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.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

North Carolina State University

 2/574.98%Raleigh, NC


North Carolina State University awards associate, baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral degrees.

Nineteen undergraduate certificates are offered in topics including agricultural business management, fabric manufacturing, and leadership in the public sector, among others. Undergraduate online degree programs emphasize bachelor degree completion in engineering, leadership in the public sector, and agricultural business. Teacher licensure programs are designed for students who already have bachelor's degrees and/or teaching positions.

North Carolina State has an extensive array of master's degree programs in engineering, environmental sciences, teacher education, and more.

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Piedmont International University

 2/5N/AWinston-Salem, NC


The mission of Piedmont International University is to provide “quality, Bible-centered higher education for lifetime ministry”. Programs at the school are usually limited to 15 students per online course, and curriculum is delivered in a seven-week format through the Blackboard Learning Management System.

Online undergraduate degree options include an associate degree in Bible and Christian ministries, bachelor of arts (BA) degrees in Bible and Christian ministry, and a bachelor of science (BS) degree in sign language interpreting.

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University of North Carolina at Greensboro

 2/555.61%Greensboro, NC


UNCG offers both synchronous and asynchronous online classes, plus a series of “ready to learn modules” to help students determine whether online learning is right for them.

Students at UNCG can choose from eight undergraduate degrees and 11 graduate degrees in topics including business and information technology, health, education, public service, and social sciences and humanities. The school also offers 13 different post-baccalaureate certificates and post-master's certificates in all the disciplines listed above.

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Gardner-Webb University

 4/553.97%Boiling Springs, NC


Regarded as a leader in Christian education, Gardner-Webb awards associate, baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral degrees. Notably, its fully online programs cannot admit students living in Alabama, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Online undergraduate programs at the school include accounting, business administration, computer information systems, criminal justice, elementary education, entrepreneurship, healthcare management, nursing, and religious studies. Graduate programs include business, education, nursing, English, and sport pedagogy.

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University of North Carolina at Charlotte

 2/554.53%Charlotte, NC


UNCC delivers baccalaureate degree completion, master's degrees, graduate certificates, and teacher licensure programs online in both synchronous and asynchronous formats.

Online program options cover education, engineering, and health and human services. Of note is the school's online RN to MSN bridge program. Non-North Carolina residents should check program availability in their states.

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University of Mount Olive


Emphasizing personalized, values-based learning in the liberal arts tradition, University of Mount Olive awards associate, baccalaureate, and master's degrees. The University has received extensive recognition for quality programs and is noted as a military-friendly school.

It offers fully online degree programs, including an associate degree in general studies, a BS completion program in criminal justice & criminology, an RN to BSN bridge program, and a master of business administration (MBA). All programs are offered in an asynchronous format, allowing students to complete their degree on their own schedules.

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North Carolina Central University

 2/546.78%Durham, NC

Founded in 1909, NCCU was the first public liberal arts institution for African Americans in the U.S., and now awards baccalaureate, master's, education specialist, and doctoral degrees.

Students can pursue fully online programs, including a bachelor's degree completion program in criminal justice, an RN to BSN program, master's degree completion programs in information science, library science, educational technology, and career counseling, and a teacher licensure program for lateral entry.

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Winston-Salem State University

 2/545.75%Winston-Salem, NC

One of the nation's top Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), WSSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Online courses are taught in a synchronous format using the Blackboard Learning Management System. Online programs include a TESL add-on licensure, a BS in clinical laboratory science, an RN to BSN program, a bachelor of interdisciplinary studies (BIS) (with a concentration in integrative studies), a birth to kindergarten education (BKE) degree program, an MS in rehabilitation counseling, and an MS in nursing degree advanced nurse educator (ANE) concentration.

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Pfeiffer University

 4/534.9%Misenheimer, NC

Pfeiffer University is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Methodist tradition and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Online undergraduate programs at the school include BS degree completion programs in health administration, business management and leadership, criminal justice, and an RN to BSN program. Students can also pursue graduate degrees in business administration, health administration, leadership, and financial fraud investigation. Graduate certificates are available in health administration and leadership, as are professional certificates in health management, long term care management, and medical practice management.

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Fayetteville State University

 1/534.6%Fayetteville, NC

Fayetteville offers only upper division courses online. Authorization from the applicant's home state is required for out-of-state online students, and students must have completed core requirements or be attending a community college before enrolling in a degree completion program.

FSU's online undergraduate degree programs include a BS in criminal justice, a BS in psychology, a BA in sociology, a BS in fire & emergency services administration, a bachelor of business administration, an RN to BSN, and a BS in birth through kindergarten (non-teaching). Graduate students can pursue an MS in criminal justice and a master of business administration.

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North Carolina A&T State University

 2/547.93%Greensboro, NC

NC A&T is a historically black college offering multiple online undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs to help students pursue their professional goals. The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is one of NC A&T's many distinguished alumni.

Popular online undergraduate programs include a BS in agricultural education, a BS in business education, a BS in environmental health & safety, and an RN to BSN program. Graduate online degree programs include an MS in agricultural education, an MS in information technology, an MA in teaching, a PhD in leadership studies, and a PhD in technology management.

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University of North Carolina at Pembroke

 2/534.35%Pembroke, NC

Originally founded to educate Native American teachers, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke has professionally trained staff available to support online students.

Online undergraduate degree completion programs include a BA in criminal justice, a BA in sociology, a BIS in applied professional studies, a BIS in applied information technology, a BIS in criminal justice, a BIS in public and nonprofit administration, and a BS in business administration (finance and management tracks). Students can also pursue graduate degrees including a master of business administration, a master of education in elementary education, and a master of public administration.

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Campbell University

 4/550.56%Buies Creek, NC

Campbell University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Known for its military-friendly benefits, Campbell's online programs started at Camp Lejeune.

Distance students at the school can pursue online associate degrees in general education, business administration, criminal justice, information technology, arts in religion, behavioral sciences, and homeland security. Several bachelor's degrees are available, including those in criminal justice, psychology, and information technology. Graduate students can choose from master's degrees in business administration, clinical research, and education. Certificates in Christian studies are available as well.

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Montreat College

 4/537.29%Montreat, NC

A Christian college related to the Presbyterian church, 70% of the student body at Montreat College is employed or in graduate school, and 99% of students receive financial aid. Of note is the school's preaching and Evangelism program for students pursuing a career in the ministry.

Montreat College offers the following 100% online degree programs: associate degrees in business and general studies, bachelor's degrees in Bible and religion, psychology and human services, business administration (with concentrations in cybersecurity, human resources management, and marketing), and master's degrees in management & leadership.

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Lees-McRae College

 4/537.99%Banner Elk, NC

Lees-McRae College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College. In addition to its well-regarded academic programs, Lees-McRae offers all online students access to SALT, a free money management training program.

Four online bachelor's degree completion programs are available through the school, including a BAAS in criminal justice, a BS in elementary education, a BAAS in human services, and an RN to BSN. Most online programs can be completed in two years. Associate's degrees in related fields or significant, transferable hours of college-level work are required for admission to these programs.

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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.