Best Online Colleges in North Carolina

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North Carolina’s colleges provide a variety of online education opportunities to in-state distance learners. Through distance programs, students can study from several of North Carolina’s most prestigious universities, consuming lectures and completing assignments remotely and at their convenience. Studies suggest that online classes may be an optimal education model, as distance students retain information much better than traditional learners do.

Schools in North Carolina benefit from widespread state support. The state has an online learning commission that focuses on ensuring that its 36 private institutions, 58 community colleges, and the University of North Carolina system of schools all promote student success through distance learning. Distance learners in North Carolina also benefit from the state’s membership in the Southern Regional Education Board. Membership provides students who participating in select out-of-state programs with in-state tuition prices; this program applies to all students studying a subject not offered within the state. Active duty military members and their families also qualify for in-state tuition in North Carolina.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 North Carolina State University at Raleigh 86.15 3/5 71% Raleigh, NC

Known for its academic rigor, cutting-edge facilities, and world-class research, North Carolina State at Raleigh educates about 34,000 students working to excel in fields such as math, science, technology, the humanities, and veterinary medicine. NC State is one of the best North Carolina online colleges offering programs at the undergraduate and graduate level for students across the U.S.

NC State has more than 85 online programs that are 100% online, hybrid, or on-site away from the campus. The school uses a combination of learning management systems, live and on-demand video streaming, and videoconferencing for their online programs. Degree programs at North Carolina State include engineering, business management, computer networking, education, and statistics. NC State has a range of online certificates in statistics and data management, environmental assessment, horticulture, and geospatial information science. Online students have access to support specialists, tech support, and academic support through a program coordinator or advisor. North Carolina State has an extensive array of master's degree programs in engineering, environmental sciences, teacher education, and more.

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2 University of North Carolina at Greensboro 73.23 3/5 54% Greensboro, NC

UNCG, part of the 17-campus University of North Carolina system, is a nationally ranked and globally recognized institution known for an engaged community. The university has over eight schools and colleges including business and economics, arts and sciences, nursing, and nanoscience and nanoengineering.

UNCG’s online degrees and courses are affordable and provide the same world-class education that is experienced by students on-campus. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered 100% online in business and information technology, education, healthcare, public service, social science, and the humanities. Notable online programs include the Master of Science in Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies, and Doctor of Education in Kinesiology. UNCG's online courses are infused with multimedia content and delivered asynchronously and synchronously. The school’s online technology allows students to interact with professors and classmates at the click of a mouse. Online courses at this institution cost less that face-to-face classroom courses.

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3 East Carolina University 72.71 3/5 58% Greenville, NC

East Carolina, a comprehensive research institution, uses innovative learning strategies and delivery methods to prepare students with the academic knowledge and skills necessary to be leaders in various fields. ECU is a state leader in online learning with online programs that are accessible 24/7 using either the Blackboard or Centra course management systems. ECU’s degree completion programs are designed for students who have earned two years of college credit. Fields of study include business, communication, health services, and industrial technology.

ECU’s catalog of online graduate programs includes business administration, criminal justice, and software engineering. ECU is one of the online colleges in North Carolina with a full offering of masters programs in education for educators with a North Carolina teaching licensure. ECU’s online Master of Science in Security Studies has four areas of focus: international security, homeland security policy, environmental health and occupational safety, and science and technology security.

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4 Appalachian State University 71.15 3/5 66% Boone, NC

Appalachian State, located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, enrolls approximately 18,000 students and has more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors available. Online undergraduate programs at Appalachian are convenient, flexible, and include the tools and resources students need for education and career success. Disciplines offered 100% online include education, management, and nursing. Most online classes are taught in a full-time or part-time format.

Graduate certificate and degree programs can be taken online in fields such as gerontology, sociology, business administration, social work, and education. Appalachian is one of the best online colleges in North Carolina because learners have access to online tutoring and academic assistance 24/7. Students wanting to participate in campus activities have research, service-learning, internships, and community service opportunities to further their intellectual and professional development. For course-credit to transfer, a grade of “C-” or higher must have been obtained.

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5 University of North Carolina at Charlotte 68.65 3/5 53% Charlotte, NC

UNC Charlotte is an urban research university located in the state's largest metropolitan area. The school offers 86 bachelor’s degrees and more than 100 graduate programs in a large number of fields and specialties. UNC Charlotte empowers its 28,700 students with an education that’s highly regarded by employers. Classrooms come to the student through online learning at UNC Charlotte in the disciplines of engineering, education, health and human services, and teacher licensure. Programming is delivered synchronously and asynchronously; a few programs do require occasional visits to the campus. UNC Charlotte’s online baccalaureate programs are degree completion, requiring students to already have the credits needed for transfer into upper division courses. UNC is a participating member of the Southern Regional Education Board Electronic Campus. The board helps adult learners acquire the information needed to start or resume their education. Not all UNC programs fulfil the requirements needed for their degrees to be recognized in other states.

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6 University of North Carolina Wilmington 68.23 3/5 69% Wilmington, NC

UNC Wilmington embraces a global mindset and community engagement and touts the integration of teaching and mentoring with research and service. Located in the historic port city of Wilmington, the institution offers 54 bachelor’s degrees in 49 majors and 29 master’s programs. UNCW’s M.F.A. in creative writing, Ed.D. in educational leadership and administration, and Ph.D. in marine biology are nationally renowned.

The school offers undergraduate distance learning in clinical research, elementary education, and nursing. Online graduate programming is offered in the disciplines of chemistry, education, health and human services, history, instructional technology, and liberal studies. Student resources include an online bookstore (with e-textbooks saving up to 60% in costs), online library support, My Seaport, assistance with the Blackboard course management system, and career services, including virtual networking events. Seaport gives students access to academic and social features.

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7 Western Carolina University 67.60 3/5 48% Cullowhee, NC

Nestled amidst the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains, Western Carolina is an engaged and supportive community of more than 10,000 students. Ranked highly for undergraduate research, WCU has a catalog of more than 115 undergraduate majors and concentrations and more than 60 graduate programs. High-demand degree programs in disciplines such as engineering, science, humanities, business, and the arts are accessible to students at the main campus in Cullowhee, Biltmore Park, and through online learning.

WCU is one of the best online colleges in North Carolina because all its bachelor’s degree programs--completion programs--are 100% online except for Engineering Technology, which has a hybrid format. Online graduate degree programs include construction management, entrepreneurship, education, and sports management. Certificate programs are offered in education, project management, nursing, and healthcare. WCU provides online tutoring support to distance learners and uses Blackboard as its online platform.

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8 Piedmont International University 62.60 3/5 32% Winston Salem, NC

Regarded as a leader in Bible-centered postsecondary education, Piedmont International’s programming works to develop effective ministry in a constantly changing world. The university’s courses, from dual enrollment for secondary students to doctoral degrees, cover areas of study including Bible studies, education, English, counselling, and the humanities.

Piedmont uses the Blackboard course management system to deliver affordable and accredited online undergraduate and graduate programs to students in the U.S. Online classes are delivered using PowerPoint presentations, audio, video, chat rooms, and discussion forums in seven-week sessions with six enrollment dates throughout the academic year. Piedmont’s online system allows online students to participate with in-classroom lectures and receive help directly from their professor. Prospective students can try Piedmont’s online demo, featuring a general education course and two graduate-level courses, to determine if online learning is right for them. Online courses at Piedmont typically consist of 15 students or less.

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9 Gardner-Webb University 59.17 4/5 45% Boiling Springs, NC

Gardner-Webb University is a leader in Christian higher education with a comprehensive academic program of more than 55 majors and minors. The school's undergraduate and graduate education is rooted in liberal arts and career preparation. The Boiling Springs institution’s programs feature small classes, individualized instruction, and professors dedicated to fostering students’ personal and professional success.

Gardner, one of the best online colleges in North Carolina, offers online programming to students in most states, including undergraduate degree completion in areas ranging from accounting and business administration to religious studies and nursing. Online graduate degree programs are offered in the fields of business, education, English, nursing, and sports pedagogy. For students seeking to work in a variety of financial industry fields, Gardner offers the hybrid Master of Wealth and Trust Management degree. Gardner-webb has a generous financial aid budget and inclusive aid policies to facilitate students educational attainment at the school.

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10 Fayetteville State University 58.13 2/5 31% Fayetteville, NC

Fayetteville State, a school dedicated to excellence in teaching, research, and community service, offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in education, arts and sciences, and business and economics. One of the North Carolina online colleges offering degree completion programs, Fayetteville offers baccalaureate-level distance learning in the fields of criminal justice, psychology, sociology, business administration, fire and emergency services administration, education, and nursing. Online graduate programs are offered in criminal justice and business administration.

The programs, delivered using the Canvas course management system, are rigorous, flexible, and affordable. Online degree-completion at FSU requires students to have already completed the school’s core curriculum or be dual enrolled at a partnering two-year college. Students have access to online resources such as academic support, library services, technical support, and career services for networking and career connections. Students must be able to return to the institution they last attended and have maintained a 2.0 GPA to earn an online-degree.

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11 Winston-Salem State University 57.92 3/5 40% Winston-Salem, NC

Founded in 1892, Winston-Salem State is a historically black institution with a diverse and vibrant academic community of learners. The institution offers more than 40 undergraduate majors rooted in a rigorous liberal education, in areas ranging from computer science and visual arts to accounting and elementary education; more than 10 graduate programs are available. The school’s Biomedical Research Infrastructure Center conducts research into preventing diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and neurological disorders and pain.

One of the best online colleges in North Carolina, Winston-Salem delivers accredited and affordable degrees, courses, and certificates to those unable to earn postsecondary credentials in a traditional classroom. Delivered using Blackboard, online programs require discussions, possible participation in team projects, and have assignment deadlines. For students with an associate degree, the school makes transferring credits into a baccalaureate program easy. Most online courses are not self-paced.

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12 North Carolina A & T State University 57.29 3/5 43% Greensboro, NC

Students enrolled at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical are exposed to interdisciplinary learning infused with cutting-edge research opportunities. The institution’s Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering offers four degree programs in nanoscience and nanoengineering, which soon may include distance learning options.

Online learning options at NCATSU use the latest technology and employ multiple instructional strategies and best practices. Online undergraduate and graduate degree programs include fields in communications, nursing, technology, and liberal studies. NCATSU is one of the best online colleges in North Carolina because in addition to the academic experience, online “Aggies” have opportunities to participate in the university's traditions, become leaders, and connect with students through its many online communities. Online resources include tutoring, Blackboard resources, career services, and a bookstore. The school takes transfer credit whether students have earned an associate degree or taken a few courses.

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13 North Carolina Central University 56.88 3/5 43% Durham, NC

For more than 100 years, North Carolina Central has embraced a tradition of teaching, research, and community service that prepares students to be transformational leaders. A Historical Black College, NCCU has a nationally recognized law school and acclaimed programs in areas such as the visual and performing arts, business, and humanities. The school has research institutes in fields such as biotechnology, biomedicine, and computational sciences.

One of the best online colleges in North Carolina, NCCU offers eight undergraduate and master’s programs 100% online. Degree completion programs are offered in criminal justice, early childhood education, and nursing. Online master’s degree programs in information science, library science, educational technology, and counseling are available, with various certificate programs in areas such as e-learning and health informatics. NCCU’s online criminal justice degree is highly ranked for quality and value. Credited classes are not self-paced. Non-credit classes are available online.

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14 University of Mount Olive 55.73 3/5 44% Mount Olive, NC

Mount Olive is a Christian private institution with education programs rooted in the liberal arts tradition. Programs are available to freshmen, students seeking to transfer, working adults, and military personnel in a wide range of majors and minors. In the school’s fast-track program, adult learners meet once per week at one of seven locations throughout the state or take classes online.

UMO, one of the online colleges in North Carolina, has an undergraduate catalog for adult learners that includes online accelerated degree programs in criminal justice, nursing, and general studies. The school’s graduate programs in business administration, nursing and education are delivered 100% online. Mount Olive has affordable online degrees, committed professors, small class sizes, and generous transfer credit policies. All classes are delivered asynchronously, allowing students maximum flexibility. Mount Olive was ranked as a top 20 college in North Carolina for 2016 by Affordable Colleges Online.

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15 Pfeiffer University 54.48 3/5 41% Misenheimer, NC

Affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Pfeiffer University works to prepare servant leaders empowered with educational programming that is rigorous, innovative, and student-centered. At its campuses in Misenheimer, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and online, the institution’s undergraduate and graduate degree programs span the academic disciplines of business, arts and sciences, education, and applied health.

At this online college in North Carolina, degree completion programs for returning students are available in the fields of business management and leadership, criminal justice, and health administration. Pfeiffer’s online graduate degree programs--MBA, Master of Health Administration, and Master of Science in Leadership--are dual degree programs that can be combined. The online Master of Science in Financial Fraud Investigation is the state’s first of its kind and prepares graduates to test for the fraud examiner certification. The institution also offers a number of certificate programs that can be earned online.

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16 University of North Carolina at Asheville 51.35 3/5 55% Asheville, NC

UNC Asheville boasts a rigorous curriculum, award-winning faculty, and small class sizes that attracts about 4,000 students each year. The institution focuses on undergraduate education featuring faculty-mentored research projects, career-related internships, and student participation in projects that improve lives.

Full-time students at UNC Asheville take online classes through the University of North Carolina Online, where the 16 North Carolina online colleges offer more than 190 online degree programs and courses in 22 fields. In order for UNC Asheville students to participate in the UNC Online program, they must be an undergraduate degree-seeking student, be seeking a second degree, or a teacher licensure student. Students can transfer course credits earned online to fulfill UNC Asheville’s degree requirements. Some tests must either be taken on-campus or under the supervision of a proctor; UNC Online helps students find and schedule proctors. The school offers study abroad programs in over 50 countries and many internships for students to gain real-life experience.

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17 University of North Carolina at Pembroke 50.10 3/5 34% Pembroke, NC

UNC Pembroke, a diverse community of more than 6,200 students, is a growing university with 41 undergraduate and 17 graduate degree programs. The Office of Distance Education offers flexible programs to off-campus and online students in a number of disciplines.

Online baccalaureate degree completion programs are available in criminal justice, sociology, interdisciplinary education, and business administration; online graduate programs are offered in business administration, public administration, and elementary education. UNC Pembroke is one of the best online colleges in North Carolina because of programs such as the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS). This degree is designed for students who have earned an associate degree and want to transfer without losing many credits. The BIS program allows students to choose from a number of majors, many can be taken 100% online.

Students have online access to library collections and resources in various formats. Tutoring is offered online through the writing center, and students can buy their books online at UNC Pembroke’s bookstore.

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18 Barton College 47.08 4/5 48% Wilson, NC

Barton, located in Wilson, is a liberal arts institution nationally recognized for academic excellence in areas such as education, nursing, and social work (the schools championship athletics teams are also well known). Barton is a small community of approximately 1,000 learners and offers more than 30 academic majors at the undergraduate and graduate levels through its eight schools.

Barton offers an accelerated learning baccalaureate programs in areas such as special education, business, and social work. The school offers a unique graduate program, the Strategic Leadership MBA, and baccalaureate-holding students can earn it in 16 months. Many online courses at Barton are hybrid; students meet face-to-face and take some classes online depending on the program. Students have access to online tutoring services, the BulldogsCARE program, academic advising, and online access to the library. The BulldogsCARE program is designed to help students identify academic issues and assist in solving them.

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19 Montreat College 45.73 3/5 42% Montreat, NC

Montreat, an independent Christian college located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, near Asheville, offers 19 undergraduate majors, 48 minors and concentrations, and four graduate degree programs. The school has a cutting-edge cybersecurity program and 100% placement rate for biology majors applying to med school.

Associate and baccalaureate degree programs are offered online in business, general studies, management, psychology and human services, Bible and religion, and cybersecurity; a Master of Science in Management and Leadership is offered online. The school delivers its programming through Moodle, with classes meeting online for five to eight weeks. Montreat notes its tuition is almost 25% lower than the national average for private postsecondary institutions and that 99% of students receive some form of financial aid, including academic and athletic scholarships. Distance learners have access to the school’s writing center. They can email papers for electronic review; on-campus consultation is recommended.

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20 Campbell University 44.79 4/5 51% Buies Creek, NC

Campbell is a private university with more than 150 programs between its four campuses and online school. The school has a long history with the U.S. military, providing military and veteran students with education and training opportunities.

One of the best online colleges in North Carolina, Campbell University has comprehensive online undergraduate offerings, including a Bachelor of Applied Science degrees in the fields of accounting, business, criminal justice, and homeland security. Graduate degree programs are offered online in business administration (MBA), clinical research, and education. Associate degrees and certification programs are also available. Flexible eight-week online degree programs are available to adult learners and military personnel. All incoming online students work with counselors to chart an educational path, including the transfer of traditional and military credits. Campbell offers online tutoring services and career development resources. It’s home to the only four-year homeland security degree in North Carolina.

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More About Online Colleges in North Carolina

Many schools in North Carolina, from elementary to college and beyond, have embraced online learning. K-12 teachers and students have access to virtual materials that enhance the learning experience and prepare students for higher education. The state’s 58 community colleges have banded together to create the Virtual Learning Community, a program that gives high school students, recent graduates and professionals the opportunity to earn a degree, diploma or credentialing online. Enrollment in the University of North Carolina system allows students to take online classes offered by any of the 16 public, 4-year schools in the state.

During the 2014-15 school year, out-of-state students attending a public 4-year university in North Carolina paid about $34,000 for that year’s tuition and fees; these students have seen their tuition increase 20% in the last five years. Online students from most states are still required to pay an average of roughly $22,000 in out-of-state tuition, though those who live in one of the 16 Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) member states may be eligible for in-state or discounted pricing.

As illustrated in the graph below, students pursuing online degrees in North Carolina tend to be in-state students. Online classes and programs afford students the flexibility they need to earn their degrees while maintaining personal and professional responsibilities, and the enrollment trends suggest that distance learners prefer to be close enough to their schools to use the resources but not tied to campus.

Browse our list of the best online colleges in North Carolina for more insight into distance learning programs in this state.

NCES Report

According to a 2014 report published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 66,558 of the 584,722 graduate and undergraduate students enrolled at a Title IV postsecondary school in North Carolina in 2012 were enrolled in exclusively online programs.

Best Online Colleges in North Carolina of 2016
Rank School Location
1 North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC
2 Piedmont International University Winston-Salem, NC
3 University of North Carolina at Greensboro Greensboro, NC
4 Gardner-Webb University Boiling Springs, NC
5 University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte, NC
6 University of Mount Olive Mt. Olive, NC
7 North Carolina Central University Durham, NC
8 Winston-Salem State University Winston-Salem, NC
9 Pfeiffer University Misenheimer, NC
10 Fayetteville State University Fayetteville, NC
11 North Carolina A&T State University Greensboro, NC
12 University of North Carolina at Pembroke Pembroke, NC
13 Campbell University Buies Creek, NC
14 Montreat College Montreat, NC
15 Lees-McRae College Banner Elk, NC