To identify the Best Colleges in Louisiana for 2017-2018 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in Louisiana anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Louisiana
The best colleges and universities in Louisiana are about more than higher education, though that, of course, is their reason for existence. And, to be sure, Louisiana has some of the top institutions in the nation, including one of the most prestigious private research universities in the nation, Tulane University 69 . But Louisiana is a resilient place prone to hurricanes and floods, and its institutions of higher education are key to preserving its rich, complex culture and its historic cities and neighborhoods. Numerous schools, such as Louisiana State 63 , Centenary College of Louisiana 60 , and Southeastern Louisiana University , are as known for their community outreach and their academic programs, and Tulane has public service written directly into its curriculum – it is the only university of its size and status to require community service for all students.
Prominent liberal arts colleges in Louisiana include Xavier University 63 , Loyola University 65 , and Centenary College, prestigious institutions founded on the classical humanities, sciences, and arts that provide strong academic programs and deep religious commitment. Meanwhile, Louisiana has worked to secure a strong and widespread system of regional public colleges to provide for its workforce, from medicine and nursing to business and technology, including universities like Nicholls State University 61 and McNeese State University 57 , colleges rooted in place and dedicated to the good of their people. Louisiana’s state bird, and nickname, is the Pelican, and the mythology surrounding the pelican is powerful; according to tradition, the pelican will literally shed its own blood to feed its babies if there is no food. Louisiana’s best colleges and universities take that nurturing spirit to heart.
Here are the top colleges and universities of the Pelican State.
Tulane University, Louisiana’s most prestigious institution of higher learning, was founded in 1834. At that time, the young state had a very rudimentary medical system and a dangerous shortage of qualified doctors, so Tulane originated in a public medical school. As the school added more programs, including law and business, it was renamed the University of Louisiana – the first institution to bear that name. However, the Reconstruction-era economic depression pushed the university close to collapse, and the state was forced to sell it. The formerly public, now private University of Louisiana became Tulane University in honor of a philanthropic donor, and began its impressive second life. Today, Tulane is ranked in the top 40 of national universities by U.S. News & World Report, Louisiana’s most acclaimed institution.
Tulane has long been recognized as the most selective, most elite university in Louisiana, but since its home city of New Orleans was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, Tulane has become known for more than educational excellence. Tulane’s required core curriculum, TIDES, focuses on public engagement, making Tulane the only institution of its level to require community service. Even the law school requires students perform pro-bono work. From law to tropical medicine, public health to business, Tulane’s mission is dominated by service, making the university one of the most crucial players in Louisiana’s restoration, and a model for higher education everywhere. Tulane is not only Louisiana’s best private research university – it’s Louisiana’s best friend.
Loyola University New Orleans
French Jesuit missionaries were some of the earliest Europeans in New Orleans, establishing a Catholic presence that would influence and shape every aspect of Louisiana life. Loyola College, a Jesuit institution founded in 1904, was originally a prep school and college, until the College of the Immaculate Conception – another Jesuit prep school and college in New Orleans – was reorganized into Jesuit High School, while Loyola dropped its secondary program to focus on college. Loyola New Orleans steadily grew through the 20th century, adding a business school, law school, and other programs, and while the university suffered heavy losses in Hurricane Katrina, over the next decade Loyola has come back to its old strength.
Loyola University New Orleans is ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the top 10 regional institutions for the South, as well as a top 10 best value and top 10 college for veterans. Furthermore, Loyola is recognized as one of the nation’s most diverse institutions, as well as one of the top undergraduate educators in the South, with a deep focus on the traditional liberal arts. The classical humanities and sciences, as well as Jesuit values like academic rigor and service leadership, are written into Loyola’s curriculum as the foundations of learning. Loyola New Orleans is also home to numerous research and cultural centers, including the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. With a commitment to New Orleans, and top-ranked education and research, Loyola University New Orleans is one of Louisiana’s best universities.
Xavier University of Louisiana
Founded by St. Katherine Drexel – the first Catholic saint born in the US – Xavier University of Louisiana is the only historically black, Catholic university in the nation. Born into a wealthy family of entrepreneurs and philanthropists (including her grandfather, Anthony J. Drexel, founded of Drexel University), St. Katherine devoted her life and wealth to improving life for the poor, especially Native American and African-American people. Starting in 1915 with a secondary school to prepare promising black youth for college, Xavier expanded to a normal school (the 2-year precursor to the 4-year teacher’s college) and gradually added more college programs, growing into Xavier University by 1925. Today, Xavier University of Louisiana is ranked in the top 30 regional colleges for the South by U.S. News & World Report.
Xavier’s curriculum is dedicated to holistic learning in the Catholic tradition, bringing together academic learning, career preparation, and spiritual development. Undergraduate research is particularly emphasized, engaging bachelor’s students in sophisticated research both with faculty mentors, and on their own. The Health Sciences field is one of Xavier’s strongest suits; the College of Pharmacy, founded in 1927, is one of only two in Louisiana, and Xavier is one of the nation’s best schools for graduating black pharmacists, sending black students to medical school, and awarding STEM degrees to black students. While a quarter of the student body is not African-American, as an HBCU, Xavier University of Louisiana is one of the best colleges in Louisiana for ambitious black students.
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College
The flagship of the Louisiana State University System, Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College has had a long and complex history. Founded in 1853 as a military college, LSU’s first superintendent was William Tecumseh Sherman, who left Louisiana to lead Union forces when the state seceded (after the war, he gifted two cannons that fired on Fort Sumter to the college). LSU survived the Civil War only to burn down in a fire in 1869. The college was moved to Baton Rouge and reestablished as Louisiana’s land grant university, focusing on agriculture and engineering. Today LSU is a major public research institution ranked in the top tier of national universities, and the top 75 public institution, by U.S. News & World Report.
Few universities in the nation have such a central role in education for their state as LSU does for Louisiana. A quarter of all Louisiana bachelor’s degrees, and nearly as many graduate degrees, are awarded by LSU alone; almost two-thirds of Louisiana’s doctoral degrees are from LSU. The two campuses of the LSU Health Science Center are crucial to Louisiana’s healthcare system, while the Ourso College of Business and the Herbert Law Center are the state’s main source of industry and government professionals. LSU has also been awarded Carnegie Foundation Community Service Classification due to its engagement in Baton Rouge and throughout Louisiana. LSU is one of Louisiana’s best universities, but more importantly, it keeps Louisiana strong.
Nicholls State University
Founded in 1948 as Nicholls Junior College, a 2-year institution in the Louisiana State University System, Nicholls State University is named for Francis Redding Tillou Nicholls, a Confederate officer and governor of Louisiana whose election brought Reconstruction to an end. Nicholls Junior College grew quickly, responding to the demand for career and academic education in Cajun territory, and in less than a decade the school had become its own college. Today, NSU is a mid-sized, comprehensive university ranked among the 100 best regional colleges in the South, providing necessary educational opportunity to the Mississippi Delta region.
As a regional university, Nicholls State focuses on practical, market-ready degree programs in areas like nursing, teaching, and business. NSU was one of the first public universities to offer bachelor’s degrees in Culinary Arts, focusing on French and Cajun cooking, and students can complete their culinary bachelor’s with an MBA for entrepreneurial careers. Since the turn of the 21st century, Nicholls State has put a significant emphasis on its online degree programs, earning national recognition for value (thanks to low tuition costs), quality, and accessibility. Online programs include MS in Nursing, Master of Education, and Bachelor of Business Administration degrees. Nicholls State knows what the residents of Cajun Country need, and have been meeting those needs for generations.
Centenary College of Louisiana
Centenary College of Louisiana, a private, United Methodist-affiliated liberal arts college in Shreveport, LA, traces its history back to 1825, when the young state of Louisiana chartered four public colleges. The College of Louisiana at Jackson was the first, making it the oldest liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River. When the College of Louisiana lost public funding in 1845, Centenary College (founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1839), bought the campus, renaming to Centenary College of Louisiana. The college struggled financially until the city of Shreveport offered financial incentives to move in 1905. Today, Centenary College, at home in Shreveport for over a century, is the only liberal arts college in Louisiana ranked in the top tier of U.S. News & World Report liberal arts colleges, and is recognized for its community engagement.
As a traditional liberal arts college, Centenary focuses on undergraduate education in the traditional liberal arts, giving students a flexible, adaptable grounding in critical thinking, research, and communication for use in any career field. Centenary is highly diverse, with a third of the student body identifying as minority. In addition to a full slate of classic liberal arts majors, Centenary offers many pre-professional programs such as pre-law, pre-med, and pre-engineering. An astonishing 8:1 student:faculty ratio means students get the highest level of attention and support that a liberal arts college can provide, including strong mentoring from faculty members. It’s a classic education with national recognition, making Centenary one of Louisiana’s top colleges.
McNeese State University
McNeese State University was founded in 1939 as Lake Charles Junior College, part of Louisiana State University. The nationwide junior college movement was designed to close educational gaps and provide certificates, associate’s degrees, and transfer credits for people in areas that lacked a 4-year college or university. While the junior college movement was the start of community colleges, many junior colleges grew into full universities of their own, like McNeese. Named for John McNeese, an education reformer who worked to modernize teaching in the region, McNeese State University serves the Lake Charles region, earning U.S. News & World Report recognition as a top tier regional institution for the South.
McNeese is a regional public university, and its mission puts an emphasis on providing for the educational and professional needs of Louisiana’s people, especially in the southern region around Lake Charles. In an area dominated by the petroleum industry, McNeese has a top-quality engineering program, offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical, civic, and other engineering specializations. McNeese was also one of the first universities in the nation with a designated anti-terrorism concentration, and the first in Louisiana to offer a degree in forensic chemistry. From business to nursing, McNeese State has the programs Louisiana’s workers and professionals need.
Louisiana Tech University
Founded in 1894 as the Industrial Institute and College of Louisiana, Louisiana Tech University was begun to prepare Louisiana’s workers for the growing industrial economy as the South recovered from the Civil War and moved on from its agricultural economy. Gradually the institution grew into a polytechnic format, with a wide variety of degree programs; by 1970, Louisiana Tech had reached the status of a comprehensive research university. Today, Louisiana Tech is the only U.S. News & World Report Tier 1 national university in the University of Louisiana System, and is a federal space-grant institution with ties to NASA, the NSA, and the Department of Homeland Security.
With its roots in the polytechnic institute, Louisiana Tech’s strong suit is STEM, especially engineering, and it has made a mission of bringing the very best science education to Louisiana. As a public university, 85% of Louisiana Tech’s students come from Louisiana, and a third of the student body identifies a minority. Louisiana Tech has been widely acclaimed for their value, ranking as one of the schools with the lowest graduate debt in the nation, and ranked in the top 10 by Business Insider as an underrated university; Tech also boasts the highest salary potential of all Louisiana colleges. With top-ranked research, opportunity for excellence, and affordability, Louisiana Tech shows what it takes to be one of Louisiana’s best universities.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette – the second-largest public institution in the state – was founded in 1898 as an industrial school, intended, like Louisiana Tech (#8), to prepare students for modern careers in manufacturing. But while Tech went in the direction of polytechnic education, ULL added more liberal arts and professional programs to become a comprehensive public university. By 1999, the University of Southwestern Louisiana had become the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and today ULL is recognized as a nationally ranked university by major publications like the Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.
ULL is a significant public research institution, and is particularly known for its deep ties to industry in Louisiana; the university has been named an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, and ranks in the top 10 for privately-funded research. Professional and technical programs dominate at ULL, including one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious computer science programs, though ULL is also known as the premier Cajun and Creole studies institution. In recent years, ULL has become a regional leader in online education, adding one more layer to its reputation as one of Louisiana’s top universities.
Southeastern Louisiana University
Like McNeese State (#7), Southeastern Louisiana University began as a junior college, designed to give educational opportunity for workers and prospective students far from any public university. From its founding (from a bond voted in by residents) in 1925, as a two-year program with a teacher’s certification, to 1970, when it reached university status, SLU grew step by step, adding new programs and responding to the needs and desires of the local community. Southeastern Louisiana University is a crucial part of life in the area around Hammond, LA, and stands as the city’s largest employer; it is also widely recognized as a top regional university.
SLU offers more than 60 degree program in a wide variety of disciplines, and as a comprehensive university, SLU’s programs extend from associate’s degrees to a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Higher Education Leadership. In addition, SLU is known for its nursing programs, offering an MSN degree in collaboration with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. SLU also took up an undergraduate program in engineering technology when Tulane University ended their program in their post-Katrina restructuring. Whatever the field, Southeastern Louisiana University is providing for Louisiana’s workforce and professionals as one of the state’s top universities.