Mom2collegekids does a great job advocating for U Alabama here on CC (and we visited and were impressed by what's on offer there). My son's recently made the decision to go to U Oklahoma - on another thread I was asked to compare the two and why he chose U Oklahoma; others suggested I post some of that here. I should add that DS was also admitted to U Arizona, which offers a great package as well. He chose not to consider that one b/c they don't allow gap years (DS is taking a year off before enrolling).
OU has about 700 NMF's, which they say is the highest per capita among public universities. It is enough to create a "critical mass" of students in the large campus sea - U Alabama's strategy as well. Both schools are working hard to recruit these students and give them a great experience while there.
Bama is very Southern and very Greek and very Football. #2 and #3 are true of OU also, but OU seemed much more down-to-earth. We've lived in the South, so that's not foreign, but DS didn't want to go to a place where girls felt the need to shell out $100 for a houndstooth handbag to take to the football game (I'm sure this is not universally true, but girls were MUCH more dressed up at Bama). He also wanted a place where it was ok to be a bit of a nerd. At Bama, his tour guide for the honors dorms seemed completely confused by the question of whether there was any "nerd culture" at the school - she fell all over herself explaining that the honors students weren't nerds. DS found a kid with a Star Wars t-shirt on to repeat the question, and the reply was that there was "some" nerd-dom. At OU, our guide pretty much wore the "slightly nerdy" label with pride, and when we visited the dorm, it was clear he wasn't the exception.
Other random thoughts:
Bama's "super suites" honors dorms are much nicer (nicer than any other students' at UA, in fact). OU's are pretty much the same as other dorms - somewhat nicer and larger than the average college, I'd say, but not outrageous. The layout on the main honors floor (there's also a separate dorm in the honors college building that some students choose) is two doubles connected by a bathroom, which I thought was a nice compromise between the somewhat isolating super suite arrangement and "herd" bathrooms.
OU's food is incredible - great variety and quality, and (on the other end of the spectrum) there is an all-you-can-eat Chik-fil-A in the dining hall.
We also had excellent BBQ in both Tuscaloosa and Oklahoma City, so that's a tossup...
Bama didn't offer DS' preferred major (linguistics), although he could have done a self-designed thing fairly easily, and the people he met with were very helpful in telling him how they would work with him on that.
OU offers more Native American languages (5) than any other university in the country (this is a particular interest of DS').
Bama has several flavors of honors programs and OU only has one. The # of credits required for honors are about even, although at Bama any course can be made an honors course, and that's not true at OU; they're more prescriptive. They're also equivalent in terms of accepting AP credits (both quite generous).
Bama's geographic diversity is better than OU's, including in the honors program. I was also really impressed with their services to students with disabilities.
OU has a 5th year option, which works like this: there's a "pool" of tuition $ in the NMF package. If you don't use it all in 4 years (which depends on the # of credits you take), you can either spread your program out to a 5th year or use it to continue into a graduate program.
Bama's package includes housing but not food. OU's package gives a smaller lump sum, but it can be used for room and board or any other expense (and if you have a balance it would carry over to a 5th year, although I can't see how that would happen unless you lived at home). Bama's room and board total is also less than OU's.
Bama gives NMF's an iPad; OU gives $1500 credit toward a laptop.
Bama gives NMF's $2k for study abroad; OU gives $1.5k.
At least for us, plane schedules are much easier at OU - it's pretty close to Oklahoma City, and there's a regularly-scheduled public bus that runs between Norman and OKC as well.
Happy to answer any specific questions if I can. Maybe I'll become OU's "mom2collegekids"
- the OU presence on CC is dismal, and I think that's a shame. It's definitely worth a look. When we visited I asked DS if it was an acceptable #2, and he replied that it was a "1 and a half" - and as it turns out, it moved up to #1 in the end.