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South Carolina Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2018

Updated on: 01/04/2018

If you’re an aspiring college student, there are many colleges to choose from in South Carolina. Many of these schools offer online programs, which are ideal if you need a flexible approach to higher education. With so many possibilities, it can be hard to decide on one college. That’s where this guide can help. Learn about tuition and financial aid, then see which online colleges rank among the best. We have a comprehensive list of the top online accredited colleges in South Carolina to help you start your search off on the right foot.

Best Online Colleges in South Carolina: 2018

Picking among the best accredited online colleges in South Carolina can seem like a daunting task. That’s where the following ranking comes in. We highlighted a number of school characteristics to help you compare all the options. For instance, if you’re focused on finding the best affordable online colleges in South Carolina, you can search for schools based on their cost of attendance.

  • 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

  • Student-teacher ratio

  • 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

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 North Greenville University Tigerville, SC 100.00 $15,510 10 98% 14:155%yes yes yes
2 Anderson University Anderson, SC 99.42 $21,660 18 99% 16:141%no yes yes
3 Clemson University Clemson, SC 98.44 $12,606 14 62% 18:183%no yes yes
4 Limestone College Gaffney, SC 98.08 $23,000 15 96% 18:136%no yes yes
5 Columbia International University Columbia, SC 98.04 $18,940 5 86% 14:164%no yes yes
6 University of South Carolina-Columbia Columbia, SC 97.63 $10,758 25 58% 19:173%no yes yes
7 Southern Wesleyan University Central, SC 97.08 $22,350 4 91% 18:143%no yes yes
8 Lander University Greenwood, SC 96.59 $9,538 6 49% 14:152%yes yes yes
9 Charleston Southern University Charleston, SC 96.20 $22,800 13 99% 15:136%no no yes
10 Coastal Carolina University Conway, SC 95.22 $10,140 8 37% 18:146%no yes yes
11 Claflin University Orangeburg, SC 95.05 $14,640 3 58% 13:144%no yes yes
12 Francis Marion University Florence, SC 94.38 $9,266 3 28% 15:141%no yes yes
13 University of South Carolina-Upstate Spartanburg, SC 93.89 $10,068 6 22% 17:140%no yes yes
14 W L Bonner College Columbia, SC 89.03 $5,148 6 N/A 15:1N/Ano no yes
15 Medical University of South Carolina Charleston, SC 87.64 $14,876 3 N/A 9:1N/Ano no yes
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2-Year Best College Rankings

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Spartanburg Community College Spartanburg, SC 100.00 $4,796 3 2% 15:1N/Ayes yes yes
2 Trident Technical College Charleston, SC 97.79 $4,231 18 6% 21:1N/Ayes yes yes
3 Technical College of the Lowcountry Beaufort, SC 97.75 $4,464 7 6% 15:1N/Ayes yes yes
4 Tri-County Technical College Pendleton, SC 97.10 $4,872 6 10% 18:1N/Ayes yes yes
5 Piedmont Technical College Greenwood, SC 97.04 $4,260 6 11% 17:1N/Ayes yes yes
6 Florence-Darlington Technical College Florence, SC 96.45 $4,032 8 3% 20:1N/Ano yes yes
7 Midlands Technical College West Columbia, SC 94.33 $4,584 4 N/A 20:1N/Ayes yes yes

The Increase of Online Colleges in South Carolina

South Carolina is home to a several colleges with distance learning opportunities. University of South Carolina has multiple online options for students. They can enroll in eight undergraduate and graduate degree programs or attend Palmetto College, which offers over a dozen online bachelor’s degree completion programs for those who are a few credits shy from their four-year degree.

Even at small schools, online learning is still robust. Coastal Carolina University offers over 10 undergraduate and graduate degrees online through COOL, or Coastal’s Office of Online Learning. Community colleges aren’t left out either. For example, Greenville Technical College offers online courses as well as online certificate programs.

In-State & Out-of-State Tuition

Students attending a college in South Carolina will pay one of several tuition rates depending on their circumstances. The different rates include:

  • Out-of-state, which is the highest

  • In-state, which is the cheapest

  • In-state and in-county

  • In-state and out-of-county

Students enrolled in online programs may pay another rate designated specifically for online students, depending on their school or program. Average tuition rates can be found below.

To qualify as a South Carolina resident for in-state tuition purposes, student must show proof of South Carolina residency for at least one year. If a student is a dependent, the student’s parents or guardians must meet these residency requirements. If a student is independent, the student must meet the requirements. The exact state regulations governing state residency can be found at South Carolina Commission on Higher Education.

In-state tuition (public, 4-year institution): $11,791

Out-of-state tuition (public, 4-year institution): $28,702

In-state tuition (public, 2-year institution): $4,219

Out-of-state tuition (public, 2-year institution): $8,510

Private tuition: $23,167

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

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Do online college students in South Carolina pay in-state or out-of-state tuition?

Tuition is dependent on a few different factors. If a student is a South Carolina resident, they could pay the in-state tuition rate (if at a community college, tuition would be broken down even further to in-county or out-of-county) or a special online rate that all online students pay, regardless of residency. If the student does not have South Carolina residency, they might pay the out-of-state rate or the special online tuition rate that all online students pay. Lastly, some out-of-state students may be eligible to pay reduced out-of-state tuition as a part of the Academic Common Market.

South Carolina is a participating member of the Academic Common Market. Non-residents who are residents of the following participating states may be eligible for special discounted tuition if they study in certain specialized fields at a South Carolina school:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
Quick summary on tuition:
  • 1. Online students pay tuition rates depending on their college, program of study and state residency. Tuition rates can range from out-of-state rates to in-state rates (either in-county or out-of-county), as well as special online program rates.

  • 2. South Carolina is part of the Academic Common Market, which means non-residents from participating states may be eligible for in-state or reduced out-of-state tuition if they choose to study certain specialized fields.

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How do I qualify for Pell Grants and other federal financial aid?

Financial aid in South Carolina is based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This is the application for applying to federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants and subsidized loans. But it’s also used by most colleges for awarding school-specific financial aid packages. Even some privately administered scholarships may also require the FAFSA, especially if financial need is a major eligibility factor.

Students should submit the FAFSA as soon as they can after October 1. This is when the FAFSA submission period begins. Keep in mind that many financial aid awards are provided on a first-come, first-serve basis due to limited funding.

Most financial aid awards have certain requirements for students to maintain eligibility and continue receiving aid. These requirements are known as SAP or Satisfactory Academic Progress. Most South Carolina colleges abide by federal SAP guidelines, which consist of the following three components:

  • Graduate students need a 3.00 cumulative GPA, while undergraduate students need a 2.00 cumulative GPA, although slightly lower minimums may be acceptable for students who have just begun their college career

  • Students must keep a certain pace for completing their courses – at least 67% of their attempted courses

  • A student is only allowed to take up to 150% of the credits necessary for a degree, which means if a degree requires 120 credits, students must complete the degree within 180 credits

If students fail to meet these guidelines, they usually have one semester to improve their academic performance before financial aid is cut off.

Other Ways to Pay for College

Unlike student loans, grants and scholarships do not need to be repaid. Students attending college in South Carolina have several state-based grants and scholarships to choose from, with most granted on a merit or financial-need basis. Attending an accredited college is a must for any student interested in receiving a scholarship or grant.

What are the available scholarships and grants in South Carolina?

South Carolina students who are also state residents have a number of state-based grants and scholarships available. A few of the most well-known are the LIFE, Palmetto Fellows and SC HOPE scholarships. The LIFE and Palmetto Fellows scholarships provide funds for up to four years of college, while the SC HOPE scholarship is awarded for the first two years of a student’s four-year degree.

For students attending a two-year college, the Lottery Tuition Assistance Program is available, providing up to $1,140 per term for full-time students and $95 per credit hour for part-time students. And for students who face financial difficulty paying for college, there is the SC Need-Based Grant Program, which gives students $2,500 per year ($1,250 if part-time) to attend an eligible South Carolina college.

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education provides a list of current grants and scholarships, several of which are need-based.

What are the typical requirements for scholarships and grants?

Requirements vary since each award has its own unique application process. For instance, the LIFE and SC HOPE scholarships have no application – eligible students automatically receiving the award after they apply to a South Carolina college or university.

With the Palmetto Fellows scholarship, the student’s high school guidance counselor applies for the student. With the Lottery Tuition Assistance Program and SC Need-Based Grant Program, students must complete the FAFSA.

Students interested in private scholarships, such as those from businesses and charitable organizations, should follow the specific instructions for each scholarship they’re interested in applying to. Private scholarships typically require an application, essay and letters of recommendation. A transcript and interview may also be necessary for some awards.

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Finding an Online College FAQs

With so many academic opportunities available, choosing a college isn’t easy. Here are some of the questions you might have about picking an online college in South Carolina.

Can I use previous college credits or work/life experience towards my online degree?

Practically all colleges in South Carolina accept transfer credits that were completed in high school or at another accredited college. Most colleges also grant credit for military experience. Only a few will grant college credit for work or life experience.

For example, at Clemson University, the program department determines whether work experience can qualify for a credit by examination. Greenville Technical College grants credit for work experience, military training, professional certifications and foreign language proficiency through its Prior Learning Assessment process.

Do I need to enroll in an online college in South Carolina if I’m a resident?

Of course not! South Carolina has plenty of online college options for prospective students, but you can choose to attend any program (online or on-campus) anywhere in the country. Of course, by attending a school outside South Carolina, you may have to pay out-of-state tuition and may not be eligible for South Carolina exclusive scholarships and grants, so keep that in mind.

What do I need to consider when picking an online college?

The first step you need to take in choosing an online college in South Carolina is to figure out what you intend to get out of college. Do you need any general degree to meet the eligibility requirements for a new job? Or do you need specific training in a particular area?

Second, determine the amount of flexibility you want. If you have a full-time job and family obligations, you’ll probably want to enroll in a fully online program with asynchronous learning. This will provide the greatest flexibility so you can meet all your personal, professional and academic obligations.

Third, before you apply to any school, make sure it’s accredited. Accreditation is a process by which an independent organization reviews a school’s curriculum to confirm it meets certain minimum academic standards. This is extremely important because it confirms the degree you’ll earn will be recognized and accepted by employers or other universities should you decide to pursue more advanced education.