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What are the top colleges and universities in the South? Here's one ranking

Nick Selbe StartClass.com

Duke University
Duke University Wikipedia/

In part one of our five-part series ranking the top schools in each geographic region of the country, StartClass looked at the top colleges in the West. This time, we're ranking the best universities in the South.

The U.S. Department of Education designates eight geographic locations—New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Great Lakes, the Great Plains, the South, the Southwest, the Rocky Mountains and the Far West. For the purpose of this series of geographic rankings, StartClass has combined certain areas to narrow the field down to five regions:

  • The West: incorporates both the Far West and the Rocky Mountain regions.
  • The Northeast: incorporates both New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
  • The Midwest: incorporates both the Great Lakes and the Great Plains.
  • The South and the Southwest are not combined with any other location.

Schools in each region are ranked by our Smart Rating system, which is based on financial affordability, career readiness, admissions selectivity, expert opinion and academic excellence. All data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education.

Similar to the West, one of the most appealing aspects of attending college in the South is the warm weather. Other regional claims to fame include great barbecue, college football and, as this list demonstrates, some excellent academic institutions.

#25. Virginia Military Institute

Total Students: 1,675

Established in 1839, the Virginia Military Institute is the oldest state-supported military college in the country. It has a median post-graduation salary of $55,000, and popular degrees include international relations, economics and history.

#24. New College of Florida

Total Students: 793

New College of Florida was established in 1960 and is now an honors college for liberal arts for the State University System of Florida. Popular majors include psychology, anthropology and biology.

#23. Millsaps College

Total Students: 804

Millsaps is a private liberal arts college with a very small student-faculty ratio of 8:1. Popular degrees include biology, accounting and business administration.

#22. Wofford College

Total Students: 1,615

Founded in 1854, Wofford is one of the few four-year institutions that opened before the start of the American Civil War and still exists in its original location. The school's four-year graduation rate (75 percent) and endowment ($103,720 per student) are both in the top 10 percent nationally.

#21. Furman University

Total Students: 2,953

Furman is the oldest private university in South Carolina. Its four-year graduation rate of 83 percent is in the top 10 percent nationally, and popular degrees include business administration and political science.

#20. Sewanee-The University of the South

Total Students: 1,701

Per our metrics, Sewanee is ranked the No. 53 liberal arts college in the country. It has a four-year graduation rate of 80 percent, and popular majors include English, economics and international studies.

#19. Centre College

Total Students: 1,381

Centre is a private liberal arts college with a four-year graduation rate of 81 percent. Based on our metrics, it is the No. 44 liberal arts college in the country.

#18. Wake Forest University

Total Students: 7,602

Per our metrics, Wake Forest is the No. 3 private school in North Carolina. Its total research expenditure of $169 million is in the top 10 percent nationally, and the school offers 67 different majors.

#17. Florida State University

Total Students: 40,909

Florida State is ranked as the No. 2 public school in the state, according to our metrics. FSU is one of the largest schools in the country, and popular degrees include psychology, English and criminal justice.

#16. Clemson University

Total Students: 21,303

Clemson is the highest-ranked school in South Carolina, according to our metrics. Its average ACT score of 28 is in the top 10 percent of the country, and it has a median post-graduation salary of $49,400.

#15. University of Georgia

Total Students: 34,536

Georgia is the largest university in the state. The school's average SAT score (1855) and ACT score (28) are both in the top 10 percent nationally, and popular degrees include psychology, biology and finance.

#14. Tulane University of Louisiana

Total Students: 12,938

Tulane is the highest-ranked school in Louisiana, according to our metrics. The school's acceptance rate (26.4 percent), average SAT score (1995) and average ACT score (30) are all in the top 10 percent nationally.

#13. Rhodes College

Total Students: 2,040

Rhodes is the No. 2 college in Tennessee, according to our metrics. The private liberal arts school has a four-year graduation rate of 71 percent, and popular degrees include business administration, biology and English language and literature.

#12. University of Miami

Total Students: 16,935

Miami is the top-ranked private school in Florida, according to our Smart Rating system. Its acceptance rate (40.4 percent), average SAT score (1965) and average ACT score (30) are all in the top 10 percent of the country.

#11. Georgia Institute of Technology

Total Students: 21,471

Georgia Tech is one of the leading technological universities in the country. Its median post-graduation salary of $60,000 is among the top 10 percent in America, and its average out-of-pocket cost is $9,116.

#10. College of William and Mary

Total Students: 8,376

After Harvard, William and Mary is the second-oldest institute of higher education in the country. Its acceptance rate (33.2 percent) and its four-year graduation rate (85 percent) are both in the top 10 percent of the nation.

#9. University of Florida

Total Students: 49,878

Florida is the top-ranked college in the state, per our metrics, and is among the largest schools in the country. It has a median post-graduation salary of $47,400, and popular degrees include psychology, biology and political science.

#8. University of Virginia

Total Students: 23,464

Virginia is the top-ranked public school in the state, according to our system. It was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, and its four-year graduation rate of 87 percent ranks among the top 10 percent in the country.

#7. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Total Students: 29,127

UNC is the top-ranked public school in the state, per our metrics. It has an acceptance rate of 27.6 percent, and popular degrees include psychology, biology and communication.

#6. University of Richmond

Total Students: 4,140

Per our metrics, Richmond is the No. 19 liberal arts school in the country. Its acceptance rate (31.2 percent), four-year graduation rate (77 percent) and average SAT score (1955) all rank in the top 10 percent nationally.

#5. Davidson College

Total Students: 1,788

Davidson is the top-ranked liberal arts college in North Carolina, per our metrics. Its four-year graduation rate is 87 percent, and popular degrees include political science, English and economics.

#4. Emory University

Total Students: 14,513

Emory is the top-ranked college in Georgia, according to our Smart Rating system. It has a very small student-faculty ratio of 8:1, and its median post-graduation salary is $49,100.

#3. Vanderbilt University

Total Students: 12,757

Vanderbilt is the No. 13 research university in the country, according to our metrics, and the top-ranked college in Tennessee. Its four-year graduation rate (87 percent), total research expenditure ($447 million) and median post-graduation salary ($52,000) are all ranked in the top 10 percent in the country.

#2. Washington and Lee University

Total Students: 2,277

According to our metrics, Washington and Lee is the No. 6 liberal arts college in the country. It has a four-year graduation rate of 88 percent and a median post-graduation salary of $55,000. Popular degrees include business administration, economics and journalism.

#1. Duke University

Total Students: 15,467

Duke is the No. 8 research university in the country, per our metrics. The school's acceptance rate of 13.4 percent is among the top 10 percent nationally. Its four-year graduation rate is 89 percent, and its median post-graduation salary is $58,000. Popular degrees include biology, public policy analysis and economics.

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