By Iris Stone
In this ranking, we examine top value universities and colleges in Mississippi for 2015.
Located right in the heart of the “Deep South,” Mississippi is characterized by deep accents, deep rivers, and yes – deep thinking! Any aspiring college student seriously concerned about affording their education should consider Mississippi, a state with lofty academic goals but lowly prices. On the one hand, colleges in this state represent a predictable mix of traditional public schools, private religious schools, and historic HBCUs. At the same time, the top universities in Mississippi do plenty to distinguish themselves from the pack, like Millsaps, which is a magnet for high achievers, and Ole Miss, which boasts a vibrant campus with competition and spirit to spare.
Perhaps most important, Mississippi colleges are long on value, meaning they hit the almost intangible sweet spot that combines cost and quality into one affordable package. And while it can be difficult to define such “value” precisely, our methodology carefully considers some of the most important metrics in higher education – like graduation rate, acceptance rate, net price, and return on investment – in a way that clearly identifies the schools that will help you have it all without spending it all. We hope you agree!
Methodology: Ranking the Best Value and Universities and Colleges in Mississippi
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 99 to 136, 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 Mississippi.
10. Millsaps College
Millsaps College earns ample praise as one of the best colleges in Mississippi for its financial and academic value. Located in the state’s capital city on 100 acres of gorgeous woodlands and pristine green spaces, Millsaps provides a rewarding college experience for an equally rewarding price. The typical student at this Mississippi college is both driven and passionate – almost 25% of incoming students earned a 4.0 GPA in high school, and more than a third graduated in the top 10% of their class. The campus culture is understandably competitive, but you’ll also find plenty of support from both faculty and students as you work toward a degree in Creative Writing, European Studies, Neuroscience, Applied Mathematics, or one of nearly 30 other majors – including a self-designed option!
Net Price: $21,661/yr
9. Rust College
Holly Springs, MS
One of the oldest schools in the state, Rust College boasts an esteemed reputation as one of the most culturally and historically rich universities in Mississippi. The Freedman’s Aid Society, along with the Methodist Episcopal Church, founded the college in 1866 specifically to educate African Americans. Today, it stands as the oldest HBCU associated with the United Methodist Church and one of only five HBCU’s founded prior to 1867. Its academic philosophy is notable for its commitment to a “broad, thorough, and practical education,” rather than rushing students through a cursory and ultimately ineffective curriculum. With its purposeful pace and low cost, Rust is by far one of the best cheap colleges in Mississippi.
Net Price: $9,796/yr
8. University of Southern Mississippi
Once just a small teacher’s college, the University of Southern Mississippi has rapidly evolved into one of the most respected institutions in the state. 15,000 students from more than 60 countries choose this top university in Mississippi for its great location (think warm weather and Southern charm), exuberant school spirit (12 NCAA Division I athletic teams represent the “Golden Eagles” across the South) and comprehensive academic programs (including one of the oldest Honors Colleges in the nation). This affordable Mississippi college is particularly well known as a “haven for the arts,” and the “Partner for the Arts” program – a collaboration between the departments of art, design, theatre, music, and dance – provides scholarships and generous funding to support performances, concerts, and exhibits all year long.
Net Price: $12,171/yr
7. Southeastern Baptist College
Some students are looking for a large university that will allow them to blend into the crowd, and Southeastern Baptist College is not for them. This small Christian school features a friendly religious campus where “everyone knows everyone.” Your professors and classmates will learn – and remember – your name on the first day, and you will continue to bond over a shared moral framework love of Christ. The number of bachelor’s degrees are limited (and are primarily intended for future church ministers) but this cheap university in Mississippi also offers numerous associate’s programs for students who wish to earn a solid religious education before transferring to a four-year school.
Net Price: $5,367/yr
6. Blue Mountain College
Blue Mountain, MS
A Christian university through and through, Blue Mountain College maintains an impressive commitment to its long-standing identity as a strict Baptist school for Baptist students. BMC targets potential applicants who are actively involved in the Baptist church and who express an unwavering dedication to service learning and community activism. And like many of the best colleges in Mississippi for religious students, BMC’s degree programs include numerous spiritually focused subjects, such as Biblical Studies, Christian Ministries, and Worship Leadership. In addition, its extensive array of secular majors – from Business to Education to Medical Technology – provide practical training for career-focused students.
Net Price: $9,244/yr
5. Mississippi Valley State University
Itta Bena, MS
What does “the valley” at MVSU represent? According to this affordable Mississippi college, it’s about much more than cheap tuition. Even a quick visit to campus will reveal Mississippi Valley State University as a land of diversity, scholarship, growth, and knowledge, with students from all over the map – both literally and figuratively. Students from many different nations come to MVSU to explore their academic interests, which include career-oriented subjects like Engineering Technology, Mass Communication, Environmental Health, and Teacher Education, while also making some new memories – and new friends – along the way. Its supportive, challenging environment makes this Mississippi university a popular choice among locals, as evidenced by its acceptance rate of just 16%!
Net Price: $7,003/yr
4. University of Mississippi
As the flagship university of the state’s public school system, the University of Mississippi has a lot of responsibility to represent the state on a national scale. UM is clearly up to the challenge, and its hard work over the last 150 years has paid off! “Ole Miss,” as it is affectionately known, features world-class research programs, a prestigious Honors College, top-ranked graduate programs (including competitive law and medical schools), and a spirited campus body of more than 20,000 students. And while Ole Miss is certainly one of the top colleges in Mississippi, it’s also one of the most affordable. You’ll graduate with less debt, more savings, and a serious shot at enjoying the $280,000 net ROI that graduates earn, according to PayScale.com.
Net Price: $14,803/yr
3. Tougaloo College
Although it was founded in the 19th century as a historically black university, Tougaloo College has since grown into an open liberal arts institution that is “accessible to all persons” who seek a self-directed, creative education. Characterized by a blend of traditional and progressive values that is as unique as its name, Tougaloo is the perfect choice for independent students with ambitious plans. With a selective 40% acceptance rate and a cost of just $10k per year, this top affordable Mississippi college is also for budget-conscious high achievers. Traditional degree programs in Chemistry, Computer Science, History, and Sociology combine with fun student activities like The Harambee student newspaper, Entrepreneur Club, and Cheerleader Competition Squad to create a balanced yet never boring collegiate experience.
Net Price: $10,625/yr
2. Mississippi State University
Mississippi State University, MS
Although it’s officially recognized as Mississippi State University, locals better know it as “the People’s University.” Why? Because student engagement is the name of the game on this spirited campus, which has earned national recognition for its commitment to research and service, its active alumni network, popular education training programs, and notable alumni (including four of the nine state supreme court justices!). Even if you don’t end up as a powerful judge, you can feel confident that a degree from MSU will serve you well: Payscale.com reports an average 20-year net ROI of more than $280k – the highest in the state!
Net Price: $15,297/yr
1. William Carey University
With one of the most selective acceptance rates in the state (50%), one of the highest graduation rates (58%), and third-highest return on investment ($145k), William Carey University is clearly a solid choice for students in Mississippi. Its wealth of degree programs (over 30 in total) practically guarantees a major in your area of interest, whether you’re devoted to a career in Graphic Design, Criminal Justice, Physical Education, Nursing, Music, or another field within the arts and sciences. Extracurricular activities at this top, cheap university in Mississippi display a similar range of interests: join the Ju Jitsu Club, write for the Cobbler Newspaper, or join an intramural sports team to play ultimate Frisbee, Wiffleball – even sports trivia!
Net Price: $14,812/yr
This concludes our ranking of top-value universities and colleges in Mississippi.
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.