If you’re a current or aspiring college student in North Carolina, you may be looking to learn online. This could mean earning a certificate or diploma, getting your undergraduate degree, or working toward a master’s or doctorate to boost your career prospects. The good news is, North Carolina has a wide range of accredited colleges and universities that offer flexible and affordable online programs for students within all academic levels and income brackets. But which schools and programs are right for you? Explore your options and begin your research process with us.
North Carolina has 95 institutions with online education options, 93 of which offer full online degree programs at the bachelor’s level. To make it easier for students to find and research these programs, a number of college and university systems have created simple yet comprehensive database. The University of North Carolina’s UNC Online allows you to read about and register for online courses tied to one of the 16 university system campuses. You can also check equivalency of your courses across the campuses and even how its distance learning works with study abroad.
At the two-year level, the North Carolina Community Colleges System (NCCCS) connects students, programs, and courses through its Virtual Learning Community (VLC). The VLC promotes high-quality instruction, content, collaborative models, and resources and tools for all learners. It covers all of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges.
Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution
At least 3 online associate degrees or certificate programs (2-year schools)
At least 3 online bachelor’s or master’s degrees (4-year schools)
Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)
Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)
Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:
Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates
Count and breadth of online programs available
6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)
% of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college
Average $ of financial aid students receive directly from the college
Availability of academic/career counseling services
Availability of job placement services for students and graduates
3-year loan default rate
AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*
*PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or ‘bang for your buck’ – of an online degree.
Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.
Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017
|number||University||Score||Cost||Graduation Rate||Location||University Information|
|1||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||100.00||$$$$$||74%||Raleigh, NC|
North Carolina State University at Raleigh may have its roots in agriculture and engineering, but now, more than 125 years later, it's a distinguished research institution across all major programs. Among its bragging rights is one of the world's best veterinary medicine colleges, and that's not to mention its excellence in STEM fields, agriculture, education and natural resource management. Because the campus is large, students can choose from more than 900 organizations to participate in while also experienicng a student-to-faculty ratio of 13 to 1. Attending one of North Carolina's best colleges along with 34,000 undergrad and grad students would mean possibly being part of NC State's efforts to help farmers confront climate change, develop smart electric grids or help curb nuclear proliferation. Students can also get a great return on their investment. The Princeton Review and USA Today placed the university fourth on their "Top 10 Best Value Colleges in 2014" list. Students can benefit from being within the Research Triangle, a national hotspot for high-tech businesses, as many regional businesses, such as IBM, Cisco Systems, SAS Institute, Biogen Idec and GlaxoSmithKline, often hire NC State graduates. Be part of something big at North Carolina State University at Raleigh.
|2||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||99.51||$$$$$||90%||Chapel Hill, NC|
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill owns the distinction of being the oldest public university in the United States, having opened its doors in 1795. The school's rich history led it to becoming one of the country's best research universities. The diverse fields of study include 77 bachelor's programs, 111 master's, 65 doctoral and seven professional degree programs. Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine awarded the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill first place among 100 best U.S. public colleges that offer students high-quality education at an affordable price. In fact, eligible low-income students may receive a debt-free education under the Carolina Covenant, and grants, scholarships, work programs and loans are also up for grabs. Be a part of the online social community, join a student organization or simply enjoy the city of Chapel Hill, rated one of the best college towns, through its music, dining or trails.
|3||East Carolina University||99.35||$$$$$||56%||Greenville, NC|
East Carolina University delivers higher education like no other. The university's College of Education advanced a one-of-a-kind program through which online courses can lead educators to their doctorate in only three years. Among East Carolina's online degree programs, 40 of them are unavailable at any other school. Pick a field of study from 84 bachelor's degrees, 71 master's, two intermediate, 13 research doctoral degrees and 82 certificates and launch into a university of leading research. At one of the best colleges in North Carolina, students have recorded more than 72,000 hours of volunteer work in the past three years. In terms of paying for education, specific resources are available for military, and all prospective students should look into the available financial aid. Students are sure to find extracurricular activities to love on campus and with the city of Greenville's art, music, food and outdoor living.
|4||North Carolina Central University||98.39||$$$$$||40%||Durham, NC|
North Carolina Central University (NCCU), historically the first public liberal arts institution for African Americans in the nation, remains a hub for minority higher education with more than 75 percent of students identifying as African American. The university offers bachelor's and master's degrees, a Juris Doctor and PhD in integrated biosciences to a little more diverse student population than at founding. Though many of the 83 degrees are in acclaimed fields, such as business, humanities and education, North Carolina Central University drives research in a number of STEM fields as part of the Research Triangle. The school is located in Durham, the "City of Medicine" and a world center for STEM research. NCCU runs two biotechnology research facilities that work with pharmacy and biotech companies in the Research Triangle, making it one of the best colleges in North Carolina. For individuals who need a more flexible schedule, the online program at North Carolina Central University is one of the top 15 among colleges in North Carolina.
|5||St Andrews University||97.75||$$$$$||46%||Laurinburg, NC|
St. Andrews University provides students with a unique educational experience. Online, on-campus or hybrid degrees allow flexibility in learning. Prospective students can choose among three pre-professional tracks, one master's degree in business administration or 16 bachelor's degrees, including biology, religious studies and therapeutic horsemanship. The university boasts an active equestrian program, providing students with a rare opportunity in its equine studies. St. Andrews University has also been recognized as one of the best colleges in North Carolina, named by The Princeton Review as a College of Distinction. The university's St. Andrews Press has put the school in the Fourth Tier among the best liberal arts schools, giving student writers the opportunity to have their work published. The private, non-profit college is also rich in its Scottish heritage, housing a collection of rare books on Scottish subjects and preserving the culture on its campus around the lake.
|6||Mid-Atlantic Christian University||97.74||$$$$$||60%||Elizabeth City, NC|
Mid-Atlantic Christian University seeks students who will become the next generation of Christian leaders. The School of Undergraduate Studies connects students with an education in arts and sciences, biblical studies, Christian ministry or marketplace ministry. In the School of Professional Studies, students can work toward earning a certificate, associate degree or bachelor's degree in ministry-related or general studies fields through a hybrid of online and on-campus learning. The college offers an adult degree completion program and an online tutoring resource. Mid-Atlantic Christian University is one of the best colleges in North Carolina for its education in a Christ-centered environment. Transfer students find welcome in the university, as they account for about 20 percent of each new class, and military members and their families would be proud to know the school earned the distinction of a Military Friendly School for several consecutive years.
|7||Lees-McRae College||97.59||$$$$$||38%||Banner Elk, NC|
Lees-McRae College provides traditional and specialty programs in an untraditional setting: 4,000 feet in elevation. Its motto, "In the mountains, of the mountains, for the mountains," rings true as the college is the highest elevated campus in the Eastern United States and offers an array of outdoor programs. While earning a degree, students have access to rock climbing, hiking and backpacking in Pisgah National Forest and can also participate in service-learning opportunities, such as trail and rock climbing area maintenance. Of the 19 majors offered at Lees-McRae, students can explore courses from Wildlife Rehabilitation and Creative Marketing to Nursing and English. Online programs offer an assortment of learning options, including adult-oriented degree completion and hybrid. Students can earn a BS or BAAS in several online programs, and those on the nursing path can complete an online RN to BSN degree. Lees-McRae College ranks among the best colleges in North Carolina and carries the award of North Carolina College of Distinction. Nationally, it was recognized with the Silver Bicycle Friendly University award, and it was also named one of the best schools in North Carolina for online learning by The Community for Accredited Online Schools.
|8||Fayetteville State University||97.57||$$$$$||32%||Fayetteville, NC|
Fayetteville State University touts its small classes and family atmosphere as two of its best features. The university, which recently celebrated 150 years, originally began in 1867 as a school for black children. Today, the diverse student body chooses from 33 bachelor's, eight master's and one doctoral degree and 11 certificates in fields such as nursing, accounting and criminal justice. Ten online programs cater to junior and senior students as degree completion options. Fayetteville State University is one of the best colleges in North Carolina with its national award-winning online programs, and individuals who want to get more involved can look into a long list of student organizations. About 95 percent of Fayetteville students receive some form of financial aid, so prospective students can check out the cost calculator to get started and search through a variety of options, from federal and state aid to scholarships and grants.
|9||Western Carolina University||97.42||$$$$$||51%||Cullowhee, NC|
Located near the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains, the regional public Western Carolina University offers more than 115 undergraduate majors and concentrations and 60 graduate programs. Fields of study include popular degrees like engineering, science, health care and education. Online study options are for degree completion for students who already have some higher education schooling under their belt, making Western Carolina either an on-campus or hybrid learning environment. Military and veterans are likely to find the school fitting for their needs; the Military Student Services staff provides assistance, community and balance between school and military schedules. The Student Veteran Association contributes resources for counseling and maintains the Veteran Resource Center. All students have access to the wellness programs and facilities, including the gym, pool, rock wall and outdoor recreation areas. Western Carolina University, one of the best colleges in North Carolina, remains in the top five nationally for undergrad research. The university, located about 50 miles west of Asheville, prides itself on offering an education at value. More than 80 percent of students earn some form of financial aid.
|10||University of Mount Olive||97.27||$$$$$||37%||Mount Olive, NC|
University of Mount Olive teaches students to grow in their faith while receiving a quality higher education. The university offers associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs in arts, sciences and professional studies on campus or fully online. The needs of adult learners are accommodated in several ways: through online degrees, a night school for those who can't attend daytime classes and six other locations throughout North Carolina that specifically offer accelerated degree programs for adults. As one of the best religious colleges in North Carolina, one way Mount Olive balances faith and learning is through its campus ministry, which encourages students to participate not only in its worship services but also in campus events, community service, and Bible studies. Financial aid comes in a variety of options, such as scholarships, tax credits and federal aid. In recent years, more than 95 percent of full-time freshmen received some form of financial assistance.
|11||University of North Carolina at Greensboro||97.23||$$$$$||55%||Greensboro, NC|
University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) earns distinction with its numerous awards as one of the best colleges in North Carolina and one of the best online colleges in the nation. The original school was established in 1892 for women, but in the 1960s, it began admitting its first male students. Now, 20,000 students, of which 48 percent are ethnic minorities, call UNCG their school. Thirty residence halls and 30 academic buildings dot the 210-acre property. Online undergraduate degrees offer flexibility in scheduling, as the degrees are able to be completed 100 percent online. Even more online master's degrees are offered, along with one doctoral and one specialist degree and a host of graduate certificates. The online degrees are more cost-effective than on-campus courses, but the university offers more than 85 undergraduate degrees, 74 master's and 32 doctoral programs on campus. The culture at UNCG is also notable. Teeming with the arts, the school hosts concerts, plays, exhibitions and publications that show the visual, literary or performing arts skills of students and faculty.
|12||North Carolina A & T State University||96.35||$$$$$||43%||Greensboro, NC|
North Carolina A&T State University produces the nation's largest number of African-American engineers at all degree levels, the most African-American psychology undergraduates, the biggest group of African-American certified public accountants and the second largest amount of minority agricultural graduates. African-American students make up the largest ethnic group of the school, which spread its roots in 1891 as a college for African Americans. Now, with a more diverse campus and curriculum, North Carolina A&T focuses on research programs, community and problem-solving through areas like technology and business. Located in the state's third largest city, the university, one of the best in North Carolina, provides its education in Greensboro, a city that attracts major sports, arts and cultural events. In addition to its on-campus degree options, the university offers more than 20 degree programs and certificates in its online programs. Explore the costs for attending the university, costs for online learning and available financial aid options.
|13||University of North Carolina at Charlotte||96.20||$$$$$||54%||Charlotte, NC|
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is one of the best-ranking colleges in North Carolina for its research efforts. More than 90 undergraduate degrees and certificate programs, from accounting to biology to electrical engineering, are offered on campus as well as 64 master's and 23 doctoral degrees. The university offers online, on-campus or hybrid learning for bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, certificates or teacher licensure for more scheduling options and flexibility in learning style. With more than 23,000 undergrads, students can apply to be part of Learning Communities, a campus program that connects students based on interests, classes and housing for the purpose of creating small communities and strong friendships on a populus campus. More than 400 student organizations also unite students of similar interests. On campus, students can enjoy 10 acres of outdoor gardens and trails, and as of March 2018, the LYNX Blue Line light rail connects the university directly to the city of Charlotte, where outdoor recreation, nightlife, restaurants and cultural arts can be experienced. Prospective students can discover student financial aid advice and opportunities online.
|14||Piedmont International University||96.15||$$$$$||47%||Winston Salem, NC|
Piedmont International University stresses the importance of religion in every aspect of its higher education system, starting with prayer at the beginning of classes. Church attendance is required at an approved local church, and residents must join the weekly dorm devotions. The university also hosts a Spiritual Week full of meetings that intend to strengthen students' spiritual lives. Piedmont is one of the best colleges in North Carolina for its online programs and small campus. Online studies benefit a wide range of students, including high schoolers eligible for dual enrollment and all others seeking associate, undergraduate and graduate degrees. More than 50 fields of study are offered by the university in a traditional on-campus method, online method or a hybrid of the two. All graduate work, with two exceptions, is available 100 percent online. On-campus classes are held only Tuesday through Friday for the purpose of enriching students' family time, ministry and studies. Piedmont International University is located three blocks from Winston-Salem's downtown, an hour from the mountains and four hours from the Carolina beaches.
|15||Montreat College||96.08||$$$$$||39%||Montreat, NC|
Montreat College emphasizes Christian-based learning in a higher education setting. Undergraduates can earn a bachelor's or associate degree from among 22 majors, and a handful of these can be taken online. Three master's degrees are offered on-campus, one being available online, and for adult students, Montreat College's four adult undergrad locations make it easier to earn a degree. The private, Christian liberal arts college, one of the best of its kind in North Carolina, is situated in the Blue Ridge foothills just 20 minutes from downtown Asheville. Montreat cove harbors 30 miles of trails, and travels to Great Smoky Mountains National Park takes only an hour. Students can keep themselves involved and engaged with student life by choosing from 17 varsity athletic teams or a variety of activities and organizations, such as concerts, dances, student government, publications and clubs. Convocation and chapel services, dorm Bible studies, vespers, prayer groups and community services help students stay active in their faith as well. Tuition is about 25 percent lower than average for private colleges in the U.S., and 99 percent of attendees earn scholarship or grant aid.
|16||Appalachian State University||95.92||$$$$$||69%||Boone, NC|
Appalachian State University maintains its status as one of the best North Carolina colleges through a number of awards and rankings. The university was recognized as one of the best online programs in U.S. News & World Report, as one of the best-value colleges according to Kiplinger and was declared a Military Friendly School among other honors. Positioned in the state's Blue Ridge Mountains, the public college is one of 17 locations for the University of North Carolina system. About 19,000 students call Appalachian State their school while choosing from more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors. Diverse learning programs, including traditional on-campus learning, study abroad courses, Scholars with Diverse Abilities, student research and online programs, cater to all types of learners. All of the university's undergrad distance learning options are transfer programs solely offered to juniors and seniors for degree completion. However, many of the master's and doctorate degrees can be taken 100 percent online or as a hybrid.
|17||University of North Carolina Wilmington||95.70||$$$$$||71%||Wilmington, NC|
University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) maintains a solid relationship with military personnel and their families. At its inception in 1947, three-quarters of the students were veterans. The university is one of the best in North Carolina and the Southeast for educating and serving active duty military and veterans. Traditional undergraduate and graduate students can pick from 55 majors, 34 master's and four doctoral degrees. Seventeen of the bachelor's and master's degrees are offered totally online and more are being added in the near future. U.S. News & World Report ranked UNCW seventh nationally for its online bachelor's programs. Study abroad courses abound with more than 500 among 50 countries, and athletics, arts, student media, organizations and the recreation center keep students active outside the classroom. The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid has all the information prospective students need to calculate their tuition and expenses and offset them with numerous financial aid options.
|18||John Wesley University||95.22||$$$$$||67%||High Point, NC|
John Wesley University earns its place as one of the best colleges in North Carolina for its in-depth religious teachings and community. The private, non-profit university identifies as interdenominational Christian and teaches "fundamental doctrines of evangelical Christianity." Proud of its 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, the university strives to provide a personalized education to each scholar. The majority of the school's degrees are in ministry, but students can also choose from two in business and one in nursing. Almost all of these degrees can be earned either on campus or online. Campus life includes spiritual growth, events, athletics, student leadership, student work opportunities and campus housing. Spiritual life is developed at John Wesley through chapel services, fellowship, Bible studies, mission trips and community service. Of the private, liberal arts colleges in North Carolina, John Wesley touts the lowest tuition rates, and the financial aid office provides information on methods to pay for its Christ-centered education.
|19||Winston-Salem State University||95.00||$$$$$||46%||Winston-Salem, NC|
Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) earns bragging rights as the top Historically Black College or University, awarded by The Wall Street Journal in 2016, and for its number one status within the University of North Carolina system for graduate job placement and average salary for triad-area grads. The university rests its success on its student-focused programming. WSSU's University College and Lifelong Learning offers academic advisement to keep students on the right track to graduation; Writer's Block, a group of writing assistants and professional clerks who assist with course materials and projects as needed; and Team B.O.S.S., a program funded by the Department of Education to help low-income, first-generation college students achieve in academics. Five thousand students attend Winston-Salem State University each year, accounting for a 16:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Through The College of Arts, Sciences, Business and Education and the WSSU School of Health Sciences, the school offers 40 bachelor's, nine master's and two professional doctoral degrees and two certificate programs. The distance learning program provides a variety of undergrad and graduate degrees and licensure online. Students can also partake in the university's award-winning student activities center, over 100 student organizations and top 25 division II football, basketball and baseball programs.
|20||University of North Carolina at Pembroke||94.52||$$$$$||33%||Pembroke, NC|
University of North Carolina at Pembroke extends its higher education programs to a diversified group of students. The original school, established in 1887, is the nation's only four-year public institution founded by American Indians. Currently, the student body averages 15 percent Native American, 34 percent African American and 38 percent Caucasian, making it a unique learning community of about 6,200. The university offers 41 undergraduate and 18 graduate programs and averages class sizes of 20 students. Degree completion is available as an online option for both bachelor's and master's degrees. Four accelerated master's degrees are also available online within the Master of Business Administration programs. Students wanting to transfer to the university can check to see which of their credits will transfer before enrolling. Staying active on campus is no hardship with more than 90 clubs and organizations to choose from and an updated calendar of campus events to check regularly. UNC Pembroke is also recognized by several sources as a military-friendly university. A Military and Veterans Service Office, VA Certifying Official and other available support help with the transition to college life.
|21||Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary||92.55||$$$$$||53%||Wake Forest, NC|
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary guides men and women through 40 programs, leading them toward degrees in a plethora of religious- or biblically-based subjects, including its flagship Master of Divinity. Several more secular subjects like philosophy, global studies and social studies can be studied as an undergrad, and master's students can receive degrees in biblical counseling or church planting. The seminary is a Cooperative Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and one of the best seminaries in North Carolina. The school offers on-campus, distance learning, hybrid classes and the Equip Network, which allows partnership with local churches to afford students real-life ministry opportunities while earning their degree. Four master's degrees may be earned entirely online, and 11 individual free courses are also available online. Students can stay involved with the seminary community by participating in intramural sports, community events and student activity groups like Southeastern Outdoor Club, Performing Arts Club, and Faith and Film. Financial aid is available in the form of an SBC Scholarship for student-members of SBC churches, covering about half of the average tuition and fee total. The seminary also provides military rates for active-duty members and veterans.
|22||Apex School of Theology||92.20||$$$$$||100%||Durham, NC|
Apex School of Theology ranks among the best online schools in North Carolina based on its freshman retention rate and 95 percent graduation rate, according to OnlineCollegePlan.com. The school, founded by the Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Perkins, was originally located within Perkins's church, but is now located within Research Triangle Park inside Durham. The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, accredited by the U.S. Department of Education, allows Apex to offer its degree programs on campus and online and qualify its students for federal aid. The school's mission is two-fold: to serve area clergy by offering formal theological training and to keep tuition costs low by paying faculty a small stipend. Seven associate, bachelor's and master's degrees are available both on-campus and 100 percent online. Apex School of Theology was founded on the African-American religious experience, but the school accepts students of all ethnic backgrounds.
|23||Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary||90.03||$$$$$||40%||Charlotte, NC|
Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary, one of the best seminaries in North Carolina, trains Christians to serve in churches as well as secular fields. The seminary founder believes the world's cities can be saved by inserting the biblically educated into non-religious fields of work. The seminary offers associate or bachelor's degrees from four divisions: biblical studies, general studies, pastoral studies and urban studies, with several concentration options. Several Master of Arts and Master of Divinity degrees and one Doctor of Ministry are also available through the school. Degrees may be earned by attending online classes. Though the online school is accredited, it is not yet available to residents of all states. Financial aid is available to students, and the Net Price Calculator can help prospective students determine how much financial assistance they would need to attend Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary. Connect with the school on Facebook to get a feel for its community and mission.
North Carolina continues to grow its capability as a center of quality online learning. To help students and parents across all learning levels, the state government has established eLearningNC.gov. The site provides a detailed rundown of what eLearning actually means, a checklist to help you find accredited programs, the different types, the many benefits, the key terms, and what’s needed to pay. Although many online colleges in North Carolina have affordable payment structures, understanding how it all works is the key to earning a degree on budget.
To make college more affordable, North Carolina has joined the Southern Regional Education Board’s Academic Common Market. This program allows both campus and online students to pay in-state tuition while attending an out-of-state college. The Academic Common Market covers 15 states in the southwest region of the U.S.
The U.S. Department of Education reports that 21.3% of college students in North Carolina took at least one course online in 2012. That same year, 11.4% were enrolled in a fully online program. Let’s take a deeper look at these students and how they break down when it comes to online education: