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

I’m OOS, but all of the ancillary costs they list beyond tuition, room & board are somewhat fluffy to me. Honestly, I only pay tuition, room & board. The rest is on my student. Now that he’s off campus my cost is even lower. My son has earned several outside scholarships though.

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with those majors LSU will be your best bet as they offer all of them. their landscape architecture program consistently ranks among the top in the country. their new engineering building is stunning. and you will get it for under 20K per year if your child has an ACT of 28, as TOPS would pay for tuition.

LA Tech is pretty reputable for engineering but if you are from southern LA, location might be an issue.

Louisiana Lafayette’s engineering might be focused mainly on petroleum engineering.

I think the name recognition of the smaller LACs you list are probably pretty regional, Millsaps will be known in MS, LA, AL. Birmingham-Southern in AL, MS, GA and Berry in GA, AL, NC. I live in Louisiana and Millsaps is well known in my area but if I started asking about Birmingham-Southern, Samford or Berry around here, I would get blank stares. But I would argue anyway that Louisiana does not have a LAC culture, people here only know their SEC schools and state schools.

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I appreciate everyone’s feedback and suggestions. As @Thorsmom66 indicated, our focus at this point in time is on saving money for our child’s college expenses. The reason for the exercise in naming schools, however, is to see what schools in today’s dollars might work so we would know how much more to try and budget for college as we’re likely to be a donut family earning too much for significant financial aid but not enough to make huge checks comfortable. But cost is an issue as there are also other things (like retirement) that we need to be saving for.

I’ve looked at NAAB accreditations for architecture, CIDA for interior design, and LAAB for landscape architecture and will continue to review them as the time approaches. Samford, for instance, is currently in the probationary phase to earn its initial NAAB accreditation in architecture. Belmont in Nashville also now has a program. But yes, the big schools do tend to be the best ones for many of our son’s possible fields of interest (VA Tech, Auburn, Clemson). And, as a rare occurrence, Louisiana is at the top of a good list, namely landscape architecture.

If we feel confident that our child will do well at a big state school (i.e. LSU) then we are likely to stick with our original plan of covering COA at our in-state flagship and have our child cover the rest via scholarships should he decide to go elsewhere. The desire to save more money for more expensive alternatives is if we find that our child is unlikely to do well at a big school.

I have been looking at the common data sets and at the average price for families earning $110k+. I started by looking at the average price for that upper range of incomes, but I now suspect (and would appreciate others experience) that I should be looking at how much merit aid is received to get a closer idea of what our costs might be like. Which number have CCers found to be more useful when estimating costs? Of course, I also look at what percentage of students receive merit aid to determine likelihood (for instance, if 97% of students receive merit aid, then I consider it highly likely, whereas if only 4% receive merit aid, then I consider it highly unlikely).

If that really is your family income, I’d also take a look at the net price calculators (NPC) at some of the colleges with need-based aid.

I’ve had 5 kids apply to colleges, the last one applied to 20. They needed merit, so I still have in my memory the costs after merit was awarded. They needed to get tuition down to $35,000 too, so I can look at stats and say yes or no, although it’s a little different with TO.

Keep in mind, some that give $ to many might be spreading the love, my daughter attends Clemson, merit tops out at $12,000 for OOS students, my 3.9 33 student gets $8000, so it’s not good for merit, especially for a B+ student. It’s easier to get merit at less selective schools where your student is at the top with their stats. Not many get much $ with outside scholarships, most comes from the schools themselves.


I was somewhat surprised by the decrease in merit awards between my two daughters. Although they are 7 years apart which is a good bit of time, D21 had much higher test scores & gpa (other daughter had a little more rigor) but received less at the same schools that my older daughter received very generous awards from. Not sure if lower merit is a trend or if the competition has gotten that much better, or if colleges & universities are spreading it out among more applicants, or more people are hip to the merit hunt now. One nice surprise for D21 was getting merit from one of our in-state schools. I had no idea they would give anything to an in-state applicant who wasn’t at the very top of the stats.


I think it’s a combination of all of those things, and it’s only going to get worse. Our flagship only gives merit to the top students, and it’s not cheap.


I hate to say this but right now, this is basically an exercise in futility. You have no idea what the future will bring.

Thank you for the feedback. As far as as creating a college list of where my son will apply when he’s a senior in high school, yes, this is likely an exercise in futility. With respect to seeing whether institutions that might be in our price range when that time comes meet the criteria of being “good” schools (i.e. students receive a quality education that keeps professional & educational options open apart from the most exclusive/competitive fields (FANG/IB), I disagree that it’s futile. Knowing that others might feel that way, though, I made sure to indicate in my original post that this is not for a student who is going to be going to college anytime soon so that people who didn’t want to waste their time didn’t do so.


Because budget seems to be a big concern, it may not be helpful to brainstorm now. There can be big shifts in the merit landscape in a fairly short period of time. When my D was a HS freshman, Pitt was a common school to target for big merit $. Purdue was also known to be generous with merit awards. By the time she was a senior, not as much at either school.


He does have a HS GPA though, right? He can’t be that far away. We did the small, medium, large visits sophomore year to schools our son was a lock to get into even if his grades and testing tanked. It established a foundation and gave him some ideas of what he wanted. It turned out the S, M, L thing didn’t matter much to him. He applied to all three sizes based on other factors that were more important to him.

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There are some colleges to avoid if your kiddo wants options beyond coaching, teaching, regional accounting and sales. Add the ministry if it’s a small private Christian college. [Not that there’s anything wrong with those careers.]

I’m not sure how the EFC works out for colleges like Millsaps, Rhodes and Hendrix but they all provide excellent educations with motivated alumni. Hendrix tends to meet in state tuition rates but it’s farther from your desired destinations.


There are some colleges to avoid if your kiddo wants options beyond coaching, teaching, regional accounting and sales. Add the ministry if it’s a small private Christian college. [Not that there’s anything wrong with those careers.]

Are there colleges on the list above that you feel should be avoided? That’s some of the information I’m trying to find out.

Just a layman from Texas’ opinion if someone said my kid could pick any of these schools. I’d also compare endowment per student to get a sense of finances.

• Samford University – solid rep; conservative; draws from throughout South/SW; do they have design/architecture? 64% of entering freshmen from AL/GA/TN;TX and FL are #4 and #5 (14% of students). Decent mix. Quite Greek (30% of males; 70% females)

• Mercer University – #162 in National Universities; what are their offerings/placement record? Honors program?

• Berry College – #4 in the South; vast majority of football players come from Georgia; plays in SAA conference with Rhodes/Sewanee/Trinity; worth a look for jobs in ATL/Bham after graduation; $39M in scholarships/grants in 2020-21; has to compete with Hope Scholarship recipients in state; 65% grad rate in four years (solid) but only increases to 70% in six years; no engineering/architecture but has two 3/2 programs. They also have a 98% acceptance rate to medical school. :wink: 11:1 student/faculty ratio and 24% of alumni donate.

• Millsaps College – solid school in Jackson; would investigate; #114 in national LA colleges

  • Randolph-Macon College – #111 in national LA colleges
    • Presbyterian College – #128 in national LA colleges
    • Birmingham-Southern College – #128 Natl LA colleges

  • Queens University of Charlotte – #15 in the South; know someone who plays lax there but never heard of them before; I’d dig in more to validate. In Charlotte so may have decent regional recruiting.

• Shenandoah University – #263 National Universities; #251 Nursing

• Loyola University New Orleans – nice campus; recent financial difficulties

  • University of Lynchburg – seems solid for nursing and pre-health, well #432 in nation for BSN programs; #21 in the South; would put in bottom tier of your list

Public Universities
Do any have honors programs/colleges? I hear quite a bit of good stuff about App State and JMU on CC. Otherwise, LSU or another public like USC or UTenn would be solid if not too big for you. Rabid fan bases with at least statewide recruiting. The rest are going to be more regional, not statewide.


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