Best Online Colleges in South Carolina

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleBest Collegesin South Carolina2017
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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.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Clemson University 85.45 82% Clemson, SC

Clemson University Online, one of the most popular online colleges in South Carolina, offers two types of flexible programs to meet the varied needs of today’s busy graduate students. Online students can access all of their required course content conveniently from a laptop while meeting the flexibility required by a busy schedule. For those seeking connection with instructors beyond emails or message boards, Clemson’s blended programs also include scheduled online meetings and in-person courses.

Master’s degrees are offered in both the sciences and the arts, including biological sciences, construction management, and teaching and learning, among others. For those who are further along in their education journey, online doctorate opportunities are available to students in the healthcare genetics program or the recreational therapy cognate program. Clemson University Online includes staff in six different departments at their headquarters in Pendleton, NC, ensuring that every online student’s success is maximized.

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2 University of South Carolina-Columbia 67.73 72% Columbia, SC

Graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the USC-Columbia is easy and convenient. After completing two years (45-60 credit hours) of prerequisite college courses at any technical college, including any of USC’s conveniently located Palmetto College campuses across the state, students can declare a major and complete the rest of their bachelor’s degree entirely online.

The 14 available programs for online completion include elementary education, health promotion, criminal justice, liberal studies, and more, allowing students of all interests to graduate with a top-notch USC degree without sacrificing their personal obligations or current job. Students who want to continue their education can go on to earn an online master’s degree in education, nursing, public health, or information technology. The flexibility of earning a bachelor’s degree within the USC system makes it no surprise that it’s a popular choice among South Carolina online colleges.

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3 North Greenville University 65.45 54% Tigerville, SC

North Greenville, located in Tigerville, SC, is a private, Christian institution affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. NGU offers six different undergraduate degrees for online students, including business administration, Christian ministry, criminal justice, psychology, elementary education, and general studies.

Enrollment in any of the College of Adult Professional Studies’ (CAPS) online degree programs is limited to students who are at least 22 years of age, which makes NGU one of the best online colleges in South Carolina for adults returning to college or seeking a bachelor’s degree for the first time. Students can complete the short courses in as little as eight weeks, have a dedicated advisor throughout the program, and receive access to the career services department at NGU. As a Christ-centered university, NGU strives to integrate academics with a Christian worldview and lifestyle, encouraging spiritual growth and service.

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4 Anderson University 64.77 48% Anderson, SC

Also affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention is Anderson University, which was originally chartered as a four-year college for women in 1911. Today, Anderson has expanded and offers 19 undergraduate online degree opportunities -- in areas of business, criminal justice, and Christian studies -- and five online graduate degree opportunities, including a master of music in music education.

The flexibility of Anderson’s programs make it one of the top online colleges in South Carolina. Several programs offer concentrations within a specific field, allowing students to receive a more narrowly-focused educational experience than a general degree would allow. For example, students enrolled in a criminal justice program have the option to focus on law enforcement, homeland security, or various tracks in emergency services management. Similarly, business administration students may choose to turn their focus to applied computing or healthcare management.

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5 University of South Carolina-Upstate 59.32 38% Spartanburg, SC

USC-Upstate works with the USC-affiliated Palmetto College campuses across the state to create a flexible environment for students to earn their bachelor’s degree. First, two years of instruction are completed at any Palmetto College campus. Following the completion of their associate degree, students are then able to enroll USC-Upstate’s 100% online degree programs, which can be completed in less than two years. Programs include criminal justice, information management and systems, and a degree plan that allows registered nurses to further their career opportunities by earning their bachelor’s of science in nursing (RN-BSN).

An important feature of online colleges in South Carolina are the services they provide to distance learners. USC-Upstate allows and encourages students to join student organizations and has a dedicated distance education librarian available to call or email for assistance with students’ research needs. In addition to having access to all library services and electronic resources, books or articles that are not available online can be mailed to students’ homes for their convenience.

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6 Lander University 58.86 40% Greenwood, SC

Founded in 1872 and located in Greenwood, Lander has a smaller selection of available subject areas compared to other online colleges in South Carolina. However, its bachelor of science in nursing curriculum is highly regarded. Lander has been a leader in nursing education for over 50 years, with its program having been approved by the State Board of Nursing and accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Offered completely online for RNs who have completed their associate degree or earned their diploma, the BSN program focuses on community health, leadership, management, and research, providing convenient web-based classes and clinical experiences close to students’ homes. Lander also offers a certificate program in healthcare management, which involves the completion of four college-level courses to strengthen students’ healthcare leadership and management skills.

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7 University of South Carolina-Aiken 58.86 43% Aiken, SC

USC-Aiken offers online courses through its Department of Continuing Education. Although the programs offered do not lead directly to a bachelor’s degree, USC-Aiken has several opportunities to earn certificates of completion. Additionally, the school offers unique opportunities for students that you might not ordinarily find in South Carolina online colleges, including online programs for seniors and tailor-made training for professional development of company employees.

For the traditional student, USC-Aiken offers various courses in career training, such as healthcare and fitness, IT and software development, and media and design, among others. Non-credit classes, which run for six weeks and are focused on the completion of projects to expand students’ knowledge, include categories like grant writing, test prep, and childcare. Finally, USC-Aiken offers a truly unique program in their 100% online equestrian classes. Students can choose from 26 different courses to participate in the long standing equestrian tradition of Aiken, South Carolina.

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8 Limestone College 52.27 42% Gaffney, SC

In addition to offering evening classes in eight different convenient locations throughout the state, Limestone College in Gaffney, SC, offers online degree programs specifically designed for adult learners who are also balancing work and family. By limiting the amount of classes students can take each term to two (totaling 36 credit hours each year), Limestone makes sure students won’t overload their academic schedule.

Limestone College offers degree plans online in various disciplines at varying levels. Associate degrees can be earned in business administration, computer science programming, and web development, while those interested in a bachelor’s degree can choose over 10 different areas of study. These include social work, psychology, human resource management, liberal studies, and more. Like other online colleges in South Carolina, Limestone has partnered with various technical colleges throughout the state, making it possible for credit to be transferred easily for those who have completed an associate of arts or science degree.

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9 Charleston Southern University 51.59 38% Charleston, SC

Charleston Southern is one of South Carolina’s largest accredited universities, holds fast to its core Christian values, and offers two online degrees for undergraduates and a larger number of online degrees for graduate students. Similar to other online colleges in South Carolina, the bachelor’s degree programs offered at Charleston Southern, including a BS in organizational management, and a bachelor of technology in computer systems and information sciences, are designed for students who have previously earned an associate degree in a technical field.

For graduate students, CSU offers eight different programs of study, including education, criminal justice, and Christian studies, among others. These programs are designed to cultivate skills and provide advanced understanding of students’ chosen fields. All programs are designed with flexible schedules, and the MBA is specifically noted as being less expensive than many other MBA programs offered elsewhere.

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10 Columbia College 47.73 46% Columbia, SC

Finally, one of the best online colleges in South Carolina is based in the state’s capital, at Columbia College. Offering online programs in criminal justice, nursing, and disaster and emergency management, Columbia gives students the opportunity to earn either their bachelor’s or master’s degrees depending on the area of study selected. Classes are available entirely online and taught by dedicated professionals with real world experience in their fields.

Students at Columbia College have a variety of online resources available. Student success coaches, available through phone or email, offer online students the support and assistance they need, starting from the very beginning of the applications progress and carrying through to the time of commencement. In addition, students enrolled in an online degree program with Columbia College have 24/7 access to free, on-demand tutoring through Pearson’s Smarthinking program.

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If you want to qualify for a range of high-paying job opportunities, earning a college degree is key. When deciding where and what you want to study, you may end up weighing both in-state and out-of-state schools. If you are from South Carolina, there are many advantages to attending college in your home state. Sticking close to home can qualify you for in-state tuition and help you build a network of regional professional contacts. You may also benefit from your school’s name recognition on the local job market, and you’ll be relatively close by if you need to occasionally visit campus.

When researching programs, be sure to consider our list of the most affordable online colleges in South Carolina. All of the schools in this list are accredited, and our rankings highlight the colleges that offer the best blend of affordable tuition and return on investment.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Clemson University 81.36 82% Clemson, SC

Clemson, one of the most affordable online colleges in South Carolina, offers an array of online programs that employ innovative technologies. While some programs are fully online, others combine online and in-person instruction.

Clemson’s online degrees include master’s programs in industrial engineering and healthcare genetics as well as a doctorate in rhetoric, communication, and information design. Coursework is accessible by all students; the school employs necessary audio and visual resources for students with disabilities. Clemson delivers online programs in each of the 50 states, including those that do not participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements.

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2 University of South Carolina-Aiken 73.18 40% Aiken, SC

Established in 1961, the University of South Carolina – Aiken is part of the state’s university system. The school's online bachelor's offerings are degree completion programs, which require students to complete the first two years of the degree on one of the university's campuses. Courses in the last two years are taught entirely online through the Palmetto College.

Respected as one of the most affordable online colleges in South Carolina, USC-Aiken’s tuition is slightly higher for non-residents of South Carolina. Online programs include business administration in accounting, business administration in management, and special education. All online programs are designed by USC – Aiken's faculty.

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3 University of South Carolina-Columbia 69.09 72% Columbia, SC

Located in Columbia, the University of South Carolina was founded more than 200 years ago and is the flagship institution of the state’s university system. USC awards bachelor’s and master’s degrees through its online programs, which offer distance learners a degree of flexibility. The degrees are offered through the university's Palmetto College, which also includes a myriad of online classes.

One of the best colleges in South Carolina, USC requires bachelor’s degree seekers to complete the first two years of bachelor's requirements on campus before they transition to online studies. Admission to undergraduate and graduate programs requires an application and official transcripts. USC pairs learners with an adviser upon acceptance.

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4 University of South Carolina-Upstate 63.64 39% Spartanburg, SC

Located in Spartanburg, the University of South Carolina-Upstate was founded in 1967 and is home to about 6,000 students who represent 26 states and 17 countries. The school offers the final two years of coursework for several bachelor’s degrees through online programs and many graduate classes.

Distance learners find USC-Upstate one of the most affordable online colleges in South Carolina. The university makes financial aid available to students in need. Online students and on-campus students pay the same tuition. Classes may be taught either asynchronously or synchronously, depending on the professor's preference. USC-Upstate also makes all campus-based student services available to online learners.

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5 Lander University 60.00 47% Greenwood, SC

Lander University was founded in 1872, and with only 3,000 students, is one of the smallest colleges in South Carolina with an online program. The university offers a robust RN-to-BSN online program. This is currently the only degree Lander offers online, although it delivers an array of individual courses online.

Admission to Lander requires an application. First-time freshmen must submit an official high school transcript and either SAT or ACT scores. The school only accepts transfer credits that were earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Students under age 21 must also meet freshman admission requirements.

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6 North Greenville University 57.27 52% Tigerville, SC

North Greenville University’s fully-accredited, completely online programs for undergraduate degree seekers accommodate working professionals with demanding schedules. Online courses are short, requiring just eight weeks to complete. Moreover, this Christian institution ensures that classes integrate biblical principles.

Considered a standout among affordable online colleges in South Carolina, the university offers online degrees in Christian ministries, psychology, and criminal justice. The university accepts applications from students who are at least 22 years old and have earned either a high school diploma or GED. Distance learners who enter as freshmen must submit high school transcripts. Transfer applicants must submit all colleges transcripts.

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7 University of South Carolina-Beaufort 56.82 26% Bluffton, SC

With just over 1,750 students, the University of South Carolina – Beaufort is a small, public university, and one of the most affordable online colleges in South Carolina. The school maintains a small student-to-faculty ratio.

Established in the 1700s, USCB delivers online programs through its Palmetto College. Students looking to complete their bachelor’s degree online may do so after earning at least 60 credits through face-to-face instruction. Learners can earn these credits at any Palmetto campus or any technical college. USCB awards degrees in health promotion, hospitality management, and human services.

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8 Columbia College 51.82 44% Columbia, SC

Its commitment to academic excellence and robust online programs are why Columbia College ranks among the best colleges in South Carolina. CC offers bachelor’s degrees in subjects like nursing and fire science as well as master’s degrees in criminal justice and athletic coaching.

Students only pay the cost of tuition; the college does not require technology fees for online courses. While degree completion times vary, undergraduate programs like disaster and emergency management require about three years, while the graduate program in criminal justice takes around 20 months. Columbia’s online programs operate in a cohort format, meaning a set group of learners progress through each program together. Bachelor’s-level classes begin every five weeks, and master’s-level classes begin every eight weeks.

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9 Anderson University 43.64 46% Anderson, SC

Anderson University is committed to providing liberal arts education, with the goal of preparing students for success in their career, community, and church. The university is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and its online programs reflect Christian principles.

Online undergraduate majors include business administration, human services, and Christian studies; graduate majors include a master’s in marketing and a doctorate in ministry. First-time college enrollees must submit a high school transcript or GED. Transfer students must submit transcripts from the colleges they previously attended. Anderson informs graduate degree applicants of any additional materials they must submit once they complete an admission application.

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10 Charleston Southern University 37.73 35% Charleston, SC

Charleston Southern University ranks among the most affordable colleges in South Carolina and has a reputation for incorporating belief in faith and service in its academic programs. Charleston Southern enrolls more than 3,600 learners and is an independent university affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

CSU’s online programs offer students the opportunity to earn bachelor’s degrees in healthcare administration and human resource management, as well as master’s degrees in analytics and Christian studies. Applicants who wish to transfer previously earned college credits should have earned at least 24 credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Transfer courses must include equivalents to CSU’s Math 111 and English 111.

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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).

Best Online Colleges of South Carolina in 2016
Rank School Location
1 North Greenville University Tigerville, SC
2 University of South Carolina - Columbia Columbia, SC
3 Anderson University Anderson, SC
4 Coastal Carolina University Conway, SC
5 Columbia College Columbia, SC
6 Lander University Greenwood, SC
7 Claflin University Orangeburg, SC
8 Charleston Southern University Charleston, SC
9 Limestone College Gaffney, SC
10 Southern Wesleyan University Central, SC