To identify the Best Colleges in Mississippi 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 Mississippi anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Mississippi
The best colleges and universities in Mississippi are rooted in the state’s long, complex history. Mississippi is home to two highly-ranked, research-intensive public land-grant institutions – Mississippi State University 62 , and Alcorn State University 60 – because Mississippi’s formerly segregated education system required a separate African-American STEM college. The state’s research needs are also met by the University of Mississippi 61 , the state’s only public research university until after WWII, more than a century. Other top-ranked public institutions like the Mississippi University for Women 65 and Jackson State University 57 prove that Mississippi has the educational needs of its residents covered from all angles.
Mississippi is known as the most religious state in the union, statistically, and a wide variety of Christian liberal arts colleges are part of that legacy. From Baptist institutions like Blue Mountain College , Mississippi College 59 , and William Carey University 64 , to Millsaps College 68 (Methodist) and Belhaven University (Presbyterian), Mississippi is unusually rich in Protestant denominations (a fact that would likely disappoint the Catholic French and Spanish explorers and adventurers who first settled Mississippi). Students looking for a Christian education can find their home in Mississippi.
Here are the top colleges and universities of the Magnolia State.
Mississippi University for Women
Founded in 1884, the Mississippi University for Women began as the Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls. It was, significantly, the first public college for women, and in a rarity for the era, it had a two-pronged purpose: providing career preparation (the “Industrial Institute”) and liberal arts education (the “College”) in one institution. From its beginnings on the campus of a former private women’s college, the institute grew over the next three decades while concentrating more heavily on liberal arts education, eventually phasing out the technical training and becoming the State College for Women. Today, the Mississippi University for Women is a U.S. News & World Report top 20 public Southern regional institution, and has long been ranked a top value by Washington Monthly.
The Mississippi University for Women is recognized as a top undergraduate and master’s level educator, with a wide variety of programs. Called “The W” by family and friends, MUW’s most popular and acclaimed bachelor’s programs include nursing, education, and business; it also offers master’s degrees in nursing, and many education specializations like Reading/Literacy and Gifted Studies. While the college has technically been coed since 1984, men represent less than a quarter of the student body, but the population is highly diverse, with more than a third of the student body identifying as African-American. A 12:1 student:faculty ratio gives students a great deal of access to faculty members for mentorship and guidance, making the Mississippi University for Women one of Mississippi’s best college choices for nearly a century and a half.
Blue Mountain College
A Christian liberal arts college in the Tupelo, MS region, Blue Mountain College began as Blue Mountain Female Institute in 1873. Blue Mountain’s founder, Mark Perrin Lowrey, was a former Confederate officer turned minister, and he envisioned a future for Mississippi led by educated women like his daughters, who were the first two faculty members of the small women’s school. In 1920, when the college became too much for one family to maintain, Blue Mountain was given to the Mississippi Baptist Convention, which began adding programs and working toward a full liberal arts college. Today, Blue Mountain is coed, and ranks as one of the top 10 regional institutions in the South according to U.S. News & World Report.
Blue Mountain College maintains the low student:faculty ratio associated with the best liberal arts colleges (11:1), which allows the college to fulfill its most essential mission – to foster a Christian environment where faith is at the center of learning. While BMC does offer two master’s degrees in education, its focus is on undergraduate programs rooted in liberal arts values, from business to biblical studies. Blue Mountain has also invested in fully online programs, using technology to reach out to students who would otherwise not be able to attend on campus. In addition to numerous core classes, BMC offers fully online degrees in business, psychology, and criminal justice, providing a blueprint for the future of one of Mississippi’s best colleges.
Millsaps College was founded in 1889 by Reuben Webster Millsaps, a Confederate officer who donated land and $50,000 to start a Christian college, reflecting on the difficulty of finding higher education in his home state during his youth. Throughout more than a century, Millsaps became a leader in Mississippi, earning a reputation for progressive thought and community service. Millsaps was proudly the first historically white college in Mississippi to desegregate, and its affiliation with the United Methodist Church has given Millsaps a commitment to provide for the well-being of Mississipians everywhere. Millsaps is ranked in the top 100 national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the highest-ranked in Mississippi, and has been named a College That Changes Lives.
Millsaps is known for its academic rigor. While it is affiliated with the Methodist denomination, Millsaps does not use a religious curriculum, focusing instead on the traditional liberal arts. Undergraduate students at Millsaps must pass comprehensive exams to graduate, a tradition usually associated with master’s programs, and a college-wide emphasis on top-flight performance extends through every program. While Millsaps is primarily an undergraduate educator, the acclaimed Else School of Management (one of the best business schools in the South, according to the Princeton Review) offers MBA and MAcc degrees as well. With a 9:1 student:faculty ratio, Millsaps is known for its excellent student support, and long-standing adult education programs (dating back to 1972) make Millsaps an important resource for Mississippi’s working adults.
William Carey University
William Carey University dates its existence to 1892, to the Pearl River Boarding School, which offered education from primary to early college. When this school was destroyed in a fire in 1905, it was relocated to Hattiesburg, MS, only to be burned down again. In 1911, the former campus was donated to the Mississippi Baptist Convention, which opened the Mississippi Woman’s College. When the women’s college began admitting men in 1954, it was renamed in honor of the “Father of Modern Missions,” William Carey, a Baptist missionary to India. As it has grown in size and status, William Carey University has earned a strong reputation in Mississippi and abroad, including a U.S. News & World Report ranking in the top 50 regional Southern colleges, and the #2 best value in the region.
WCU is known as a top undergraduate educator, but is particularly important to Mississippi for its health sciences programs. In addition to the Fail School of Nursing, a CCNE-accredited school known as one of the best in the state, WCU is home to the College of Osteopathic Medicine, the second medical school in Mississippi and the only osteopathic medical school in the region. The mission of these programs is to fill the need for qualified medical professionals in Mississippi’s rural regions, which are chronically underserved. WCU is also known for its excellent theater and music programs, as well as education and religion. William Carey’s excellence is a given in Mississippi, making it a sound choice for one of Mississippi’s best colleges.
Alcorn State University
The first land-grant university for African-American students, Alcorn State University was founded in 1871 when the US Congress declared that states with segregated school systems must provide access to a land-grant university for black students. Rather than integrate, Mississippi and other Southern states started all-black agricultural and mechanical schools in the land-grant model; Alcorn State was built on the campus of a former white school that did not recover from the loss of its student body to the Civil War. In the century and a half since, Alcorn State has built on their legacy with top-ranked STEM and professional programs and earned recognition as one of U.S. News & World Report’s top 25 historically black colleges.
With its land-grant heritage, Alcorn State is a significant STEM educator for Mississippi, both in degree programs and research. Alcorn State prioritizes undergraduate research, and offers students at all levels the opportunity to work alongside faculty members on far-reaching, influential research projects. Alcorn State also houses the only comprehensive nursing program at an HBCU in Mississippi, and its nursing school is considered one of the best in the region. Graduate degrees include business, nursing, education, and computer science, and Alcorn’s outreach to working adult students and other nontraditional students include extension campuses and online programs.
Mississippi State University
A land-grant institution with a Carnegie Classification high level of research activity, Mississippi State University was founded in 1878 as a federal land-grant university (opening, interestingly enough, after Alcorn State University, the state’s African-American land-grant college). Mississippi State was a pioneer in outreach to the state’s rural farmers with the creation of the Cooperative Extension Service in 1914, and over time grew into a comprehensive research university with the addition of liberal arts and professional programs. Today, Mississippi State is one of Mississippi’s most crucial institutions of higher learning, recognized as one of the nation’s top colleges for social mobility, and a Forbes best value.
Mississippi State is known for its STEM programs and its professional studies, and research is central to the university’s place in Mississippi, America, and the world; whether it is leading research in unmanned aircraft systems for the Federal Aviation Administration, or working with the United Nations to fight starvation worldwide, Mississippi State brings of all of its 150 years of expertise in agriculture, biology, engineering, and technology to bear. Some of Mississippi State’s most acclaimed programs – such as the largest single-location veterinary school in the nation, or its nationally top-ranked landscape architecture program – grow out of Mississippi State’s history and ties to the people of Mississippi. Those deep roots make Mississippi State one of Mississippi’s top universities.
In 1883, the Belhaven College for Young Ladies (named for Belhaven, Scotland, the hometown of Colonel James Hamilton, whose home was Belhaven’s first building) was founded in Mississippi’s capital city, Jackson, though its original building was destroyed in a fire, rebuilt, and burned down yet again. After the second fire, in 1910, Belhaven moved to what would come to be known as the Belhaven neighborhood, with the support of the Central Mississippi Presbytery. Belhaven merged with the Mississippi Synodical College, and though the university retains its historical ties to the Presbyterian Church, it became an independent institution in 1972. Today, Belhaven University is recognized as a top regional college in the South by U.S. News & World Report, and is perennially ranked as a best value.
Belhaven provides students with the well-rounded liberal arts foundation that is its heritage, and the university is still known for its excellence as an undergraduate educator, including a low 12:1 student:faculty ratio and highly acclaimed fine arts program. Belhaven is, in fact, nationally accredited in music, dance, theater, and fine arts, one of only a handful of colleges in the US. However, Belhaven is also a top professional educator, and one of only two Christian colleges in the nation recognized by the White House STEM Initiative. In addition to strong master’s programs, including an acclaimed MBA, Belhaven has also been ranked one of the best online educators in the nation by U.S. News.
Jackson State University
Founded in 1877, Jackson State University, surprisingly, did not begin its life in Jackson – its first iteration was the Natchez Seminary, in Natchez, MS. This historically black college, founded by the American Baptist Home Mission Society, did not become Jackson College until it moved to the capital city in 1882, and did not become Jackson State until it was bought out by the state in 1940 to provide much-needed training for teachers. That began Jackson State’s next phase in life, as it added liberal arts programs and graduate degrees to grow into a full state university. Today, Jackson State is one of the nation’s largest historically black universities, a U.S. News & World Report top 20 HBCU, and a Washington Monthly top regional college in the South.
Jackson State University is notable in Mississippi, and nationally, for several accomplishments. The university has been cited by Diverse Issues in Higher Education as one of the top institutions for graduating black students in STEM and education, while it has twice been recognized by Apple for its incorporation of technology into the curriculum. Jackson State has Mississippi’s first public health school, and it is the only HBCU with both undergraduate and graduate engineering programs. As one of the biggest, and best, historically black colleges in the nation, Jackson State is also one of Mississippi’s best and brightest public universities.
University of Mississippi
The legendary Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi is the state’s flagship university and one of the South’s most recognizable names in higher education. Founded in 1844, the University of Mississippi carried the responsibility of being the state’s only comprehensive public university for more than 100 years; during that time, it was Mississippi’s main source of political leadership, doctors, lawyers, and many other crucial professions. Ole Miss has also been Mississippi’s main cultural influence since its beginning, from the arts to athletics, and as Mississippi’s only R1 research university, initiated major innovations in the sciences. Ole Miss is a U.S. News & World Report top tier public university.
As Mississippi’s top public research institution, the University of Mississippi leads the state not only in STEM – Ole Miss is a sea and space-grant institution – but in the humanities as well, from the Center for the Study of Southern Culture to the University Press of Mississippi. Ole Miss’ professional schools are among the best in the South, from business and accounting to nursing and medicine; Ole Miss has the state’s only academic medical center, headquartered in Jackson. For Mississippi’s working adults and other nontraditional students, the University of Mississippi has many extension campuses and a growing program of fully online degrees, ensuring that Ole Miss will remain fresh and vibrant for many more generations of Mississippi’s future leaders.
Founded in 1826, Mississippi College is Mississippi’s oldest institution of higher education, and the second-oldest Baptist college. MC actually went through several iterations, and was not originally a church-affiliated school; while it was, at various times, associated with both the Methodist and the Presbyterian churches, Mississippi College’s relationship with the Mississippi Baptist Convention has lasted since 1850. Mississippi College was the first coed college in the nation to graduate a woman (in 1831), though the college was still nearly broken up when its students and faculty left to fight in the Civil War. After WWII, MC began a major period of growth, adding a nursing school, law school, business school, and education school.
While it retains the “college” name, Mississippi College is structured more like a university, and offers students a similar level of opportunity. Today, MC is Mississippi’s largest private institution, but students still benefit from the kind of low student:faculty ratio associated with small liberal arts colleges (14:1). The School of Business is the largest program, with 6 majors and an MBA that can be earned fully online; the School of Education is also noted among the state’s best. MC’s pre-med program is the only undergraduate program in the nation with NBME approval to give medical board exams; MC’s pre-med students score higher than the national average for conventional medical school students. With a tradition of academic excellence, Mississippi College is an clear choice for recognition among Mississippi’s best colleges.