Online Schools & Colleges
in North Carolina

Accreditation, Financial Aid and the Top Universities for 2018

The University of North Carolina System, the largest such system in the state, graduates 54,000 students each year across 200 academic programs. In addition to its 17 campuses, the system offers hundreds of online programs and thousands of fully online courses. This continues to drive online learning growth for a student body where more than one-fifth take at least a single online class each year. But beyond the UNC system, what other online colleges in North Carolina are fueling this growth, and which stand out when it comes to quality and cost? The following page gives current and future online students in the state a great place to start their online college research.

Best Online Colleges in North Carolina

2-Year Colleges

North Carolina boasts both public and private universities with historic pasts and strong reputations. The state has high student retention rates compared to neighboring states, indicating that these schools provide substantial support and motivation for students to finish their degrees. North Carolina’s online schools offer a variety of majors and degree options, including renowned science programs at Duke University, the School of the Arts at the University of North Carolina, and the Wake Forest University School of Business. Let’s see which North Carolina colleges with online programs are the best for 2018.

Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 Pitt Community College $1,824 27 10% 16% Yes Yes Yes
2 Fayetteville Technical Community College $2,432 33 12% 2% Yes Yes Yes
3 Wake Technical Community College $2,432 31 16% 2% Yes Yes Yes
4 Craven Community College $1,824 23 14% 15% Yes No Yes
5 Guilford Technical Community College $2,128 16 13% 4% Yes Yes Yes
6 Rowan-Cabarrus Community College $2,432 33 14% 8% Yes Yes Yes
7 Stanly Community College $2,432 27 29% 11% Yes Yes Yes
8 Richmond Community College $2,432 14 11% 11% Yes Yes Yes
9 Durham Technical Community College $2,066 13 10% 30% Yes Yes Yes
10 South Piedmont Community College $1,728 12 16% - Yes Yes Yes
11 Central Carolina Community College $2,432 21 25% 8% Yes No Yes
12 Davidson County Community College $2,081 11 30% 14% Yes Yes Yes
13 Lenoir Community College $2,432 20 17% 21% Yes Yes Yes
14 Southwestern Community College $2,128 7 30% 9% Yes Yes Yes
15 Pamlico Community College $1,824 16 72% 18% Yes Yes Yes
16 Beaufort County Community College $2,432 18 11% 29% Yes Yes Yes
17 Randolph Community College $1,824 3 25% 15% Yes Yes Yes
18 Brunswick Community College $2,432 4 23% 4% Yes Yes Yes
19 Cleveland Community College $2,432 9 15% 3% Yes No Yes
20 Western Piedmont Community College $2,432 8 22% 10% Yes No Yes
21 Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College $2,432 5 22% 8% Yes Yes Yes
22 James Sprunt Community College $2,432 7 14% 6% Yes Yes Yes
23 Gaston College $2,290 3 25% 2% Yes Yes Yes
24 Mayland Community College $2,304 3 31% 11% Yes Yes Yes
25 Sandhills Community College $2,432 3 15% 16% Yes Yes Yes
26 Piedmont Community College $2,432 11 26% 12% Yes Yes Yes
27 Forsyth Technical Community College $1,906 34 15% - No Yes Yes
28 Mitchell Community College $2,432 77 22% 8% No Yes Yes
29 Vance-Granville Community College $1,824 9 34% 13% No Yes Yes
30 Central Piedmont Community College $2,432 13 13% 2% No Yes Yes
31 Nash Community College $2,432 24 8% 18% No Yes Yes
32 Wayne Community College $2,432 17 15% - No Yes Yes
33 Surry Community College $2,128 18 30% 6% No Yes Yes
34 Coastal Carolina Community College $2,432 9 22% 4% No Yes Yes
35 Haywood Community College $2,432 16 17% 33% No Yes Yes
36 Bladen Community College $2,128 15 11% 7% No No Yes
37 Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute $2,432 8 18% 9% No Yes Yes
38 Robeson Community College $2,432 8 5% 20% No Yes Yes
39 Wilson Community College $2,128 8 20% 15% No No Yes
40 Tri-County Community College $2,304 5 27% 8% No Yes Yes
41 Montgomery Community College $2,432 12 26% 19% No No Yes
42 Edgecombe Community College $2,432 4 11% 9% No Yes Yes
43 Blue Ridge Community College $2,432 9 28% 12% No Yes Yes
44 Alamance Community College $2,280 4 19% 16% No Yes Yes
Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 Appalachian State University $4,159 14 68% 71% 36% Yes Yes Yes

Tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, Appalachian State University provides a unique, holistic education that not all public schools can offer. All online undergraduate degree programs are intended for transfer students who are working toward a specific career. With that in mind, students can complete their education in 2 years while studying at their own pace. Students transferring into this program should have already completed their lower division credits at another institution. There are currently 7 entirely online bachelor's degree programs, as well as the hybrid bachelor's degree in middle grades education. Appalachian State also offers master's degree programs both online and in hybrid format, as well as graduate certificates. Every program at each level is taught with one goal in mind: to advance the student's career.

2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $6,881 8 27% 91% 41% No Yes Yes

Often recognized as one of the most prestigious schools in the nation, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a leader in many fields, including online education. The majority of online students at UNC are graduates, and most are involved in public health or health sciences. Public health makes up the largest part of the online graduate program with 3 master's degrees, 1 doctoral degree and 6 certificates. UNC is seen as a global leader in health sciences, and the same respect given to their on-campus programs is extended to their online programs. UNC doesn't have any entirely online undergraduate programs, but they offer many undergraduate courses online. All required core courses can be completed online for active military and veterans, so those students can feasibly study toward a hybrid degree or complete their degree in less time than the traditional 4 years. There are also a variety of continuing education courses available online.

3 North Carolina State University at Raleigh $6,407 38 48% 78% 48% No Yes Yes

Among the top research schools in the nation, North Carolina State University has attracted world-class staff and faculty, improving the quality of education. For students considering online school at NC State, it may help to know that the same faculty teaches both on-campus and online. Aside from their faculty, NC State is among the best in online studies because of their vast number of options. There are currently 5 undergraduate programs offered at least partially online, as well as five undergraduate certificates that can be used to further specialize a degree. After earning a bachelor's degree, students can find master's and doctoral programs online, as well as certificates and licensure for teaching. Despite being online, their distance education still receives a lot of national attention and research funding, making it an excellent stepping stone for students looking to advance in their career or switch careers entirely.

4 Apex School of Theology $4,800 5 - 100% 12% Yes No Yes

Founded in 1995, Apex School of Theology is one of the younger institutions in the nation. Despite their short time teaching higher education, Apex has already established itself as a top Christian school with a focus on African-American culture. There are only 7 main programs offered at Apex ? 1 bachelor's degree, 4 master's degrees, 1 doctoral degree and 1 associate degree ? aside from their continuing education programs. However, students won't need to travel to campus to get any of their studies done. Apex offers all of their degree programs entirely online with each course mirroring the same quality and difficulty as their on-campus versions. Online courses are also offered in the traditional 16 week format or an abbreviated 8-week session. Regardless of where students live, Apex charges a flat rate per class, with different fees being applied to the different degree levels. This structure is meant to help keep the cost of an education low, since the programs are designed for working students.

5 Western Carolina University $3,893 18 41% 59% 68% Yes Yes Yes

Western Carolina University began as a teaching school but quickly grew into much more. While teaching is still one of the most popular subjects for students to study at WCU, other programs, such as nursing and engineering, have started to attract more national attention. Perhaps the most renowned program at WCU is entrepreneurship, which can be studied as a minor, bachelor's of science or bachelor's of science in business administration. This 4-year program is available both on-campus and entirely online, or as a hybrid. A master's degree in entrepreneurship is also offered entirely online through a quick 30-semester hour program. Entrepreneurship isn't the only program offered entirely online, though, as students can pick from 18 different programs, ranging from certificates to master's degrees. The program that students do end up picking will determine their tuition per credit, so students with previous credit can reduce the time and cost of their program.

6 University of North Carolina Wilmington $4,356 13 72% 71% 50% No Yes Yes

Joining the UNC system nearly 50 years ago, the University of North Carolina Wilmington may not be the oldest or most storied institution in North Carolina, but they have gained national attention. Their dedication to student experience and innovation is noticeable not just with the growth of the school, but also with the growth of their online program. Online undergraduate degrees as UNC Wilmington are similar to those found at other schools, save a few of their majors. For example, their bachelor's in exercise science is a unique program both for its academics and format. Students that pursue this online degree with take courses in 6 sessions throughout the year, and courses last 7 weeks at a time. All of their bachelor's degrees can be completed entirely online, except for clinical experience (if required). UNC Wilmington also has an array of master's degrees and one doctoral degree in nursing practice.

7 East Carolina University $4,365 57 70% 61% 42% No Yes Yes

Founded over 100 years ago as a teacher training school, East Carolina University is now one of the largest schools in North Carolina. While the school has experienced significant growth over the years, they've managed to maintain the same level of quality across all their programs ? including those offered online. ECU's online school has over 50 degree choices, many more than most online schools across the nation. For students that are interested in earning a bachelor's degree, it's important to know that all their online bachelor's programs are degree completion. Transfer students and students that are switching to online education should have little to no problem getting their credits to go toward their new degree at ECU. ECU recommends that all transfer students enter with at least the first 2 years of their college education completed, or with a compatible associate degree. Also, a few programs require some campus attendance.

8 North Carolina Central University $3,655 14 67% 49% 82% Yes Yes Yes

There is plenty to know about North Carolina Central University aside from the fact that they were the first public liberal arts school for African Americans. Since 1909, NCCU has been working to find new ways to reach students, which led to the creation of their online school. What makes NCCU online unique is that they offer 2 of their 3 most popular undergraduate degrees entirely online: a bachelor's in criminal justice and a bachelor's in psychology. Both of these online programs carry the same amount of respect as a traditional bachelor's from NCCU would. NCCU's commitment to making their online program one of the best in the state extends beyond academics. Students that earn a degree online will have access to special networking and job opportunities, helping them find a new career upon graduating. These programs are designed with working students in mind, so even busy students can find a way to make their online degrees work.

9 University of North Carolina at Charlotte $3,737 17 62% 58% 28% No Yes Yes

Located in one of the busiest cities in the state, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte was founded after WWII specifically to be a research institution. While UNC Charlotte is still recognized for their research, they've since expanded into other areas, one of the most recent being distance education. UNC Charlotte's online program is into 4 colleges: education, engineering, liberal arts & sciences and health & human services. Each of these colleges has multiple undergraduate and graduate degree options, some of which are 4-year programs that can be completed entirely online. Some of the specific programs may also require in-person experience; for example, to become a certified teacher in North Carolina, students in the online school of education will still be required to gain licensure through clinical experience. Anyone worried about the quality of UNC Charlotte's online school should know that all online courses are taught by the same professors that teach on campus.

10 Grace College of Divinity $4,080 5 75% 50% 52% No No Yes

Formerly known as Grace Leadership Institute, Grace College of Divinity is a Christian school that offers education down 1 of 4 tracks: leadership, worship, ministry and family life. Following that, there are only 4 undergraduate options available at GCD, each of which follows at least one of those tracks. These bachelor's degrees are designed to be studied in a hybrid format of online and on-campus, but students can spend a majority ? if not all ? of their studies online if they structure their schedule correctly. Online courses also have students engage in online discussion boards, keeping everyone within the GCD community. GCD does require some in-person experience, and the required experience varies depending on the degree ? so, strictly speaking, not all of the undergraduate degrees can be completed entirely online. That being said, each program is structured for students that are currently working, so there is flexibility regardless of how they study.

11 University of North Carolina at Greensboro $4,335 19 74% 58% 61% No Yes Yes
12 Queens University of Charlotte $31,360 5 83% 62% 99% Yes Yes Yes
13 Fayetteville State University $2,923 9 59% 37% 73% Yes Yes Yes
14 Campbell University $28,800 13 81% 48% 89% Yes Yes Yes
15 Gardner-Webb University $29,420 29 52% 55% 100% No Yes Yes
16 Lenoir-Rhyne University $33,730 9 70% 55% 100% No Yes Yes
17 University of Mount Olive $19,000 3 48% 44% 93% Yes Yes Yes
18 Winston-Salem State University $3,335 5 63% 48% 60% Yes No Yes
19 North Carolina A & T State University $3,470 8 54% 51% 66% No Yes Yes
20 Mid-Atlantic Christian University $13,600 4 46% 40% 95% Yes Yes Yes
21 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary $9,960 12 76% 31% 17% No Yes Yes
22 Pfeiffer University $28,000 9 44% 36% 100% Yes Yes Yes
23 John Wesley University $10,500 14 39% 50% 46% Yes No Yes
24 University of North Carolina at Pembroke $3,531 8 74% 36% 38% No Yes Yes
25 Montreat College $24,740 7 61% 34% 100% Yes No Yes
26 Lees-McRae College $24,878 4 63% 39% 100% No Yes Yes
27 William Peace University $26,880 3 63% 36% 98% No Yes Yes
28 Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary $9,360 6 - 15% - No No Yes
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If you’re interested in becoming a part of North Carolina’s online and non-traditional college student population, start by asking the following questions:

How can I find which online colleges offer the degree I’m looking for in North Carolina?

Most major universities in North Carolina have separate departments overseeing the online student population, each with its own online portal. For example, students can use the University of North Carolina System’s portal, UNC Online, to browse online programs or individual courses. This makes it easy for online students to identify which classes are available to them in their chosen majors.

Those interested in one of North Carolina’s many private or nonprofit universities can browse their online programs using the North Carolina Independent College and Universities database.

Which online schools in North Carolina will accept my transfer Credits or work/life experience?

The University of North Carolina generally accepts transfer credits from a regionally accredited institutions and for courses in which students earned a “C” grade or higher. Certain military training can also translate to UNC transfer credits. However, technical and professional school courses rarely transfer. For example:

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How Much More Do College Grads in North Carolina Make?

The average high school graduate earns a living wage in North Carolina, but a college degree can significantly boost annual income. Here’s a quick look at average annual salaries in North Carolina by minimum degree level requirements for their careers.

Mean Annual Salary for All Occupations in North Carolina, by Minimum Degree Requirement:

No Formal
High School
$27,779 $40,640 $55,923 $76,074 $74,506 $113,565

Management positions in sales, marketing, and finance are some of the highest-paying positions that North Carolina college graduates can attain, with salaries exceeding $140,000 on average. Many of these careers require just a bachelor’s degree, but significant advancement means years of business and leadership experience.

Sales represents a major portion of the North Carolina workforce, with more than 460,000 professionals in the field. A typical college-educated sales representative in the state earns about $96,520 per year. Sales agents working in securities, commodities and financial services earn about $88,000 per year.

Education is another growing field in North Carolina. Education professionals with college degrees typically earn about $57,320. Elementary and middle school teachers with bachelor’s degrees earn about $45,690 on average. Postsecondary vocational education teachers are the highest-paid teachers in the state, earning about $53,610.

According to Payscale, the most lucrative bachelor’s degree in North Carolina is a bachelor of science, followed by a bachelor of business administration and a bachelor of arts.

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The Impact of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in North Carolina

Bachelor’s degree students have a wide range of online programs available to them in North Carolina. The University of North Carolina alone offers hundreds of programs. Narrow down your choices by seeking institutions with regional accreditation—the stamp of approval that matters most when vetting potential colleges.

Regional Accreditation

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is a regional accrediting agency in North Carolina that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Major university systems in North Carolina, such as UNC, are accredited by the SACSCOC. Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, is one of the most prestigious colleges in the United States, considered on par with Ivy League institutions. It is SACSCOC accredited and offers a robust catalogue of online courses.

Without accreditation, a school’s degrees may not be recognized by employers or graduate programs, and students may not qualify for federal financial aid.

Programmatic Accreditation

Also called subject or specialized accreditation, many programs within colleges apply for accreditation at this level to illustrate specific expertise. For example, a psychology department may seek accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA), and a business school may approach the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) to earn accreditation for its MBA program. Some employers may look for graduates from these programs specifically, so make sure you research your academic accreditation needs before applying.

Paying for Online College in North Carolina: Tuition & Financial Aid

While some of North Carolina’s highest-paying occupations require higher education, a college degree requires financial investment. According to Ballotpedia, in-state tuition and fees for North Carolina students at four-year colleges have risen by 56 percent in the past 10 years. This is 2.5 times faster than inflation rates. Tuition costs at UNC in particular have plateaued, but fees for certain majors continue to rise. At least half of North Carolina college graduates are paying down student loan debt three years after completing their programs. Let’s see how in-state tuition looked in North Carolina in 2015.

In-State Tuition, Public Colleges & Universities: $6,944

Change from 2015 $286

National Average:$8,778

In-State Tuition, Private Colleges & Universities: $29,307

Change from 2015 $1,130

National Average:$27,951

  • Ballotpedia also reports that rising costs may be one contributor to North Carolina’s decline in full-time student enrollment since 2012. Many students are drawn to online programs because their flexibility allows students to work while earning their degree. For example, UNC Pembroke has seen a 7% rise in online enrollment since 2008.

  • Some North Carolina schools remove on-campus fees for online students, helping to lower costs. For example, Appalachian State University waives most on-campus fees in its distance learning programs.

  • Schools generally charge comparable tuition rates for on-campus and online students. NC State, for example, charges $1,140 for up to five credit hours on campus, or between $240 and $1,180 for one to five credit hours online.

  • North Carolina’s public colleges are generally more affordable than the state’s private colleges, especially when you take in-state tuition into account. Each UNC campus has its own charges for online courses and credits. Prospective applicants can find tuition and fee information for individual online programs on UNC Online.

Each school has its own policy regarding online education costs, but there are some overarching rules established by North Carolina law. Learn more below:

What are North Carolina’s qualification requirements for in-state university tuition?

According to the North Carolina Residency Determination Service, students must have established a legal residence in North Carolina for at least one year before starting school to qualify for in-state tuition at local colleges. In-state tuition recipients must also prove that they intend to live in North Carolina indefinitely, not just while attending college. Schools consider factors including where students are registered to vote, where their vehicles are registered and where they went to high school.

Both on-campus and online students can apply for residency status through the North Carolina Residency Determination Service.

Are online credits more affordable in North Carolina than other places?

North Carolina offers one of the most affordable public educations in the country, and online programs are no exception. For instance, UNC’s Charlotte campus charges roughly $14,000 for a full-time, four-year online education, which is far less than the average U.S. online tuition of $37,200. Looking at online credit costs for undergraduates in 2018-2019, here are how some of North Carolina’s colleges stack up against neighboring schools:

$221 to $874 per credit hour
$314 to $985 per credit hour

Liberty University (Virginia)

$460 per credit hour
$407 per credit hour

NOTE: Be sure to also factor in the additional fees online colleges charge beyond straight tuition per credit rates to fully understand the cost of earning an online degree in North Carolina.

How can I get help paying for online college in North Carolina?

North Carolina undergraduates have several options to secure financial support and scholarships for their educations. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is most students’ first step. The College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) offers personalized help in completing the FAFSA.

Scholarships are also a great option for students looking to drive down the cost of their college program. Here are four scholarships specific to North Carolina.

  • Carolina Covenant is the University of North Carolina’s scholarship program for students with significant financial need. It has helped nearly 2,500 students graduate with little or no debt.

  • UNC also offers the need-based Johnston Scholarship, which awards $10,000 for in-state residents and $20,000 for out-of-state students.

  • The Assistance League offers a unique scholarship opportunity for single working parents in North Carolina to earn their bachelor’s degree, from $1,000 to $10,000 per academic year.

  • The NC Reach scholarship supports residents who aged out of the North Carolina foster care system or were adopted after their 12th birthday.

For comprehensive lists of North Carolina scholarship opportunities, view this CFNC database and this UNC page.

Online Colleges & Adult Education in North Carolina

According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 70,000 North Carolina students participated in adult education programs in the 2016-2017 school year. These programs allow students to succeed during and after school while working and caring for a family. Here are some examples of adult education opportunities that can help aspiring college students get on the path to earning an online degree in North Carolina:

  • Adult High School Diploma Programs For some, the first step to earning a college degree is completing high school equivalency—learn how to do this in North Carolina.

  • College and Career Pathways Those who aren’t sure what the best path through college means for them can take advantage of these college and career readiness programs.

  • English Language Acquisition Adults in North Carolina who are English language learners can use these courses to acquire the literacy proficiency needed to earn an online degree in the U.S.

North Carolina Community Colleges provides a list of adult education course providers for those interested in learning more about their local options.

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