Best Online Colleges in South Carolina

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Online colleges in South Carolina are monitored by the state’s Commission on Higher Education (CHE), which mandates a comprehensive set of standards and principles for distance education. This regulatory board stresses the importance of progressive instructional policy and encourages equitable access to online education and cooperation among the state’s many colleges and universities. The CHE also prioritizes quality instruction and insists that distance education programs be held to the same rigorous academic standards as their on-campus counterparts.

South Carolina is a member of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), an education coalition consisting of 16 states stretching from Oklahoma to Delaware. SREB membership benefits include access to the Academic Common Market (ACM). The arrangement allows students in South Carolina to enroll in select out-of-state programs while paying in-state tuition.

Students enrolled in online colleges in South Carolina enjoy many advantages. Most online programs allow students to work at their own pace, which is especially beneficial to students with busy work schedules. In addition to the reduced rates afforded to them by the ACM agreement, distance learners in South Carolina often enjoy dramatically lower tuition fees when they study at a school in their home state. Certain online programs, especially in STEM disciplines, incorporate in-person elements in the curriculum, including work-study programs, internships, study abroad opportunities, and hybrid courses.

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 Greenville University

 3/550.4%Tigerville, SC


Founded as a high school in 1891, North Greenville is ideal for students looking for online opportunities can enroll in a number of undergraduate and graduate degree programs through the university’s College of Adult Professional Studies.

Bachelor’s programs include business administration, educational studies, and psychology, while graduate options include master’s degrees in music education and teaching, along with a doctor of ministry program. The school is closely affiliated with South Carolina Baptist Convention, and students looking for religious studies can pursue either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Christian ministry.

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University of South Carolina – Columbia

 3/573%Columbia, SC


The University of South Carolina offers online bachelor's degree completion programs through the Palmetto College. These programs are open to students who have earned at least 60 college credit hours and meet degree grade point requirements. Majors offered include criminal justice, health promotion, nursing, and liberal studies.

USC also features several graduate degree options for students who have already obtained an undergraduate education. Students can earn online master’s degrees in health information technology, public health, and educational administration. The school also offers an EdD in curriculum & instruction.

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Anderson University

 4/551.75%Anderson, SC


Deeply committed to providing a well-rounded liberal arts education amidst a Christian backdrop, Anderson University offers 16 online bachelor’s degree programs, with majors including criminal justice, organizational leadership, and business administration.

Graduate offerings include a master’s degree in education as well as a doctor of ministry. In keeping with its religious roots, AU offers three Christian studies programs (one each at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels) that allow students to explore their understanding of theology.

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Coastal Carolina University

 2/545.22%Conway, SC


Coastal Carolina University offers a wide range of courses in the areas of arts & humanities, business, education, interdisciplinary studies, library science, and math & science.

Coastal Carolina provides various tools and methods to help online students maximize their learning opportunities. As is the case with on-campus students, every online student is assigned an academic adviser who provides instruction and guidance. The school also has a technological help desk and an office of international programs for students from another country.

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Columbia College – SC

 4/547.29%Columbia, SC


Nationally recognized for its renowned honors program, Columbia College’s degrees are devoted to career preparation and leadership development, with bachelor’s degrees offered in criminal justice and emergency management, along with a master of arts in criminal justice.

To assist students, Columbia employs student success coaches to provide support at every step of the program, from the application process to graduation. Coaches might ensure application packages are complete, provide technical support, and explain graduation requirements. The school also offers free on-demand tutoring for students who feel they need further instruction.

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Lander University

 3/544.95%Greenwood, SC

Founded in 1872, Lander University is an institute in Greenwood that is well-known among for its professional programs in business and nursing. The school offers a BS in nursing and a BS in criminal justice management. Also available is a health care management certificate program.

While the school only offers three degree programs online, students enrolled in an on-campus program at Lander can supplement their education with online courses. Online course topics include mass media, American literature, theater appreciation, and commercial law.

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Claflin University

 3/549.24%Orangeburg, SC

Claflin University first opened in 1869 and has degree programs in criminal justice, organizational management, curriculum and instruction, and business administration.

Classes last eight weeks and students generally take two or three classes at a time. Claflin features five sessions: two each in the fall and spring semesters and another in the summer. Students with an associate degree can complete their coursework in three semesters and one summer session, meaning that they can earn a bachelor's degree in just 18 months.

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Charleston Southern University

 4/534.1%Charleston, SC

Affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, CSU provides a top-notch education in a Christian environment. One of the school’s most popular offerings is an MA in Christian studies program. Bachelor’s programs are available in organizational management, computer systems & information sciences, and an RN to BSN track.

Students can also pursue graduate programs in organizational leadership, organizational management, business administration, nursing, criminal justice, and computer science.

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Limestone College

 4/528.38%Gaffney, SC

Limestone College specializes in undergraduate education, offering a wide range of bachelor’s and associate’s degree programs. Students can pursue degrees in human resource management, liberal studies, psychology, and health care administration.

These programs are designed with working adults in mind, as the asynchronous course format allows students to complete coursework at the time and pace of their choosing. Professors at CSU have “office hours” during which they are available to speak with students online, and students in this program are required to take online exams with an approved proctor.

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Southern Wesleyan University

 4/548.59%Central, SC

Initially established as Wesleyan Methodist Bible Institute, Southern Wesleyan University is ideal for students seeking an accelerated degree path. Students take one course at a time, and with the exception of some master’s courses, most online courses at SWU can be completed in six or seven weeks.

The school focuses primarily on graduate education, with several master’s degree programs in majors such as business administration, classroom leadership, and management & leadership. SWU has undergraduate options as well; the school offers an AA in general studies and a BS in business administration.

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More About Online Colleges in South Carolina

Following a national trend, South Carolina’s schools have expanded their online offerings in recent years to accommodate increased demand for distance learning options. While tuition and fees at public, four-year South Carolina colleges have increased by 30.2% over the last five years, state funding for postsecondary education decreased by 23.8% alongside. Accordingly, students pursuing higher education degrees in South Carolina have turned to online programs, where tuition and attendance costs are significantly lower.

In 2009, The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education implemented the Higher Education Action Plan, designed to accomplish four goals supporting statewide education, the local workforce and potential human resources in the area. Objectives include increasing research opportunities and expanding relevant workforce training throughout the state. Additional initiatives endeavor to increase college enrollment and higher education opportunities, including the South Carolina Education and Economic Development Act and the SmartState Program, which builds endowment funds for the state’s research universities.

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

NCES Report

As of fall 2012 enrollment, NCES reports indicate that 5.9% (15,598) of students in South Carolina’s Title IV institutions enrolled in exclusively online programs.

  • .5% of students at four-year institutions studied entirely online
  • 9.6% of students at two-year institutions studied entirely online
  • 94.4% were living in South Carolina
  • 4.5% were living elsewhere in the United States

South Carolina’s division of higher learning has partnered with several state agencies to pursue progressive online education initiatives. Among the broadest efforts in the state is the Partnership Among South Carolina Academic Libraries (PASCAL), which provides online resources to residential and distance students across the state. The majority of South Carolina colleges and universities offer comprehensive distance learning options, including programs available through the state’s participation in the Online Education Database (OEDb).