Best Colleges in South Carolina
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According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the undergraduate student population in the U.S. is projected to grow from 16.8 million in 2017 to 17.2 million in 2028. College attendance continues to increase as more students seek to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by postsecondary credentials. However, the sheer variety of degree options may feel overwhelming as you look for a school that aligns with your academic interests and career goals. This guide assists your search by detailing the 25 best colleges in South Carolina. Our assessment considers factors like financial aid availability, tuition rates, and retention and graduation rates.
The following rankings also provide information on each school's program offerings, distance education platform (if available), and student resources. You can also learn about general admission requirements. If a college grabs your interest, contact the relevant admissions specialists directly to get more help with the enrollment process.
Top 10 Colleges in South Carolina
- Clemson University - Clemson, SC
- Columbia International University - Columbia, SC
- The Citadel - Charleston, SC
- North Greenville University - Tigerville, SC
- Furman University - Greenville, SC
- University of South Carolina - Columbia, SC
- Southern Wesleyan University - Central, SC
- University of South Carolina - Aiken, SC
- Wofford College - Spartanburg, SC
- University of South Carolina - Spartanburg, SC
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By attending a South Carolina university, you stand to benefit from the state's robust economy. Ample career opportunities exist in major industries like advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, and healthcare. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, as of October 2019, South Carolina's unemployment rate sits at 2.6% -- well below the national average. Furthermore, South Carolina boasts a relatively low cost of living. Even in a large city like Columbia, living expenses fall 3% below the U.S. standard.
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As the second-largest higher education institution in South Carolina, Clemson University enrolls over 25,000 students through seven colleges, awarding 80 undergraduate and 110 graduate degrees. Prospective first-year students undergo a holistic evaluation process that considers GPA, class rank, ACT/SAT performance, and choice of major. Transfer candidates need at least 30 credits earned with a minimum 2.5 GPA. The university offers a variety of financial aid opportunities, including the Gateway Scholarships for students from underrepresented communities.
Bachelor's candidates pick from majors like psychology, women's leadership, material science and engineering, and graphic communication. They can also enroll in an agricultural mechanization and business program that combines technological knowledge and management skills. Through Clemson's Creative Inquiry Initiative, undergraduate students may access research guidance and project funding.
Graduate programs include master's tracks in microbiology; digital production arts; and parks, recreation, and tourism management. Candidates may also pursue a Ph.D. in healthcare genetics. These doctoral candidates can pick from three specialized tracks: intervention, bench science, and ethics and health policy.
Columbia International University was founded as a Bible school in 1923. Today, the institution offers comprehensive academics to over 1,200 students annually. Candidates pick from 24 undergraduate, graduate, and seminary programs. To enroll as a first-year student, applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA and a minimum 18 on the ACT or at least 970 on the SAT. CIU bases its tuition rates on program type, not residency status. The university offers 10 institutional scholarships, which include the Achievement Award for academic performance.
Traditional bachelor's programs include philosophy, sport management, intercultural studies, and communication. Students can also pursue a disaster relief/emergency management degree that prepares them for careers at government agencies and global humanitarian organizations. CIU offers a dual-degree pastoral theology program, which allows candidates to earn a bachelor's and master's in five years.
Additional graduate offerings include organizational leadership, global migration studies, and educational leadership. The university also offers a fully online master of business administration that totals 36 credits. Through accelerated coursework powered by Canvas, MBA students can earn their credentials in 15 months.
Based in Charleston, The Citadel Military was established in 1842 as one of six senior military colleges in the United States. The institution houses the South Carolina Corps of Cadets -- military students who study under a classical armed forces system that emphasizes character development and leadership training. The Citadel also delivers civilian academic programs, including 23 undergraduate majors and 26 graduate degrees.
Bachelor's candidates pick from majors like intelligence and security studies, biology, accounting, and civil and environmental engineering. They can pursue a political science degree, picking a concentration in international politics and legal affairs, pre-law and legal studies, or American government and politics. All undergraduate students may augment their degree plans by taking on a complementary minor.
The graduate catalog contains master's degrees in clinical counseling, computer and information sciences, and interdisciplinary STEM education. The Citadel also provides a plethora of online programs through Blackboard. Options include a master of business administration, which holds accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
North Greenville University is located in Tigerville and supports about 2,500 students annually. First-year applicants should submit an online application, official high school transcripts, and ACT or SAT scores. The university offers dual-enrollment opportunities to local high school juniors and seniors who possess a minimum 3.0 GPA. On top of affordable tuition rates, learners benefit from generous financial aid opportunities, such as the Foothills Scholarship for Greenville County residents.
At the undergraduate level, programs include broadcast media, mathematics secondary education, and biology (with tracks in nursing and pharmaceutical sciences). Students can also earn a bachelor of international business, learning about social and cultural behaviors and the impact of firm dynamics on a global scale. NGU delivers master's programs in music education, Christian ministry, and medical science. The university facilitates online education through Moodle. Students can create a hybrid learning experience by taking some asynchronous classes online, or they may earn degrees entirely from a distance.
Furman University was established in 1826, making it one of the oldest higher education institutions in South Carolina. Today, the school enrolls around 2,800 students in over 60 academic programs. Undergraduate majors include music theory, neuroscience, applied mathematics, and public health. Students can also earn a bachelor's degree in English, picking a concentration in writing or literature and language. The university also offers a dual-degree track that allows candidates to earn bachelor's degrees in physics and engineering in five years.
Furman delivers graduate programs that cover areas like chemistry, strategic design, and community engaged medicine. Students can pick from one of nine education degrees. Options include a master of arts in teaching that leads to initial state licensure and the post-master's education specialist credential. The university also facilitates evening programs and continuing education opportunities for working professionals.
Furman maintains a test-optional admission policy. Undergraduate candidates can decide whether their SAT/ACT performance accurately reflects their academic potential. Graduate criteria differ by program, but typically include a minimum 2.75 GPA.
The University of South Carolina is the flagship institution of the University of South Carolina System, renowned for its innovative research initiatives and student-centered academics.
Over 34,000 students attend UofSC, pursuing undergraduate credentials in fields like cardiovascular technology and risk management and insurance. The university also offers a bachelor's degree in African American studies, which enables candidates to develop service-learning experience with local civic organizations and research institutes. Additionally, UofSC delivers a comprehensive engineering program with five concentrations. The average incoming first-year student holds a 3.8 high school GPA and an ACT score of 25 or an SAT score of 1200.
Graduate students pick from master's degrees like advertising, speech-language pathology, and public relations. They can pursue a Ph.D. in marine science, pursuing independent projects at the Baruch Institute -- an internationally acclaimed research laboratory. Funding is available through programs like the SPARC Graduate Fellowship.
UofSC also facilitates over 1,500 study abroad programs. These opportunities include experiences specifically for international business students and funded global research trips for Magellan Scholars.
Based in the town of Central, Southern Wesleyan University is a private higher education institution that serves about 1,400 students annually. First-year students need to hold a minimum 2.3 high school GPA and an 18 or higher on the ACT or an 850 or higher on the SAT. Transfer applicants must possess at least a 2.0 GPA. SWU bases its tuition prices on program type. The university offers ample financial aid opportunities, including the Call Me Mister Scholarship for prospective teachers who want to work in underserved and economically disadvantaged communities.
The school's academic catalog contains bachelor's degrees in forensic science, environmental studies, criminal justice, and recreation and sport management. Students can enroll in an elementary education program that leads to initial teacher certification. Additionally, SWU offers psychology tracks for learners who want to concentrate their studies on human services, counseling, and development psychology.
For students who prefer distance education, SWU delivers fully online programs through the Canvas platform. Offerings include an accelerated bachelor of nursing program for working RNs. Online students can also pursue graduate-level business degrees in areas like human resources and healthcare administration.
One of the best regional postsecondary schools in the U.S., the University of South Carolina - Aiken supports more than 3,500 students and delivers affordable academic programs. Bachelor's degree options include industrial process engineering, sociology, special education, and communication and digital arts. Undergraduate candidates can also pursue applied computer science degrees, picking from a concentration in game development or cybersecurity. The university also operates a traditional nursing program and a remote RN-to-BSN track.
First-year applicants undergo a holistic evaluation process that considers their GPA, the rigor of their high school curriculum, and their ACT/SAT performance.
USC Aiken delivers seven graduate degrees, many of which students can complete entirely online through asynchronous coursework powered by Blackboard. Distance learners may obtain a master of business administration, pursuing a generalist track or a concentration in accounting, finance, or project management. The university also provides online master's programs in educational leadership and educational technology. Graduate admission requirements differ by program but typically require a minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA and relevant professional experience.
Wofford College is located in Spartanburg and focuses on liberal arts education. Students choose from 26 bachelor's programs, including art history, physics, studio art, and computer science. They can also pursue a business economics degree, developing the mathematical and analytical skills needed to analyze how governmental policies affect economic activity worldwide. Furthermore, the college delivers a bachelor of intercultural studies program that enables candidates to design their own major, focusing coursework and research on a specific country or region.
Beyond conventional undergraduate academics, Wofford provides pre-professional programs in nine areas. Options include law, medicine, ministry, and veterinary science. The college facilitates one graduate program -- a master of arts in teaching. MAT candidates spend four years completing their baccalaureate credentials and an additional year earning their graduate degree and professional teacher certification.
To enroll as an incoming first-year student, applicants should submit the Common Application and official high school transcripts. Domestic students can also submit their SAT/ACT scores, if they want to. Financial aid opportunities include institutional scholarships for music, theatre, studio art, and art history majors.
Established in 1967, the University of South Carolina Upstate is one of the newest and fastest-growing higher education institutions in the state. USC Upstate enrolls around 6,000 students in over 40 undergraduate and graduate programs. All applicants must submit standardized test scores. The university offers academic scholarships to first-year students who possess a minimum 3.25 GPA, rank in the top 10% of their class, and score at least 1100 on the SAT.
The school offers bachelor's degrees in topics that include computer information systems, health informatics, sociology, and business administration and economics. Students can also pursue a bachelor of science in nursing; this program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Candidates may also design their own major through the interdisciplinary studies track.
In addition to a variety of pre-professional options, USC Upstate delivers six graduate programs. Offerings include nursing, informatics, and special education: visual impairment. Certified teachers can advance their careers by earning a master's degree in early childhood education or elementary education. The university also offers a graduate business analytics program that focuses on extracting valuable insight from data sets.
Lander University is based in Greenwood and serves about 3,000 students annually. The school provides affordable academic programs in over 60 areas of study. Bachelor's candidates can pick from majors like fine art, criminology, environmental science, and equine-assisted activities and therapies. They can also enroll in a health promotion and wellness program, concentrating their studies on healthcare management or behavioral health. Furthermore, the university facilitates bachelor of nursing programs for working RNs and candidates without relevant experience.
Graduate programs cover areas like teaching and learning, clinical nurse leadership, and general management. Students can also earn a master of emergency management, developing effective leadership styles for crisis situations; emergency management candidates can earn their credentials entirely online through Blackboard.
Lander holistically evaluates first-time students based on criteria like GPA, high school class rank, SAT/ACT scores, and extracurricular achievements. Undergraduate transfer students need at least 24 credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Financial aid opportunities include departmental awards like the Paul Livingston Baker Scholarship for business majors.
Founded in 1886 as a women's teacher training school, Winthrop University now offers coeducational academic programs to over 6,000 students each year. The average incoming first-year student possesses a 3.98 GPA and an ACT score of 22 or an SAT score of 1087. To enroll as a transfer student, candidates need a minimum 2.0 GPA. Winthrop bases its tuition rates on residency status. The university provides ample financial aid opportunities, including transfer scholarships.
The academic catalog contains bachelor's tracks in accounting, human development/family studies, visual communication design, and management. Students may enroll in a musical theatre program, training voice and musicianship skills to prepare for careers as professional performers. Winthrop also delivers a human nutrition program that offers concentrations in dietetics and chronic disease prevention.
Master's programs covers fields like arts administration, civic and public engagement, and educational leadership. Graduate candidates may pursue a master of business administration; this program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. MBA candidates choose from eight concentration options, including a fully online sports marketing and revenue generation track.
Located in Spartanburg, Converse College provides undergraduate academics for female students along with coeducational graduate and online programs. Bachelor's degrees include psychology, music therapy, creative and professional writing, and hispanic studies. Students can pursue a business administration degree, focusing their curriculum on an area like marketing, human resources, or international business. They may also enroll in a bachelor of health administration program that focuses on patient data analysis and care delivery optimization.
Converse offers master's programs in marriage and family therapy, music education (with initial teacher certification), and political science. The university offers fully online graduate programs, like a master of information management. Distance learners can also earn an education specialist degree in literacy; this 36-credit program leads to certification in South Carolina as a literacy teacher or literacy coach.
To enroll, first-year applicants must submit the Common Application, ACT or SAT scores, and official high school transcripts. Graduate admission criteria differ by program, but typically include a minimum 2.75 GPA. Converse offers need-based grants and scholarships based on athletic or artistic talent.
Presybterian College is a private liberal arts institution located in Clinton. The school enrolls about 1,300 students in over 100 academic programs. Bachelor's candidates pick from majors like art history, international studies, medical physics, and modern foreign languages. They can also pursue a biology degree, picking from a generalist track or a forestry/environmental management concentration. Furthermore, the college offers a variety of pre-professional tracks, including options for students who want to pursue allied health careers.
In addition to graduate degrees in physician assistant and physical therapy, PC awards a doctor of pharmacy. This comprehensive program totals 142 credits and emphasizes experiential learning. For the first three years, the curriculum combines hands-on training with classroom lectures and discussions. Candidates spend their fourth year fully immersed in practice settings.
Prospective first-year students should submit an official application, high school transcripts, and ACT or SAT scores. They also need to answer a series of short essay questions. PharmD candidates must furnish PCAT scores and at least two recommendation letters.
Founded in 1770, the College of Charleston is the oldest higher education institution in South Carolina. Today, the institution serves more than 12,000 students, delivering affordable and career-relevant degrees through its nine academic schools.
Incoming first-year students undergo a holistic evaluation process that considers their academic preparedness (including ACT/SAT performance), leadership qualifications, and extracurricular accomplishments. Transfer candidates need a minimum 2.6 GPA if they reside in the state and a minimum 3.0 if they come from outside of South Carolina. Financial aid opportunities include the Charles Kaiser Award for Outstanding Psychology Students.
Undergraduate majors include marine biology, women's and gender studies, commercial real estate finance, and hospitality and tourism management. Students can enroll in a public health program, which prepares them for careers in epidemiology and health policy. CofC also delivers a flexible bachelor of professional studies track that enables working adults to finish their college education. Graduate degrees cover fields like creative writing; data science and analytics; and teaching, learning, and advocacy.
Anderson University was established in 1911 as a female seminary, but today the school offers coeducational academics to about 3,000 students annually. Through nine colleges, candidates can access 36 undergraduate majors and seven master's programs. Bachelor's degrees include humanities and the law, interior design, kinesiology, and Christian ministry. Students can also enroll in a communication program, concentrating their studies on digital media or public relations.
For learners who prefer distance education, AU offers fully online degrees through Canvas. Options include bachelor's degrees in human services, nursing (RN-to-BSN), and homeland security and emergency management. Distance learners may also pursue a master of business administration, picking from concentrations like supply chain management and healthcare leadership. To foster global engagement, the university facilitates study abroad opportunities in over 30 locations.
Prospective students must submit standardized test scores. AU charges tuition rates based on program type. Nearly all traditional learners receive financial support, which may include transfer, out-of-state, and/or athletic scholarships.
Based in Orangeburg, Claflin University operates as a private and historically black higher education institution. Approximately 2,000 students attend Claflin, pursuing affordable and career-relevant academics. The school's degree catalog contains undergraduate majors like management information science, digital design, marketing, and studio art. Licensed RNs can earn their BSN through an accelerated track. The university also offers a bioinformatics program that helps students develop the data analysis skills needed to predict and improve drug effectiveness. First-year applicants need a minimum 2.8 GPA and a minimum ACT score of 17 or a minimum SAT score of 880.
Claflin delivers four master's degrees, including criminal justice, biotechnology, and curriculum and instruction. Graduate students may also enroll in a business administration program that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. Full-time MBA candidates can earn their credentials in 18 months. For learners who prefer distance education, the university offers a variety of fully online programs through Moodle.
Francis Marion University is a public liberal arts institution located in Florence that supports about 4,200 students each year. To enroll as an incoming first-year student, candidates undergo a multifaceted admissions process that considers their GPA, previous coursework, and SAT/ACT scores. Transfer applicants need at least 22 credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA. In addition to affordable tuition rates, the university offers several forms of financial aid, including transfer scholarships and graduate fellowships.
Undergraduate students pick from majors like environmental science, nonprofit management, archaeology, and medical technology. Learners may enroll in the school's professional writing program, which prepares them for careers as corporate communication officers and technical writers. FMU also delivers five pre-professional tracks.
Graduate programs cover fields like physician assistant studies, applied behavior analysis, and healthcare executive management. Experienced educators can earn master's degrees in learning disabilities and instructional accommodations, which lead to advanced certification/endorsement. Outside the classroom, students can engage in campus athletics and independent research projects. FMU also facilitates study abroad opportunities through 11 university partners.
Founded in 1954 as a junior college, Coastal Carolina University now provides comprehensive academic programs to over 10,000 students. The institution delivers 84 undergraduate and 30 graduate programs. Bachelor's candidates pick from majors like applied mathematics, digital culture and design, and marine science. They can pursue a finance degree, which comes with concentrations in wealth management and banking/consumer finance. CCU also offers an intelligence and national security studies program that prepares candidates to work at all levels of government.
The school's graduate catalog contains master's tracks in music technology, accountancy, and educational leadership. Students can also earn business administration credentials, focusing their studies on the healthcare or nonprofit sector. CCU facilitates two doctoral programs, including a research-focused Ph.D. in education.
In lieu of campus-based academics, students can earn their degrees through fully online and hybrid classes facilitated by Moodle. CCU emphasizes experiential learning, offering service opportunities, internship placement, and research guidance. The university also provides more than 100 study abroad programs.
The University of South Carolina Beaufort enrolls over 2,100 students in affordable associate and bachelor's programs. Majors include hospitality management, studio art, computational science, and public health. Learners may also enroll in the school's business administration program, which offers concentrations in accounting, management, and marketing. Additionally, the university lets students design their own interdisciplinary major, picking coursework from two or more fields of study.
USCB offers a biology program that focuses on coastal ecology and conservation. Candidates learn to identify and ameliorate the environmental stresses that are caused by residential and commercial development. Graduates are well-prepared to work as conservation scientists and ecotourism specialists. Furthermore, for learners who want to engage in remote learning, the university provides three fully online degree completion tracks powered by Moodle.
First-year candidates need a minimum 2.0 GPA and a 17 or higher on the ACT or an 880 or higher on the SAT. Prospective transfer students under the age of 25 who have fewer than 30 credits must also furnish standardized test results. USCB provides a variety of financial aid, including out-of-state tuition waivers.
Based in the town of Due West, Erskine College oversees undergraduate liberal arts programs and a graduate theological seminary. Approximately 800 students attend Erskine, pursuing bachelor's degrees in fields like political science, health science, and philosophy. Learners may also obtain athletic training credentials through a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. Athletic training coursework emphasizes clinical skill development, helping candidates gain the hands-on experience needed to work in patient care settings.
Additionally, Erskine offers a variety of pre-professional tracks for students who want to pursue careers in education, engineering, law, and the allied health fields. Graduate candidates can obtain master's degrees in theology and practical divinity. Experienced religious leaders can enroll in the doctor of ministry program, completing the 36-credit degree plan in three years.
First-year applicants should submit an online application, official high school transcripts, and ACT/CLT/SAT scores. Transfer candidates need at least a 2.0 GPA. Graduate criteria differ by program but usually include a minimum 2.5 GPA.
Charleston Southern University enrolls more than 3,400 students in 50 undergraduate and 15 graduate programs. New undergraduate candidates need to score at least 19 on the ACT or 1020 on the SAT. To enroll as a transfer student, applicants must possess at least 24 college credits earned with a 2.0 GPA. The university charges tuition prices based on program type. Nearly 95% of incoming students receive financial aid, which can include a scholarship for exceptional leadership achievement.
Bachelor's candidates may pursue majors like project management, child development, and biochemistry. They may also enroll in one of seven business administration tracks, all of which hold accreditation from the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
The school's graduate catalog contains master's credentials in analytics, clinical counseling, and public safety management. Learners can earn a one-year biology degree that prepares them for positions in policy and management. CSU also oversees clinical doctoral programs. Most graduate programs offer students the option to engage in online learning through Blackboard.
Established in 1856, Newberry College is a private liberal arts institution that serves over 1,000 students annually. The school delivers undergraduate programs on campus and online. Major options include digital marketing, music education, and forestry and environmental management. Candidates may also enroll in an exercise science and human performance program that prepares them for careers as athletic trainers and physical therapists.
Newberry College offers a traditional nursing degree accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Alternatively, students can enroll in a fully online RN-to-BSN track. Additional remote academic options include criminal justice, psychology, and respiratory therapy.
High-achieving students may participate in the Summerland Honors Program and access distinct financial aid and networking opportunities. Education majors benefit from dedicated support provided by the RETAIN Center of Excellence for Mentoring and Induction of Teachers. All students at Newberry College pay the same tuition rate, and the college provides ample financial aid opportunities, which include endowed scholarships based on GPA and ACT/SAT performance.
Columbia College was founded in 1854, making it one of the oldest women's higher education institutions in the United States. In addition to traditional undergraduate degrees for female students, Columbia College provides coeducational graduate, evening, and online programs. The freshman admissions process requires candidates to submit the Common Application, official high school transcripts, and ACT or SAT scores. The college allows students to transfer up to 90 credits from regionally accredited institutions as long as they possess a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Bachelor's programs cover fields like dance studies, criminal justice, and community and public health. Learners can earn a communication degree, focusing their studies on digital media, public relations, or professional communication. Columbia College facilitates 11 online undergraduate degrees through the Canvas platform.
Distance learners can also enroll in fully remote master's programs. Options consist of healthcare administration, athletic coaching, criminal justice, and family nurse practitioner. Additionally, students may earn an online MBA that comes with four concentration options.
Based in Hartsville, Coker University offers student-centered academic programs with strong liberal arts components. Bachelor's degree options include computer science, physical education and sports studies, music, and criminology. The school also delivers a business administration program that allows learners to pick from six concentrations. Furthermore, undergraduate candidates may design their own curricula through the interdisciplinary studies track.
Coker oversees five master's programs, all of which students can complete on campus or online through asynchronous classes powered by Blackboard. Degree options include management and leadership, literacy studies, instructional technology, and college athletic administration. Distance learners can also pursue a master of science in criminal and social justice policy. For high-achieving students, the college offers an honors program that fosters intellectual growth through a combination of service learning opportunities, independent research projects, and study abroad experiences.
First-year candidates must submit ACT or SAT scores. To enroll as a transfer student, applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA. Prospective graduate students must possess at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA.
BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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