By Iris Stone
In this ranking, we highlight the top value universities and colleges in Louisiana.
When people think of Louisiana, they probably think of either Mardi Gras or Hurricane Katrina before anything else. One represents an extravagant celebration and display of culture, while the other identifies one of the worst natural disasters the United States has ever seen. And yet both encapsulate the spirit of this resilient state – a state that is fun-loving and prosperous but also close-knit and determined in the face of hardship. Louisiana colleges and universities, from the University of Louisiana to Louisiana State to Xavier, have embodied the same attitude, and students who attend any one of them are likely to make fast friends with interesting classmates who will be quick to lend a helping hand in a time of need.
It’s clear that Louisiana offers plenty of value, but this state is also an admirable advocate of affordability. In fact, 13 out of the 15 states we’ve listed here boast a net price of less than $20,000 a year. But even more than low cost, this ranking looked to identify the cheap Louisiana colleges that are reich in measures of quality, such as selectivity and alumni success.
Our Ranking Methodology:
Graduation Rate: This indicator refers to the percentage of students who complete their degree within 150% of normal time (six years for a typical four-year degree program). Schools that perform well in this area have a track record of keeping students engaged and successful for their entire time on campus. We weighted this category 30% of the total and retrieved the information from College Navigator.
Net Price: In order to make sure that cost was still a factor in the ranking, we also considered overall net price as an indicator. Taken from data on College Navigator, “net price” is an approximate value that refers to the average amount of money a student could expect to pay each year after taking into account tuition, room and board, living expenses, scholarship awards, and financial aid packages. We weighted this category 25% of the total.
Acceptance Rate: Academically challenging, popular universities tend to be more selective and thus have a lower acceptance rate. In order to pinpoint those colleges that boast rigorous academics and also receive a large number of applications, we considered acceptance rate – the percentage of students out of the total number of applicants who receive an acceptance letter. We retrieved this information from College Navigator and weighted it 30% of the total.
20-Year Net Return on Investment: Taken from information on the website PayScale, this statistic provides a picture of how much students can expect to make after they graduate from a particular college. More specifically, the figure is calculated by taking the average income an alumnus will make over his or her first 20 years after graduation and subtracting the amount paid in tuition. Schools with a high ROI tend to be better at preparing their students for the job market. We weighted this category only 15% because data was not available for all colleges considered.
After adding all the points, we gave each university a final score out of 200. The schools below have scores ranging from 84 to 145, and each has something different to offer in terms of its cost, quality, and reputation. No one college is perfect (which is why the scores vary so much) but this ranking offers you a premier selection of universities to help get you started on your search for an education in Louisiana.
Ranking the Top Values in Universities and Colleges in Louisiana
15. Centenary College of Louisiana
A private liberal arts school affiliated with the United Methodist Church, this Louisiana college is the oldest chartered college west of the Mississippi. Although total enrollment stands at fewer than 1,000 students, it isn’t for lack of popularity or quality. In fact, Centenary has earned top rankings from Princeton Review, Forbes, and U.S. News for its academic caliber. The small student body simply means that you’ll get more attention from your professors – 94% of whom hold terminal degrees in their field. The average class size is 16, but you’ll enjoy just as many perks outside the classroom. Special programs include independent study; a politics and policy semester program in Washington, D.C.; and study abroad trips to Japan, Denmark, and even Oxford University!
Net Price: $22,420/yr
14. Our Lady of Holy Cross College
New Orleans, LA
It might be apparent from the name that this Louisiana college is a Catholic institution, but it’s much more than that. Founded by a congregation of Catholic women who were part of the “Ministry of Marianites,” OLHCC is committed to “educating the whole person.” Students at this affordable Louisiana college receive nourishment of both the mind and heart and grow to see success as a measure of their service to others. Christian values are an important part of the experience at OLHCC, and extracurricular opportunities include both campus ministries and volunteer trips off campus. However that doesn’t mean you’ll have to choose a religious degree – secular areas of study are available in Allied Health, Business Administration, English, History, and more.
Net Price: $9,028/yr
13. Dillard University
New Orleans, LA
Though there may be plenty of HBCUs to choose from in the South, few match the quality and experience offered at this Louisiana university. From its gorgeous, intimate 55-acre campus to its ideal location in the culturally diverse Gentilly neighborhood, Dillard University is full of appeal. Experts tend to agree, and U.S. News included the school on its list of the top 10 historically black universities nationwide! Dillard has also earned accolades for its “social mobility” and community engagement; following Hurricane Katrina, this top college in Louisiana took the opportunity to enhance the area by building new LEED-certified buildings on campus and partnering with local school districts to improve education at all levels.
Net Price: $14,872/yr
12. Xavier University of Louisiana
New Orleans, LA
Xavier University of Louisiana – its name alone is sufficient enough to make it memorable, but it boasts an equally distinct character behind this title. This Louisiana university is the only historically black and Catholic university in the entire country, making it one of the best colleges in Louisiana for students who seek both religion and diversity. And yet, its commitment to diversity extends far beyond students cultural and ethnic affiliations; a diverse approach to education integrates numerous pedagogical methods, and students spend just almost as much time engaged in research and community service as they do in traditional classroom settings.
Net Price: $14,126/yr
11. Louisiana College
When most people think of Louisiana, they think of coastal areas and vibrant cities like New Orleans. But don’t disregard the fun to be had in the central part of the state! This Louisiana college is located in the Alexandria/Pineville region, a region that combines small town charm with urban entertainment options like museums, musical performances, and Civil War-era historical sites. Of course the college itself is a main attraction in town; the 81-acre campus includes more than two-dozen academic buildings and caters primarily to residents of Central Louisiana. The school is affiliated with the Baptist Church and encourages all students to explore their Christian roots alongside their academic adventures in the liberal arts.
Net Price: $12,928/yr
10. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Located between the banks of the sparkling Red River and quiet Sibley Lake, this Louisiana university suffers no shortage of scenic views. Of course, students who attend this cheap Louisiana college are looking for more than a great shot of nature. Individuals at Northwestern State learn to take their education seriously, and separate colleges for the arts and sciences, business and technology, education and human development, and nursing and allied health ensure that you have every possible opportunity to pursue your interests. You might also consider the Louisiana Scholars’ College; not only does it offer the renowned “Great Books” curriculum and small classes to particularly bright students, but it’s also the only designated honors college in the state!
Net Price: $9,488/yr
9. Southern University and A&M College
Baton Rouge, LA
It seems that Louisiana is simply overflowing with unique universities – each of which offers something distinctive to local residents. As the only HBCU college system in the United States, this Louisiana college is yet another example of a school that is carving out its own place in higher education. Its five campuses include locations in New Orleans, Shreveport, and Baton Rouge, as well as a standalone Law Center and a land grant Agricultural Research and Extension Center. The Baton Rouge campus in particular deserves special recognition on this list for its low tuition rate and promising return on investment – which stands to earn you more than $270,000 over twenty years.
Net Price: $11,495/yr
8. Southern University at New Orleans
New Orleans, LA
Southern University at New Orleans, or “SUNO,” is on a serious mission: to be one of the premier urban universities in the United States and to graduate students who are prepared to make real contributions to society. As another historically black college on this ranking, SUNO seeks to provide top caliber academic opportunities and personalized instruction to African Americans. Degree options cover all the main areas of the liberal arts and sciences, including Biology, English, History, Mathematics, Business, and Education. This affordable college in Louisiana also offers a few graduate options, including its first doctoral degree – a social work program starting in 2016!
Net Price: $7,531/yr
7. University of Louisiana at Monroe
One way of defining value in a school is based on the college’s ability to offer its students a lot for just a little financial investment. The University of Louisiana at Monroe knocks it out of the park when it comes to low cost, but it also earns high marks for its litany of opportunities and resources on campus. This cheap college in Louisiana houses four distinct academic schools – including one for graduate studies – as well as more than 150 recognized student organizations. If you’re itching to get involved, try joining the Campus Activities Board, participating in Greek Life, or honing your skills through the Leadership Workshop Series.
Net Price: $8,287/yr
6. Louisiana State University and A&M College
Baton Rouge, LA
As the flagship university of the state, LSU brings plenty to the table in terms of quantity: 30,000 students, a 650-acre campus on the Mississippi River, more than 20 NCAA Division I sports teams, and research facilities that include land grant, sea-grant, and space-grant benefits. And yet despite its substantial stature, LSU won’t feel overwhelming. The school is focused on student engagement and looks to make sure every student gets the attention he or she needs. This approach seems to work well for current learners and alumni alike – the 20-year net ROI is over $400k, according to Pay Scale!
Net Price: $13,409/yr
5. McNeese State University
Lake Charles, LA
This Louisiana university has about 7,500 students and approximately 300 academic staff, so what could it offer over a large state school like LSU or the University of Louisiana? In addition to its extreme affordability, McNeese State University has built a reputation as a regional leader in higher education. It regularly places as one of the top colleges in the South, according to U.S. News and has built up an enviable list of campus resources. Agricultural students can benefit from the 503-acre MSU farm, while nature-lovers might check out the Louisiana Environmental Research Center.
Net Price: $8,722/yr
4. University of New Orleans
New Orleans, LA
There’s something special about the city of New Orleans – and not just because of the annual Mardi Gras celebration. New Orleans has a rich cultural heritage that is apparent 365 days a year, from its lively music scene to its diverse ethnic cuisine. And thanks to this Louisiana university, you could have the chance to add awesome academics to the list of benefits the city confers upon its residents. Prepare to work hard in order to be invited to campus – the 44% acceptance rate suggests that the student body is anything but self-selected – but your commitment will pay off: Pay Scale reports an average 20-year ROI of more than $300,000!
Net Price: $8,661/yr
3. Tulane University of Louisiana
New Orleans, LA
As far as independent schools, this Louisiana university is by far one of the best universities in Louisiana – even the entire southern region. The prestigious school has some of the best stats measured on this list, including a selective 28% acceptance rate, far above average 83% graduation rate, and quite respectable $280k ROI. Although its annual net price reaches above that of some of its competitors, its unparalleled academics and valuable connections make the price worth serious consideration. Tulane has a particular strength in research and is even part of the Association of American Universities, which (despite its misleading title) includes several of the leading research institutions in both the U.S. and Canada.
Net Price: $32,797/yr
2. University of Louisiana at Lafayette
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette stands out among Louisiana universities in describing its campus culture, noting that UL students are “smart, spirited, and seeking solutions.” The campus also lacks the pretention and vanity sometimes associated with large institutions; students prefer to be authentic and friendly, letting their accomplishments speak for themselves. UL also goes above and beyond in its mission to teach the real meaning of “joie de vivre,” which means living life fully and deeply. This top Louisiana college wants you to do more than earn a living, instead grasping for a higher level of satisfaction that includes community service, lasting friendships, and of course the lively “Ragin’ Cajun” spirit.
Net Price: $8,463/yr
1. Louisiana Tech University
There were a lot of worthy contenders for the position of top university in Louisiana, but in the end, this Louisiana university wins out. With a $440,000 20-year net ROI, the school has the top return on investment in the entire state! And this isn’t so surprising, considering the school’s targeted focus on some of the country’s most in-demand majors, including ten different engineering specialties – nanosystems, cyber, and biomedical engineering among them. In addition, immersive programs like Living with the Lab and Living with Cyber offer one-of-a-kind opportunities to tech savvy students, proving that LA Tech is one of the best Louisiana colleges for individuals who are serious about their future.
Net Price: $9,252/yr
This concludes our ranking of the top value universities and colleges Louisiana.
About the Author:
Iris Stone began her writing career as a freelance writer and researcher. She now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Her work has included articles related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and careers.