Let’s start with the basics. The conference currently consists of 13 public universities and one private institution. In terms of size, the smallest is Vanderbilt with just 6,817 full-time undergraduates to Texas A&M with 47,874 full-time undergraduates. All have Carnegie classifications of doctorial institutions with the highest levels of research.
|Name||Size (all students)||Full-time Under-grads||% Admitted||Total price for in-state students 2019-20||Total price for out-of-state students 2019-2020||% Freshman Receiving Institutional Grants (18-19)||Avg Net Price 2018-2019|
|Louisiana State University and A&M||31,756||22,727||75||$32,962||$49,639||75||$18,143|
|Mississippi State University||22,226||17,101||54||$25,904||$40,944||86||$16,471|
|Texas A & M University||68,726||47,874||58||$30,083||$56,532||55||$19,237|
|The University of Alabama||38,100||29,188||83||$30,016||$49,486||56||$20,623|
|The University of Tennessee||29,460||22,126||79||$32,010||$50,410||54||$21,024|
|University of Arkansas||27,559||20,492||77||$26,144||$42,632||39||$16,263|
|University of Florida||52,407||32,219||37||$21,211||$43,489||37||$10,457|
|University of Georgia||38,920||28,057||45||$27,450||$46,490||32||$15,961|
|University of Kentucky||29,402||20,679||96||$30,928||$49,248||77||$18,958|
|University of Mississippi||21,617||15,950||88||$25,762||$42,034||63||$14,672|
|University of Missouri||30,014||20,782||81||$27,197||$45,068||77||$15,850|
|University of South Carolina||35,364||26,402||69||$28,829||$50,069||68||$21,787|
Vanderbilt stands out as the only private university. It is significantly smaller than the other universities and enjoys a national reputation for academics. It ranks 14th in the US News College Rankings and accepts only nine percent of applicants. Its 25th percentile test scores are higher than any of the other SEC members 75th percentile scores. But this doesn’t mean it’s the only opportunity for an excellent education in the SEC.
All of the SEC schools are Phi Beta Kappa members, something only 294 schools in the country can claim. The honors college at the University of South Carolina is ranked in the highest categories by Public Honors Colleges. The Georgia Honors Program and the Sally McConnell Barksdale Honors College at Ole Miss are also highly rated. The University of Mississippi ties Vanderbilt in the number of Rhodes Scholars with 27 each and the University of Georgia is close behind with 24.
The thing to remember about the SEC schools is that they all offer amazing opportunities for undergraduate education for those willing to take the initiative. This is true of virtually all large universities. They will all have a wide variety of majors and activities to choose from. Students can expect major employers to actively recruit on campus for interns and graduates. The alumni networks will be large and more geographically extensive than most people expect. And the school spirit will generally follow the alumni after graduation making it easy to network.
|Name||4 yr Grad Rate||SAT (1600) 25th Percentile||SAT (1600) 75th Percentile||ACT 25th Percentile||ACT 75th Percentile||% in Top 10% of Class||% in Top 25% of Class|
|Louisiana State University and A&M||41||1080||1245||23||29||24||48|
|Mississippi State University||35||1070||1220||22||30||30||57|
|Texas A & M University||55||1160||1325||26||31||70||93|
|The University of Alabama||50||1080||1265||23||31||40||61|
|The University of Tennessee||52||1150||1280||24||30||35||63|
|University of Arkansas||49||1120||1250||23||30||25||52|
|University of Florida||67||1310||1425||28||33||81||98|
|University of Georgia||65||1240||1365||27||32||60||92|
|University of Kentucky||45||1070||1250||22||29||33||59|
|University of Mississippi||46||1020||1190||21||29||25||49|
|University of Missouri||48||1120||1280||23||29||30||61|
|University of South Carolina||64||1180||1315||25||31||28||59|
Since all but one of the universities are state institutions, there are some diversity issues prospective students should consider. Obviously, you would expect more students attending from within the state than out-of-state. After all, it’s in-state students that will automatically qualify for the lower in-state tuition. However, at six of the public SEC schools, in-state residents account for 60% or less of freshman. At five of the schools, less than a quarter of freshman are out-of-state students. Texas A&M has the highest percentage of in-state freshman at 94%. University of Georgia follows with 84% and University of Florida comes in third with 80%.
Another diversity consideration is the racial/ethnicity diversity. At eight of the schools, non-white students make up less than a quarter of all full-time freshman. The average percentage of white full-time freshman at public institutions is 53%. Only the University of Florida was under that number and Texas A&M came close.
Just because the schools are all public with the exception of Vanderbilt, doesn’t mean students should expect them to have students from a wider range of economic backgrounds. Six of the schools, including Vanderbilt, had less than 20% of freshman receiving Pell Grants. Auburn actually had a lower percentage than Vanderbilt. The average for all public universities is 45%. Only Mississippi State made it into the 30s with 32% of freshman receiving Pell Grants.
Given the size of the schools, students are likely to find peers with similar backgrounds. It just may be easier at some SEC school than others.
|Name||% Freshman In-State||% Foreign Under-grads||% Asian/ Pacific Islander||% African American||% Hispanic||% White||% Sorority||% Fraternity||% Freshman Receiving Pell Grants (18-19)|
|Louisiana State University and A&M||77||2||4.9||15.3||7.2||67.1||27||16||29|
|Mississippi State University||58||1||1.9||19.5||3.1||71.5||18||14||32|
|Texas A & M University||94||1||10.4||2.5||26.1||56.2||15||6||23|
|The University of Alabama||34||2||1.3||8.1||5.7||78.3||40||26||17|
|The University of Tennessee||77||2||4.1||5.8||4.9||78.4||28||17||24|
|University of Arkansas||50||3||2.6||3.7||8.5||77.8||37||23||19|
|University of Florida||80||3||10.1||6.9||21||50.9||22||17||24|
|University of Georgia||84||2||11.2||6.9||6.2||69.1||31||20||17|
|University of Kentucky||63||3||3.1||7.3||4.8||75.9||32||19||25|
|University of Mississippi||43||2||2.4||10.2||4.1||78.9||43||32||22|
|University of Missouri||68||3||2.6||8.5||5.7||77||31||24||26|
|University of South Carolina||51||3||3.5||6.1||4.6||80||27||27||18|
All of the universities with the exception of the University of Missouri are located in states that participate in the Academic Common Market. The Academic Common Market allows students to enroll at public institutions in other states if their home state doesn’t offer their preferred major. Participation varies from state to state and by institution. However, all SEC members (with the exception of Vanderbilt, of course) in the Academic Common Market region, participate to a certain extent.
SEC Academic Consortium (SECAC) was formed in 2005 to essentially support and promote the non-athletic accomplishments of the SEC. This includes both faculty and students. In fact, you may have heard of the SEC outside of a sports broadcast because of the program’s SEC College Tour. The tour occurs twice each year and travels the country promoting the SEC’s academic and merit opportunities. The SECAC also has an agreement that allows SEC engineering students to study abroad in Torino, Italy. A cooperative program allows all SEC students access to study abroad program offered at other SEC institutions. Students can also compete in an SEC Student Pitch Competition for young entrepreneurs.
There is really no way to create a meaningful profile of a school in just a paragraph or two. Even the guidebooks that devote a couple of pages to each school are painting with a pretty broad stroke if not just reinforcing reputations. Don’t get me wrong, there is going to be a lot of truth in these broad overviews. But we are talking about schools with 20,000 to 30,000 or more undergraduates. And as they like to point out, they offer 100’s of academic programs. This means that a student interested in engineering will look at a prospective college differently than someone considering journalism. These schools share many of the same characteristics but they can also be very different from one another in important ways. How important those differences are will depend on individual students.
Now that I’ve just told you why you can’t create a meaningful profile of the schools in a paragraph or two, I’m going to provide a short profile for each one. However, the first paragraph is just meant to provide you with a sense of where the college is located in terms of size and place. It also hits the highlights as far as merit aid goes. The list of bullet points are designed to show a couple of the college characteristics that distinguishes it from the others. The idea is to show you that the 14 schools all have something to offer, therefore the 14 unique reasons to consider a SEC school.
The 2,000-acre campus of The University of Alabama is in Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa with a population of approximately 100,000 is less than an hour southwest of Birmingham. The flagship Doctoral Research university is also the largest in the state with 29,188 undergraduates among a total of 38,100 students. The majority of the students are from out-of-state with only 34% of freshman from Alabama. International students represent only 2% of all undergraduates. The University of Alabama sponsored 115 National Merit Finalists last year with a generous full-ride program for up to five years and funded study abroad. Both in-state and out-of-state students are eligible for freshman merit scholarship programs.
The University of Tennessee’s 600 plus acre campus is located in the Knoxville metro area with a population over a million. The flagship university is a doctoral research university and is the largest in the state with a total 29,460 students on campus with 22,126 undergraduates. Students from Tennessee make up the majority of freshman, 77%, while international students are only 2% of all undergraduates. In-state and out-of-state students are eligible for institutional merit scholarships as well as international students. Test optional students will be considered for the newly created Beacon scholarship. The Tennessee Pledge Scholarship is for Tennessee freshman with a family income of $40,000 or less and covers all direct tuition expenses and an amount for room and board.
The University of Arkansas is located in Fayetteville which is part of a metro area of a quarter million people in northwestern Arkansas. The Doctoral research institution is the state’s flagship university. With 27,559 total students and 20,492 of them undergraduates, the school is the largest in the state. Half of all freshman are from Arkansas and International students make up 3% of undergraduates. The university sponsored 30 National Merit Scholarships last year which is a $10,000 annual award. Both in-state and out-of-state are automatically considered for institutional merit scholarships. Students from Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas who meet minimum academic standards automatically qualify for non-resident tuition scholarships.
Florida’s flagship university, the University Florida, is located on 2,000 acres in Gainesville. The city is about an hour and a half southwest of Jacksonville and has a population of 133,000. There are 52,407 students on campus with 21,705 of them undergraduates. 80% of freshman come from Florida with International students making up only 3% of all undergraduates. Beyond the Bright Futures Scholarship program, the university offers limited opportunities for merit scholarships for either in-state or out-of-state students. It provides the second lowest amount of institutional aid among SEC schools. It doesn’t have to offer merit aid since it already has plenty of students to choose from with the second lowest acceptance rate in the conference.
The University of Georgia’s 700-acre campus is located an hour and half east of Atlanta in Athens, population 130,000. Georgia’s flagship university is the largest institution in the state with 38,920 students with 28,057 classified as undergraduates. The school is second only to Texas A&M among SEC schools in percentage of freshman students from in-state, 84%. International students comprise 2% of the undergraduate student population. The University of Georgia has little need to offer merit scholarships since the state provides residents with access to Hope Scholarships. The university provides the lowest percentage of institutional aid in the SEC.
The University of Kentucky, the state’s flagship university, is located in Lexington on a 900-acre campus. The Lexington-Fayette metro area population is 323,000. With 29,402 students, 20,679 undergraduates, the University of Kentucky is the state’s largest institution. A total of 63% of freshman are from Kentucky and 3% of undergraduates are international students. Last year, the university sponsored 75 National Merit Finalist Scholarships worth full tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students. Students must apply by December 1st to qualify for academic scholarships available to both residents and non-residents. The University of Kentucky ranks among the highest in the SEC providing institutional aid.
The University of Mississippi, known as Ole Miss, is Mississippi’s flagship university. It’s located on over 1,000 acres in the town of Oxford that has a population around 25,000 and is located approximately 1 1/2 hours south of Memphis. There are a total of 21,617 students on campus with 15,950 being undergraduates. Less than half of freshman (43%) are from Mississippi and international students make up only two percent of all undergraduates. In-state and out-of-state students can use a table to estimate their potential scholarships from the university. Students can also apply to the Chinese and Arabic State Flagship scholarships. The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College is among the highest rated public honors colleges in the nation.
The University of Missouri’s 1,200-acre campus is in the city of Columbia, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo. Columbia with a population of 123,000 is about a two-hour drive from either city. The flagship university is the largest in the state with 30,014 students, 20,782 classified as undergraduates. International students make up 4% of all undergraduates and 68% of freshman are from Missouri. The University of Missouri is tied with Kentucky for second in the SEC in percentage of institutional aid awarded to freshman. Both in-state and out-of-state students qualify for automatic merit aid awards. You can see the estimated awards based on tables of GPA and test scores. There are also Border State Awards that can be combined with other awards. The priority deadline is November 15th.
The University of South Carolina with its 300-acre campus in Columbia, is the largest four-year institution in the state. The population of Columbia, the state capital, is 133,000 and is located approximately an hour and a half northeast of Augusta, GA and two hours northwest of Charleston, SC. The state flagship has a total of 35,364 students on campus with undergraduates accounting for 26,402 of them. Barely half of all freshman, 51%, are from South Carolina and International students represent 3% of all undergraduates. The Gamecock Guarantee is a $4,500 award to first-generation South Carolina students whose family income is below 150% of the poverty line.
Vanderbilt University, the SEC’s only private institution, is located on 300 plus acres in Nashville, Tn. The population of Nashville is almost 700,000 and the greater metro area is approaching two million in population. The school is the largest private university in Tennessee with 13,131 students including 6,817 undergraduates. It leads the SEC schools in the highest percentage of graduate students, 48%, International undergraduate students, 9%, and lowest percentage of in-state students, at 9% of freshman. It also ranked second only to Auburn for lowest percentage of freshman receiving Pell Grants. Unlike many colleges that meet 100% of need for those admitted, Vanderbilt does offer some merit scholarships. According to the common data set, approximately 19% of freshman without need receive merit scholarships.
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