Best Value Colleges And Universities In Georgia

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Best Georgia Schools

By Iris Stone

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As an east coast state and one of the thirteen original colonies, Georgia is home to some of the oldest, most established universities in the country. From gargantuan state schools like the University of Georgia to esteemed private institutions like Emory to small religious colleges like Toccoa Falls, Georgia offers educational options across the entire spectrum of collegiate life. Georgia is also one of the most affordable states for college; in fact, 80% of the school listed below come with an annual net price below $20,000!

This blend of quality and affordability is exactly what makes a “best value” university – after all, the best you could hope for in your college search is to stumble across a school that provides all the resources and academic options you need but without breaking the bank. That’s where this ranking comes into play. Using a careful methodology that considers metrics like graduation rate, acceptance rate, and annual net cost, we’ve aimed to bring you a selection of schools that offer the best of both worlds. You may also want to check out our ranking of the Top Affordable Online Colleges in Georgia.

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 80 to 177, 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 Georgia.

Rank School Location
1 Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA
2 University of Georgia Athens, GA
3 Emory University Atlanta, GA
4 Clayton State University Morrow, GA
5 Georgia State University Atlanta, GA
6 Albany State University Albany, GA
7 University of West Georgia Carrollton, GA
8 Toccoa Falls College Toccoa Falls, GA
9 Columbus State University Columbus, GA
10 Kennesaw State University Kennesaw, GA

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  1. Georgia Institute of Technology
    Location

    Atlanta, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    For being one of the best schools in the state, Georgia Tech also ranks highly among cheap colleges in Georgia. Georgia Tech is all about discovering what's next in technology to overcome the challenges of the 21st century—and that's not just a slogan. After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Georgia Tech was on the ground, working to set up safe housing for survivors. Georgia Tech proudly claims the title "Nerd University." Besides, with an average 20-year ROI of $796,300, the title of "nerd" is pretty well compensated. Don't worry, Yellow Jackets still know how to have fun. There are more than 400 student organizations, excellent sports teams, and countless events year round at Tech, one of the best colleges in Georgia.

  2. University of Georgia
    Location

    Athens, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    In the heart of one of the nation's most beloved college towns, the University of Georgia is a one-of-a-kind experience. Just off campus you'll find quaint streets with fun shops, restaurants, coffee shops and more. UGA even started a "Fresh Food Bus" that takes students to the farmers' market. On campus, the pride of UGA is a new 300,000 sq ft veterinary medical center complete with hospital facilities, an equine performance arena, classrooms and research facilities. Chartered in 1785, UGA holds the distinction of being America's first public institution of higher education. Today, UGA is building its reputation as one of the best Georgia colleges. Aspiring Bulldog? UGA offers second-to-none support for students, hence its excellent 85% graduation rate.

  3. Emory University
    Location

    Atlanta, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    What is there to say about Emory that hasn't already been said? Recognized as one of the top 50 research universities in the world, Emory's 15,000 students are split almost 50-50 between undergrads and graduate students. If you want to be counted among them, you'll have to bring your "A game," as the acceptance rate is only 27%. Everyone knows Emory's reputation as a cutting-edge research university, but the school has also been counted among the 10 "most amazing college campuses." The graduation rate is an impressive 89% and graduates go on to get an average $405,400 return for their investment over 20 years.

  4. Clayton State University
    Location

    Morrow, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Opened in 1969 to meet the needs of a growing metropolitan city, Clayton State University sits on the southern reaches of greater Atlanta. Not only are you on the doorstep of Fortune 500 companies less than an hour away, Clayton State is also the only university in America adjacent to both state and national archives facilities. You'll also be excited to here that on-campus apartments include special amenities - including a swimming pool! Looking for a good deal? You really can't top Clayton. At just over $10,000 a year, this is one of the most affordable Georgia colleges around. And with a $240,300 ROI over 20 years, you don't want to overlook this great investment.

  5. Georgia State University
    Location

    Atlanta, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Hands-down, Georgia State University is one of the best colleges in Georgia. Saying that Georgia State wants to make global citizens of its students doesn't even begin to do the school justice. The Panthers of Georgia State are a diverse crowd, hailing from every state in the U.S. and more than 150 countries, helping make this one of the most diverse student bodies in the country. This research university stands proudly in the heart of Atlanta's financial district. When you graduate, you are sure to have excellent connections. You can find the school's nearly 180,000 alumni all over the world. Oh, and a $268,300 ROI over 20 years doesn't hurt, either.

  6. Albany State University
    Location

    Albany, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    If you want to participate in a proud athletic tradition, Albany State University may be the school for you. In the last 30 years, the Rams have taken home the conference title nearly 50% of the time. In fact since 1972, the Rams have won 17 SIAC titles! The school also fields baseball/softball teams and basketball team, as well as cross-country. As one of the top colleges in Georgia, admission is competitive; only 47% of applicants make it in. Nationally, ASU is well-known for its education program and, on top of that, is one of only 20 American institutions with an American Academy of Forensic Sciences-accredited forensics program. Academics? Check. Athletics? Check. Albany has it all.

  7. University of West Georgia
    Location

    Carrollton, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of West Georgia has built a solid reputation and earned a place of respect in the Georgia school system in the last 100 years. Originally UWG opened in 1908 as an agricultural and mechanical school to support the state's rural workers. Today, UWG holds its own against some of the best universities in Georgia, welcoming more than 10,000 students every year. Although the University of West Georgia is in a small-town setting, never fear. Atlanta is only an hour away and the school even brings big-name artists to campus as part of their fall concert series.

  8. Toccoa Falls College
    Location

    Toccoa Falls, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Pretty as it may be, Toccoa Falls is so much more than the waterfall after which it's named. This school, perched in the hills of northeastern Georgia, is as rural as it is scenic. And with fewer than 1,000 students, Toccoa is an excellent choice for students who may feel intimidated by larger universities. If you attend TFC, you will get the best in Christ-centered education—truly, Toccoa is committed to bringing a biblical worldview together with hard-hitting academic excellence. The school is divided into three divisions: Arts and Science, Christian Ministries and Professional Studies. The falls, by the way, are one of the largest in the United States and only a short walk from your front door.

  9. Columbus State University
    Location

    Columbus, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Columbus State is a mid-size school in Georgia's second largest city by the same name. Home to 8,200 students and more than 90 student organizations, whatever your interests may be, there's always something to do when you're not in class. The Student Recreation Center includes a 37' climbing wall, yoga classes, two basketball and racquetball courts—and more. You're guaranteed more than a good time while you're at Columbus State; the school is a solid investment as the 20-year return is an average of $217,400. Plans are currently underway for new science laboratory facilities, a sure step in furthering Columbus State's position as a top-tier choice amongst affordable colleges in Georgia.

  10. Kennesaw State University
    Location

    Kennesaw, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    There's a lot of change going on at Kennesaw State University. Already prominent as one of the top universities in Georgia, KSU won approval to merge with Southern Polytechnic University. The merger created a new, improved Kennesaw State with an incredibly diverse range of programs and the promise of much more to come in the future. Being 30 minutes north of Atlanta puts you a short drive from the action of the city—fun neighborhoods, great restaurants, and plenty of internship opportunities. On campus, you will find more than 30,000 students representing more than 130 countries - and with over 300 student organizations, you're sure to always find something to do. Average 20-year ROI is strong at $230,500.

Sources:
College Navigator
Pay Scale

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.

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