20 Great Politically Liberal Colleges in the South

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The South is known for being a more conservative region of the country, making it difficult for those with a more liberal perspective to find a college with like-minded students and professors. To help in this pursuit, our editors have researched scores of Southern colleges to find the schools with the most left-leaning approaches to education. While these institutions may not be as liberal as notable colleges in other parts of the nation, they’re remarkable in that their practices break the mold for typical Southern colleges.

Rating and Ranking Methodology

Sustainability Program – 1 point
College Democrats of America (or related organization) —1 point
Awards and Recognition
National Level – 2 points
Regional/Local Level – 1 point
Progressive Offerings
Progressive majors – 2 points
Progressive courses only – 1 point
“Wow” Factor – 1 point for each feature that wowed us

Great Politically Liberal Colleges in the South

The following schools have made the cut for the most politically liberal colleges in the South. We rank them here according to the ranking and rating methodology above. Please note that in cases of a tie, the schools with the same number of points awarded are listed by their net prices with the more cost-friendly schools appearing higher in the rankings.

#20 –Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah, Georgia

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The Savannah College of Art and Design is a student-centered institution that strives to be a leader in art education through innovation. Its unique, collaborative design for sustainability degrees and courses allow students to find a practical use for their creative talent. Students can also use their talents to serve the community through collaborations with the Beach Institute African-American Cultural Center, Center for Puppetry Arts, and other organizations. The school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in creative fields such as Animation, Accessory Design, Illustration, Historic Preservation, and many more.

Points: 4
Enrollment: 9,092
Net Price: $37,946

#19 –University of Central Oklahoma

Edmond, Oklahoma

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The University of Central Oklahoma strives to produce ethical, engaged, and productive citizens who contribute to the cultural, social, and economic advancement of the global community. The school serves the community and educates its students through partnerships with businesses and other organizations. Several publications have ranked UCO highly for its sustainability, including the U.S. News and World Report and the Chronicle of Higher Education. It is also one of only two universities in the nation named an official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site.

Points: 4
Enrollment: 14,998
Net Price: $10,954

#18 –University of North Alabama

Florence, Alabama

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The University of North Alabama promotes social, cultural, professional, and economic development. Located in Alabama’s Renaissance City, Florence, the campus is not only beautiful, but also safe and supportive. Dedicated faculty teach a diverse range of programs, and make one-on-one mentoring a priority. The university prides itself in its commitment to serving and supporting the student body. Student research is integrated within every major, giving students the chance to gain hands-on experience in their field. Most graduates quickly find work in their desired careers upon graduation.

Points: 4
Enrollment: 5,885
Net Price: $10,118

#17 –Marshall University

Huntington, West Virginia

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Students at Marshall University enjoy small class sizes, state-of-the-art facilities, and a global community. The university encourages cultural awareness and respect for diversity, and Marshall’s alumni routinely go on to become successful business leaders and winners of prestigious awards. With the guidance of expert faculty members, students may choose from more than 100 degree programs. The school also provides many opportunities for students to participate in extracurricular activities such as student organizations, recreational sports, and community engagement.

Points: 4
Enrollment: 9,536
Net Price: $8,738

#16 –University of Miami

Coral Gables, Florida

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One of America’s top research universities, the University of Miami is a champion of progress and diversity. Using millions of dollars in sponsored research, students and faculty make advances in medicine, science, and other fields that benefit not only the local community, but people around the world. UM also has a rich culture fostered by on-campus art exhibits, film festivals, sports events, and music performances. Close community is encouraged through these events as well as student organizations and community outreach.

Points: 5
Enrollment: 11,175
Net Price: $33,284

#15 –Tulane University of Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana

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As one of the most prestigious educational and research institutions in the U.S., Tulane University offers degrees in public health and tropical medicine, business, architecture, sciences and engineering among many other fields. The school has long been a center for health care innovation and research where faculty and students collaborate together on groundbreaking studies. As an added benefit, its New Orleans location promotes a robust student life and provides many opportunities for cultural and educational activities.

Points: 5
Enrollment: 7,892
Net Price: $32,797

#14 –Loyola University

New Orleans, Louisiana

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Loyola University, New Orleans, is a selective Jesuit and Catholic university that welcomes students from diverse backgrounds. In fact, ethnic minorities make up a large portion of the student population. The school offers these students many opportunities for professional studies while also remaining grounded in the liberal arts and sciences. The university works to serve the community through teaching and service project, and its ideals include critical thinking and concern for the poor and oppressed. The Princeton Review, the President’s 2014 Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, and several other publications have lauded Loyola for its innovation and excellence.

Points: 5
Enrollment: 2,796
Net Price: $26,283

#13 –Alcorn State University

Alcorn, Mississippi

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Founded as the first public historically black land-grant institution in the U.S., Alcorn State University teaches its students to think critically and become leaders in their respective fields. Its rigorous curriculum and nurturing environment prepare students for success in even the most competitive careers such as medicine, business, and law. Small class sizes foster personalized learning, discussion, and community. Students also have the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research and other hands-on projects. The university is nationally recognized for its excellence in agricultural research, technology, liberal arts, and other fields.

Points: 5
Enrollment: 3,006
Net Price: $14,520

#12 –Elon University

Elon, North Carolina

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Considered a national model for experiential learning, Elon University gives students many chances to work closely with highly-qualified faculty. These opportunities to gain hands-on experience are prioritized alongside a commitment to diversity and innovation. Elon has also been consistently recognized and highly ranked by several different publications, including the Princeton Review and Forbes, for its value, academic excellence, and sustainability. These achievements have been made possible through the university’s strategic commitment plan.

Points: 6
Enrollment: 5,782
Net Price: $32,205

#11 –College of Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina

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The College of Charleston combines a historic campus and small-college atmosphere with cutting edge programs and the diversity of a more urban setting, giving students the best of both worlds. It values intellectual freedom, original inquiry, and creative expression. It has been highly ranked for its value, environmental responsibility, and quality education by several publications. The College of Charleston is also innovative. It was the first college in America to offer an undergraduate program in Data Science, and it offers minors in many diverse topics.

Points: 6
Enrollment: 10,440
Net Price: $17,609

#10 –University of Memphis

Memphis, Tennessee

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The University of Memphis boasts over 254 areas of study and the largest honors program in Tennessee. It combines the atmosphere and benefits of a small liberal arts college with the opportunities available at larger research universities to benefit both students and the community. Students come from all over the world to study and research complex topics in their desired career path. The university has produced several Fulbright Scholars and Truman Scholars, as well as many leaders in business and medicine.

Points: 6
Enrollment: 17,073
Net Price: $12,369

#9 –Western Kentucky University

Bowling Green, Kentucky

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Western Kentucky University aims to foster social responsibility and productivity in its diverse student body. It is home to nationally-recognized academic programs and teams, as well as the only independent Honors College in the Commonwealth. Students have several opportunities to broaden their education through study abroad and out-of-the-classroom activities. WKU also works to be a transparent and accountable institution both in finances and sustainability. International reach is a major priority, and research not only benefits the surrounding community, but several other countries as well.

Points: 6
Enrollment: 17,452
Net Price: $11,072

#8 –Emory University

Atlanta, Georgia

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Emory University has a record of excellence, not just in its programs, but with its faculty and students as well. A number of Emory’s professors have won Pulitzer Prizes and innovation awards, and many students have gone on to become successful government representatives, novelists, and CEOs. Emory makes sustainability a priority with acres of green space on campus and sustainably grown foods in its dining halls. Several courses are not only progressive, but also relevant to current events. For instance, Emory offered a course this fall on the Ferguson movement.

Points: 7
Enrollment: 7,829
Net Price: $28,203

#7 –Virginia Commonwealth University

Richmond, Virginia

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Virginia Commonwealth University is a public research university that encourages collaboration, hands-on experience, and interaction among disciplines. Many of its programs, including Sculpture, Health Administration, Nurse Anesthesia, and Social Work have been highly ranked. VCU has one of the top public graduate arts programs in the U.S., and it receives millions of dollars of funding for research each year. The school is also diverse, with 100 different countries represented in the student population. An active sustainability program gives students information and opportunities to become environmentally responsible.

Points: 7
Enrollment: 23,661
Net Price: $19,335

#6 –University of Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky

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The University of Louisville is committed to cultural, intellectual, and economic development through education and research. It also makes sustainability a priority, working to integrate it into every facet of campus life. Several research centers and institutes are available for students and faculty for the study of topics such as cancer, birth defects, renewable energy, and logistics. The school also brings together students with similar interests and majors through its unique Living-Learning and Themed communities.

Points: 7
Enrollment: 15,961
Net Price: $14,635

#5–West Virginia University

Morgantown, West Virginia

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West Virginia University is one of the most innovative universities in the nation. It was among the first in the U.S. to train coal miners, use vacant broadcast television channels to provide wireless broadband internet services, use a diaphragmatic pacemaker in a pediatric patient, and accomplish many other impressive feats. Students learn to be socially responsible citizens and develop a strong work ethic through applying this innovation to community outreach. The university staff and administration make diversity, high quality education, and outreach top priorities.

Points: 7
Enrollment: 22,563
Net Price: $9,380

#4 –Eckerd College

Saint Petersburg, Florida

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Eckerd College is known for its marine science, international relations and global affairs, and civic engagement. Students are expected to gain a broad knowledge of culture, respect diversity, become socially responsible, and engage in critical thinking and discussion. Many programs are available to students to help them meet these goals such as service-learning and study abroad. Eckerd hosts many cultural events, regularly scheduling and hosting local talent and exhibitions. It also promotes social justice by co-sponsoring the 620 Round Tables on Social Justice each year.

Points: 8
Enrollment: 2,083
Net Price: $31,893

#3 –Georgia State University

Atlanta, Georgia

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Located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia State University gives students the opportunity to make connections with several business, government, cultural, and nonprofit organizations. The university’s location, close to the world’s busiest airport and dozens of Fortune 500 businesses, also helps make Georgia State one of the most diverse universities in the U.S. Faculty members are dedicated to their students, working to quickly to detect when students are struggling and getting them back on track to graduate. The university’s innovative approach to supporting students and connecting them to employment opportunities creates an on-campus culture of ambition and dedication.

Points: 8
Enrollment: 25,328
Net Price: $15,609

#2 –University of North Carolina at Asheville

Asheville, North Carolina

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The University of North Carolina at Asheville uses small classes, a nationally acclaimed research program, rigorous curriculum, and its highly-qualified faculty to develop critical thinking and workforce skills. It has been highly ranked by multiple publications, including U.S. News and World Report and the Fiske Guide to Colleges. Students have plenty of opportunities to obtain hands-on experience through internships and service projects. UNC Asheville also works to be ecologically responsible through a sustainability program that encourages student participation.

Points: 8
Enrollment: 3,804
Net Price: $12,040

#1 –Rice University

Houston, Texas

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Rice University cultivates diversity and leadership through its curriculum and diverse course offerings. Access to faculty in both classroom and casual settings is a priority. Classes are small, and each residential college has a faculty master who fosters cultural and intellectual activity among students. Its unique residential colleges encourage community by acting as the hub of campus life. Students are randomly assigned to these colleges to ensure that each is diverse. Rice has also been highly ranked for its value and quality of life.

Points: 9
Enrollment: 3,926
Net Price: $20,512

Published April 2016