Online Schools and Colleges in North Carolina

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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 2020

Online schools and colleges in North Carolina provide affordable, convenient options to help individuals advance their career. According to data from PayScale, early career professionals with bachelor’s degrees from the state’s top schools earned median salaries of $60,000 to $70,000 in 2019. Distance programs often provide flexible scheduling options and sometimes offer lower tuition rates.

This guide includes resources to help you begin your college search. The following sections include information about tuition costs and financial aid, accreditation, and scholarship and grant opportunities for learners attending online schools and colleges in North Carolina.

Top 10 Online Bachelor Colleges in North Carolina

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Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

  1. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Raleigh, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Cullowhee, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Wilmington, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Greenville, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Charlotte, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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
    Location

    Fayetteville, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    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 at GCD, each of which follows at least one of those tracks. These bachelor's degrees are made available through a variety of means, including entirely online. Online courses 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.

Top 10 Online Associate Colleges in North Carolina

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Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

  1. Pitt Community College
    Location

    Winterville, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  2. Fayetteville Technical Community College
    Location

    Fayetteville, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  3. Wake Technical Community College
    Location

    Raleigh, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  4. Craven Community College
    Location

    New Bern, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  5. Guilford Technical Community College
    Location

    Jamestown, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  6. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College
    Location

    Salisbury, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  7. Stanly Community College
    Location

    Albemarle, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  8. Richmond Community College
    Location

    Hamlet, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  9. Durham Technical Community College
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  10. South Piedmont Community College
    Location

    Monroe, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

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How Can I Find Which Online Colleges Offer the Degree I’m Looking for in North Carolina?

North Carolina is home to a variety of higher education institutions, many of which offer online programs. Prospective students should thoroughly research options before selecting a school. The College Foundation of North Carolina provides information about institutions in the state. You can also click the icon below to learn about online schools and colleges in North Carolina.

How Much More Do College Grads in North Carolina Make?

Earning a degree can significantly increase a professional’s salary potential. Higher levels of educational attainment typically lead to higher salaries.

While no degree guarantees a particular salary, obtaining additional education can qualify graduates for high-paying jobs. The table below illustrates the correlation between education level and earning potential for professionals nationwide.

LESS THAN A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAHIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAASSOCIATE DEGREE
$28,756$37,960$44,824
Source: BLS
BACHELOR’S DEGREEMASTER’S DEGREEDOCTORAL DEGREE
$62,296$74,568$94,900
Source: BLS

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

Learners should consider the cost of tuition when budgeting for school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of college tuition in North Carolina has increased every year from 1985 to 2017. However, the average cost of tuition and fees at North Carolina public schools is below the national average for both in-state and out-of-state students.

The tables below show the average cost of tuition and fees at North Carolina institutions. The cost of tuition varies significantly based on the type of institution and the student’s residency status.

IN-STATE TUITIONOUT-OF-STATE TUITIONNATIONAL AVERAGE
$7,924$20,061$9,037 (In-State)$25,657 (Out-of-State)
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
TUITIONOUT-OF-STATE TUITIONNATIONAL AVERAGE
$32,140N/A$30,731
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Cost Considerations for Online Students in North Carolina

The figures above only include the cost of tuition and fees. However, online students may encounter additional expenses. Below are some cost considerations for students attending online schools and colleges in North Carolina.

  • Required Travel: Some online programs require students to take tests, complete internships, or fulfill residency requirements in person. Learners in these programs should budget for travel expenses.
  • Online Fee: Some schools charge distance learners a flat fee at the time of enrollment. Institutions typically only collect this fee one time.
  • Textbooks and Materials: Distance learners should budget for textbooks and supplies. Online learners must often purchase physical or digital textbooks and software.
  • Technology Fees: In addition to a flat online learning fee, some schools charge per-semester or per-course technology fees. These fees often cover the cost of tech support, learning software, and online resources.
  • Tuition by Degree Program: More popular online programs may have higher tuition rates. Additionally, some degree programs require fees to cover labs or facilities.

Qualifying for In-State Tuition in North Carolina

Some online schools and colleges in North Carolina charge all distance learners in-state tuition rates, regardless of residency status. Each college sets unique residency requirements, so learners should carefully research eligibility requirements at their prospective institution to determine whether they qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Some out-of-state students can qualify for in-state tuition rates through reciprocity agreements. For example, graduate students from qualifying states attending participating North Carolina institutions can receive discounted tuition rates through the Academic Common Market.

Paying for College in North Carolina: Scholarships and Financial Aid

Students can apply for various types of financial aid to reduce the financial burden of earning a degree. Scholarships and grants are ideal forms of funding, since they do not require repayment. Below are some scholarships and grants available to learners attending online schools and colleges in North Carolina.

Scholarships for North Carolina College Students


  • Couch Oil Cares Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports North Carolina residents planning to attend a four-year college or community college. Students should apply at the end of their senior year of high school.

    Amount: $1,000

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • Richard Goolsby Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Students interested in the plastics industry can apply for this scholarship. The committee considers graduate and undergraduate learners studying subjects such as chemistry, business administration, physics, and engineering.

    Amount: Varies

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • William Vatavuk Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The nonprofit Bennett Place Support Fund sponsors this scholarship for graduating seniors at North Carolina high schools. Applicants must plan to attend a two-year or four-year college.

    Amount: $1,000

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • NIADA Foundation Regional Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The NIADA Foundation awards this scholarship to four students each year. Recipients can apply the funds to any two-year or four-year school.

    Amount: $3,500

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • Innovation in Education Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: LA Tutors awards this scholarship to innovative students who create solutions to everyday problems. Applicants must submit an essay describing their innovation and must have a minimum GPA of 3.0.

    Amount: $500

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


Grants for North Carolina College Students


  • NACME Scholars

    Who Can Apply: NACME partners with colleges that support minority and underrepresented students. Applicants must have a minimum 2.8 GPA, must submit a resume, and must be majoring in engineering or computer science.

    Amount: Varies

    APPLY FOR GRANT


  • North Carolina Student Incentive Grant

    Who Can Apply: This grant supports learners who demonstrate financial need through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Applicants must be attending a participating institution.

    Amount: $700

    APPLY FOR GRANT


  • North Carolina Community College Grant

    Who Can Apply: This grant supports North Carolina residents who attend a community college in the state. Applicants must enroll in at least six credits and be in good academic standing.

    Amount: Varies

    APPLY FOR GRANT


  • Certain Private Education Institutions Grant

    Who Can Apply: This grant supports state residents attending a participating private university in North Carolina. Applicants must demonstrate financial need through the FAFSA form.

    Amount: Varies

    APPLY FOR GRANT


  • North Carolina Legislative Tuition Grant

    Who Can Apply: Applicants must be enrolled full time at an independent, nonprofit college in North Carolina. The award amount is not based on need.

    Amount: Varies

    APPLY FOR GRANT


FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE SCHOOLS

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

Accreditation of online schools and colleges in North Carolina demonstrates that institutions meet rigorous academic standards. Accrediting agencies set these standards, evaluate schools, and award accreditation.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) monitor accrediting agencies in the United States. The following sections explore various types of accreditation, along with methods for determining a school’s accreditation status.

Regional and National Accreditation

The two main types of institutional accreditation in the U.S. are regional and national accreditation. Technical colleges, private universities, and vocational schools usually receive national accreditation.

Each regional accrediting agency evaluates schools in a specific area of the country. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges awards regional accreditation to North Carolina institutions.

Subject-Specific Accreditation

While regional and national accreditation evaluate institutions as a whole, subject-specific accreditation typically applies to individual degree programs. Subject-specific accrediting agencies set standards for programs in certain fields and ensure that programs prepare learners to succeed in relevant industries. Both the ED and CHEA maintain lists of recognized, subject-specific accrediting agencies.

How to Know if Your School or Program is Accredited

Accredited schools and programs typically feature their accreditation status online. Learners can contact the school directly for more information about accreditation.

Students can also search for recognized accrediting agencies, accredited institutions, and accredited programs through the ED database and the CHEA directory.

Online College and Adult Education in North Carolina

Professionals can increase their career opportunities and earning potential by furthering their education. The following sections include information and statistics about online education in North Carolina, along with details about state initiatives supporting adult education.

By the Numbers: Adult Education in North Carolina

All North Carolina community colleges offer no-cost career training for eligible companies in the state.

The majority of distance education students in North Carolina take classes at public universities.

Nearly 67,000 North Carolina students enrolled exclusively in distance education courses in 2015.

Source: NC Community CollegesDistance Education State Almanac 2017

Adult Education Programs for North Carolina Students

  • Career Pathways Systems: This initiative helps students develop key skills necessary to transition into the workforce. The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor jointly oversee this program.
  • Intensive English USA: Intensive English programs help non-native English speakers nationwide develop critical skills in reading, writing, and comprehension. These programs prepare learners for academic and professional endeavors.
  • College Access Challenge Grant Program: This federal program supports low-income students by matching grants from state and local governments, as well as private organizations.

Online College Resources for North Carolina Students

Prospective students should conduct thorough research and develop a plan and budget. Learners should consider tuition rates, application requirements, and their personal career goals. The resources below provide information to help learners consider educational options and explore financial aid opportunities.

  • College Foundation of North Carolina: CNFC helps students apply for college and fund their education. Students can create tuition plans, take out loans, and make payments through the website. CNFC also helps students apply for financial aid.
  • North Carolina State Government: The state government provides links to education agencies and services. This website also offers information about financial aid and higher education institutions in the state.
  • NC Student Success Center: This website pools resources from North Carolina’s 58 community colleges to provide learning tools and information related to earning a degree in the state.
  • Federal Student Aid: This resource helps students determine their eligibility for federal aid. Students can learn about various funding options, including scholarships, grants, and loans. The website also contains information about completing the FAFSA form.
  • BigFuture: This resource from the College Board guides prospective students through the application process. Students can learn about universities, degree options, financial aid opportunities, and career paths.

Popular Resources

Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.


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