Brainstorming Good Affordable Southeastern Colleges (w/possible Design/Engingeering emphasis)

I started the thread Importance of Name Recognition to discuss that topic, but several CC members have offered to help brainstorm possible colleges that might meet our family’s needs. The child in question remains a long way off from college, but this is serving as an educational exercise to see what options besides our state flagship might meet the budget. Nothing elite is expected, but a quality education is crucial.


  • US citizen
  • Louisiana resident
  • Public
  • Male
  • Unhooked

Intended Major(s)
Undecided, but potentially interested in architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, construction management, industrial design, and possibly engineering.

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores (these are imagined data points)

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.5-3.7
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 27-29 ACT; 1300-1340 SAT (85th-90th percentiles)

Cost Constraints / Budget
$30k or $35k COA after merit aid (preferably $30k)

Size of Institution: Some of those fields may well require a larger university, but any options for a smaller college (around 5,000 or fewer) with small classes is preferred

Other Notes: Family is likely to relocate to Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, or Virginia after the student graduates from college. Student is likely to want to live near the family.

A residential campus is strongly preferred

Most Preferred Locations:

  • Within about a 3-hour drive of the New Orleans airport
  • Within about a 1.5-hour drive of Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, D.C. airports

Preferred Locations:

  • Within about a 6-hour drive of the New Orleans airport
  • Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia

Possible Locations

Within 1-hour of Houston, Dallas, NYC/Newark, Chicago, , Orlando, Baltimore/Washington, Miami, Tampa, Nashville, Austin, Detroit, or Philadelphia airports

Below is a list of colleges that are under consideration. The privates appear to be schools that could be gotten down into the desired price range that would offer smaller classes. The publics vary on the small class size aspect. Any feedback on the list, particularly if there are any that seem suspect, of questionable academic quality, etc, would be greatly appreciated. As well, if people are aware of additional universities that would meet the criteria mentioned above, please let me know.

Private Universities
• Berry College
• Birmingham-Southern College
• Loyola University New Orleans
• Mercer University
• Millsaps College
• Presbyterian College
• Samford University
• Shenandoah University

  • University of Lynchburg
  • Randolph-Macon College
  • Queens University of Charlotte

Public Universities
Appalachian State University
• Louisiana Tech University
• Radford University
• University of Louisiana – Lafayette
• University of Mary Washington
• University of North Carolina – Charlotte
• University of Southern Mississippi

  • Auburn University
  • University of North Carolina – Greensboro
  • University of North Carolina – Asheville
  • Louisiana State University

What constitutes a long way off? If he’s a HS sophomore or younger I’d hold off on putting together research. Lots can change in a year. If he’s a junior then he’s not a long way off.

Of course, it’s very major dependent, but if they’re willing to consider larger schools, there are lots of options.

The very first thing I’d do is to tour LSU. It’s not too early. It’s the baseline that all other options should be compared to. They’ll know immediately if it’s simply too big and if they think they couldn’t thrive there. If they can, everything else is gravy.

Will LSU close doors? I don’t think so. Taking Mechanical Engineering as an example, two years in LSU grads, according to College Scorecard, average $71K. MIT MEs average $79K. The opportunities will be different, but at least it’s a benchmark.

If LSU is a no go, then that rules out big programs like Houston, MSU and Alabama. If not, the choices open significantly.

I firmly believe that small classes are better, but, especially for engineering, you can compromise facilities and curriculum so much that the tradeoff isn’t worth it.

Good luck! You’re turning over the right rocks!

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I think those majors will play quite a role in figuring out what colleges will make your list.

when our daughter wanted to look at architecture, the number of colleges offering that field were quite limited. eg: in our midwest state, only one college offered architecture. I guess I’d start researching from that avenue… It is actually a fun process for sure.

Architecture is a strange beast too. Many schools offer Architecture, but they don’t make it clear that they are really pre-architecture. Only B.Arch. and M.Arch can practice autonomously. If architecture is seriously on the list, I’d locate the B.Arch. programs and assess from there.

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If your child is truly “a long way off” from college the best thing to do is to focus on saving as much as you can so that when college IS on the horizon you can afford to give your child some options. Schools that cost $30K today are guaranteed to be more several years from now and could be significantly more than that depending on your actual time horizon. I’m not sure it is worth spending a lot of time researching specific schools if you don’t have a HS student - interests (and strengths) change a lot between the time kids are in MS (or younger) and junior/senior year in HS. Your future engineer might decide on psychology or English or political science once they are exposed to higher math/science courses and, then, the type of schools you’d be looking at might be entirely different.


You may want to add James Madison to your list of schools to consider.


JMU is certainly worth a look, but their architecture program is a good example of an architecture degree that really isn’t. It’s pre-architecture. In order to practice independently and sign off on designs, a JMU grad would need a M. Arch.

Here’s a link to all the B. Arch. schools:

My approach is to find the rate limiting factor. For example, if a student is interested in AE and ME, there are over 400 ME programs, but only about 50 AE programs. The schools with AE also have ME. The list can get narrowed by the constraining major.

It looks like JMU is over budget.

Many public schools outside of your home state may be more expensive than you want.

We found it didn’t really make financial sense for us to consider out of state publics, but we did consider some out of state private schools.


JMU’s cost of attendance is quite similar to App State.

But, that’s the point. If DS decides not to go into engineering, the OP can eliminate virtually all the large universities sticking to his list just because they have engineering programs. He seems to really be leaning toward medium-sized colleges.

JMU is currently $46,042 for OOS and AppState is $38,011 for OOS, which is also a bit higher than the $30-35K budget mentioned, but closer. Who knows what it will be when the OP’s son is looking at colleges, but probably more.

Personally I would take off all the VA publics if budget is a concern for out of state unless he falls in love with UVA, Wm & Mary, or maybe VA Tech and you can afford it. Radford, etc, not gonna be worth it for OOS tuition.


my daughter - who is currently pursuing her masters in architecture at a top school right now says: if your kid isn’t sure of engineering or architecture, don’t get caught in a B.Arch program right away. Go to a school that offers both engineering and a BS in architecture design. your kid will figure out what he likes at some point. Because arch and engineering are so resource-intensive, they aren’t found at all small schools.

one smaller school my engineering kid liked that might be of interest - and offered great merit - was University of Tulsa.


That JMU COA is news to me…since I’m currently paying it…

Good point! I assumed certainty.

There are schools though that offer both Engineering and B.Arch. In fact, my son’s school offers both, plus Arch. E and landscape architecture. It’s no where near where they want to be and out of budget, but the point is, the OP could possibly find a school with nearly every potential major their student could be interested in.

But I thought the OP was looking for $30,000 all in, my daughter applied to JMU with higher stats (3.9, 33) and merit didn’t bring it close to $30,000.

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I agree JMU is above the $30k-$35k threshold, but this whole exercise seems a bit fluid. I don’t know how anyone can surmise any of the schools listed will be in that range years from now, or that the OP’s child will qualify for substantial merit.

Comes straight from the JMU website that I linked. Are you in-state or OOS? Any scholarships?

As I mentioned on your other thread some less selective private schools that are good for B+ and above students will offer scholarships to everyone, but public schools and very selective private schools will not do that. So you could get tuition at Roanoke College down to close to your $30-$35K budget, but unlikely to get JMU or U of Mary Washington down like that. Public schools are usually more straightforward and what they publish is closer to the real cost, but with the less selective privates you need to dive into the Common Data Set to see what you are likely to pay.