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.
For this year’s college rankings, our analysts carefully reviewed statistical data from multiple sources for more than 7,500 postsecondary institutions so that you could easily evaluate schools based on what matters most to you. For each school, we applied the eligibility criteria outlined below, then ranked schools and programs based on four ranking factors.
Eligibility Criteria for All Postsecondary Institutions:
Must be a not-for-profit institution
Must be regionally or nationally accredited
Must offer at least one online program1
Must be located in a state (schools in US territories and Washington DC were not considered)
Dozens of data points were used to calculate a weighted score for four ranking factors: quality, affordability, flexibility and program (in order of significance). To determine quality, which was the most important consideration for all AS Online rankings, the most impactful data points were acceptance and graduation rates; for affordability, tuition2 and grants; for flexibility, part-time enrollment offerings; and for program, degrees conferred in that program area.
Some of our nursing program rankings used exam pass rates from NCLEX
How to Read Our Rankings Tool:
A dash indicates IPEDS data was not available
Annual in-state tuition is displayed unless stated otherwise
1 Our Best Vocational Programs rankings included data for both online and campus programs.
2 Both annual in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our Rankings Tool currently only displays annual in-state rates.
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.
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.
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:
Western Carolina University: The school’s experiential learning program allows students to submit a work portfolio for consideration for full or partial course credits, although individual departments ultimately decide how to award these transfer credits.
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:
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.
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.
Without accreditation, a school’s degrees may not be recognized by employers or graduate programs, and students may not qualify for federal financial aid.
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
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:
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: