state. People with military ties will also find plenty of opportunities in Alabama, as one of the state’s largest employers is a U.S. military base. The second-largest employer in the state is the University of Alabama, which is promising for students seeking work-study opportunities.
|Source: BLS and BLS|
|Unemployment Rate, May 2017||4.2%||4.3%|
|Annual Mean Wage, May 2016||$42,510||$49,630|
Top Employers and Industries in Alabama
Top Industries in Alabama
- Administrative support: The administrative support industry encompasses positions such as office assistant, medical assistant, supervisor, accounting clerk, payroll clerk, human resources assistant, and bank teller..
- Sales: Salespeople work in capacities such as cashier, telemarketer, promoter, insurance sales agent, sales representative, and financial services sales agent.
- Production: The production industry comprises workers who produce or make things, including those in the food industry, as well as welders, assemblers, machinists, tailors, textile workers, and craftsmen.
Top Employers in Alabama
Accreditation for Colleges in Alabama
Accreditation ensures that schools and programs meet certain educational standards, as defined by accrediting agencies. Attending an accredited school is especially important, as coursework and degrees earned from unaccredited institutions often cannot be transferred, and students at unaccredited institutions are often ineligible for financial aid and scholarships.
Regional accreditation is the most popular form of accreditation. While some schools may be nationally accredited, regional accreditation is more prominent and often more stringent in its standards and expectations. Online programs are accredited by the same agencies as traditional, on-campus programs, but they may also adhere to the standards of online-specific agencies. Also, individual majors may be accredited by field-specific accrediting agencies. When selecting an online school in Alabama, make sure it is accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Resources for Students in Alabama
- Alabama Commission on HIgher Education (ACHE): The ACHE administers state-level student financial aid and works to provide quality, accessible education in Alabama. The ACHE offers scholarship resources and databases to help students find schools and programs in the state.
- Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education (ADPE): The ADPE supervises all educational programs in the Alabama Community College System. The organization’s website provides a comprehensive list of Alabama community colleges, a job board, and information on adult and technical education opportunities.
- Network of Alabama Academic Libraries (NAAL): The NAAL coordinates academic library resources among institutions, with the goal of strengthening education and research for higher education institutions in Alabama. The NAAL also ensures access to historical resources in the state.
- Alabama Higher Education Partnership (AHEP): The AHEP is a coalition of 15 public universities in Alabama whose collective goal is to impart the value and importance of higher education. This group advocates for higher education members and partners, including current and prospective students, as well as staff and faculty.
- Alabama Possible: This statewide nonprofit organization advocates for those dealing with poverty by making education more accessible. Alabama Possible offers volunteer opportunities and need- and merit-based grants.
To determine the best online colleges in Alabama, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the top 15 online colleges in Alabama. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.