2022 Top Public Colleges and Universities in North Carolina

Public colleges and universities are often the most affordable option for students pursuing higher education, but it’s not just affordability that makes these institutions attractive. Public Public colleges and universities also rank highly among the best institutions in many states, North Carolina included.

Public Public colleges and universities receive state and federal funding. Although they generally have larger class sizes than private institutions, they also tend to offer a wide variety of academic programs, diverse student bodies, and prestigious research opportunities.

2022 Best Public Colleges and Universities in North Carolina

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

  1. #1

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    Chapel Hill, NC

    Graduation Rate

    91%

    Enrollment

    29,877

    Format

    Online, In person

    From its campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill awards degrees as a public institution. The school's accredited degrees help graduates launch or advance professional careers. Learners enroll in academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. Students can expect to spend 1767 per credit at the school. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. The institution reports that students receive an average aid award of $ 13697, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $ 10085. Learners at the school choose from academic and technical programs. Based on their major, students take foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. #2

    North Carolina State University at Raleigh

    Raleigh, NC

    Graduation Rate

    82%

    Enrollment

    36,304

    Format

    Online, In person

    North Carolina State University at Raleigh, located in Raleigh, North Carolina, enrolls students as a public institution. With both academic and technical programs, the institution helps students reach their career goals. Learners pursuing a bachelor's degree complete lower- and upper-division coursework. The degree typically requires general education credits. In upper-division classes, undergraduates learn advanced concepts in their major. Enrollees receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The amount students pay per credit on average is unknown. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. North Carolina State University at Raleigh holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. #3

    University of North Carolina School of the Arts

    Winston Salem, NC

    Graduation Rate

    75%

    Enrollment

    1,086

    Format

    In person

    Located in Winston Salem, North Carolina, University of North Carolina School of the Arts educates students as a public institution. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps learners reach their professional goals. Students gain knowledge and skill specific to their field by completing their program's coursework requirements. Some programs may operate with a test-optional policy for admissions. A test score waiver makes it easier to enroll. Learners receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The school's cost per credit is unknown. Learners at the accredited school often fund their education with federal aid programs, including the Pell Grant. University of North Carolina School of the Arts holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  4. #4

    East Carolina University

    Greenville, NC

    Graduation Rate

    66%

    Enrollment

    28,651

    Format

    Online, In person

    A public institution located in Greenville, North Carolina, East Carolina University offers a variety of programs. The school offers accredited degrees that prepare students for the workforce. Learners enroll in academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. Data on the school's average cost per credit is currently unavailable. Students attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Current students receive an average aid award of $ 7941, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $ 13635. The institution offers both academic and technical programs. Based on their major, students take foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. East Carolina University has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  5. #5

    University of North Carolina Wilmington

    Wilmington, NC

    Graduation Rate

    72%

    Enrollment

    17,499

    Format

    Online, In person

    University of North Carolina Wilmington, which operates a campus in Wilmington, North Carolina, often ranks as one of the best colleges. Students choose from multiple degree-granting programs and courses. The school offers academic and technical tracks to help students meet a variety of professional goals. Students can earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in 1-2 years, or a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. These policies make it easier to apply. Admission advisors can help applicants complete the process. Financial aid helps degree-seekers pay for their education. University of North Carolina Wilmington has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  6. #6

    Appalachian State University

    Boone, NC

    Graduation Rate

    73%

    Enrollment

    19,280

    Format

    Online, In person

    A public institution located in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian State University offers a variety of programs. The school grants accredited degrees that prepare learners for the workforce. The institution offers an academically rigorous course of study at an affordable price. The school boasts several programs that appear in national rankings. The institution's average cost per credit is unknown. As an accredited institution, degree-seekers qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. The school reports that students receive an average aid award of $ 8612, making the average tuition cost after aid $ 10525. Learners at the institution choose from academic and technical programs. The school offers foundational courses, technical classes, and general education courses in multiple majors. Appalachian State University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  7. #7

    Pamlico Community College

    Grantsboro, NC

    Graduation Rate

    69%

    Enrollment

    549

    Format

    Online, In person

    Located in Grantsboro, North Carolina, Pamlico Community College often ranks among the best schools. Enrollees take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help students meet their career goals. Academic programs can take as little as a few months or as many as seven years to complete, depending on the degree or certificate type and the student's enrollment status. Some programs may operate with a test-optional policy for admissions. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to apply. The admissions department can help prospective students determine the next steps. Financial aid helps students cover the cost of their degree or certificate. Pamlico Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  8. #8

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    Greensboro, NC

    Graduation Rate

    59%

    Enrollment

    20,196

    Format

    Online, In person

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro, which enrolls students in programs from its Greensboro, North Carolina campus. The institution offers a variety of degree-granting programs. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help learners meet their professional goals. At the school, students typically complete an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in 1-2 years, or a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Some programs may offer test-optional admission policies. A waiver makes it easier to apply. The admissions department can help students apply to the school. Students also use financial aid to pay for their college degree. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  9. #9

    University of North Carolina at Charlotte

    Charlotte, NC

    Graduation Rate

    64%

    Enrollment

    29,615

    Format

    Online, In person

    A public institution located in Charlotte, North Carolina, University of North Carolina at Charlotte offers a variety of programs. Students earn an accredited degree that prepares them for the workforce. The institution offers affordable programs that do not sacrifice academic rigor. Students can enroll in nationally ranked programs. Data on the school's average cost per credit is unavailable. Degree-seekers attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. The institution reports that students receive an average aid award of $ 7046, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $ 15200. Learners choose from academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  10. #10

    Wake Technical Community College

    Raleigh, NC

    Graduation Rate

    25%

    Enrollment

    22,003

    Format

    Online, In person

    Wake Technical Community College offers programs from its campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. Instructors draw on their expertise in diverse fields. The school's academic and technical tracks help learners meet diverse career goals. Consult the institution's website to find information on the typical timeline for program completion. Many schools no longer require admissions tests such as ACT or SAT. These policies make it easier to enroll. The admissions department can provide more information on the process. Learners also use financial aid to pay for their college degree or certificate. Wake Technical Community College holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

Why Choose a Public College or University in North Carolina?

North Carolina has the best of both worlds for outdoorsy folks: mountains and beaches. Coupled with its agreeable weather, this makes North Carolina a favorable place to live. North Carolina also offers a booming economy with major cities as well as a relatively low cost of living.

North Carolina has a competitive university system that includesover 70 public Public colleges and universities. Carolina provides many options for you tochoose the best college for you. Although North Carolina is well known for the private Duke University, there are many top-ranking public institutions as well.

When considering pursuing a degree at aprivate or a public college, you should factor in the pros and cons of each type of college. Public colleges and universities are typically larger, state-funded schools. Private colleges and universities are either for-profit or nonprofit educational institutions.

Pros and Cons of Attending a Public College or University in North Carolina

Pros

Class options: Because public institutions tend to be larger, there are more majors and programs to choose from. They also have more course offerings than private institutions.Location: North Carolina has mountains, oceans, large cities, and small towns. The state experiences mostly mild temperatures and has an overall low cost of living.Sports: Many North Carolina schools have top-performing sports teams. Whether you play sports or simply enjoy watching basketball games, North Carolina has many competitive teams to follow.

Cons

Larger class sizes: Public colleges and universities have a larger student population than private institutions, leading to larger class sizes.Professor availability: Because public colleges and universities have more students and larger class sizes than private colleges, you may have difficulty connecting with your professors.Hurricanes: Although the weather is mostly mild and temperate, North Carolina does experience hurricanes. Hurricanes can disrupt your school year, create damage, and can even be deadly.

Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Colleges and Universities in North Carolina

When researching colleges and universities in North Carolina, you should know whether the college or university is anonprofit or for-profit college. All public colleges and universities are nonprofit colleges. Private institutions can be either nonprofit or for-profit. There are pros and cons to attending a for-profit college.

For-profit colleges and universities are private schools whose bottom line is to turn a profit. For-profit schools are funded by student tuition, which typically results in a higher tuition cost for students. On the other hand, nonprofit colleges receive funding from state governments, donations, and tuition.

Investors and shareholders make decisions at for-profit colleges and universities, whereas private or public nonprofit colleges are governed by a board of trustees and are focused on the quality of education.

Many graduates of for-profit schools struggle to find work in their fields upon graduating, and many lawsuits against for-profit colleges and universities have sprung up over the years for predatory practices.

How Much Does It Cost to Attend a Public College or University in North Carolina?

North Carolina is well-known for having affordable public postsecondary education. The average cost of tuition for public colleges and universities in North Carolina is lower than the national average cost of tuition for public institutions.

For the 2019-20 academic year, the average cost of tuition and fees for public institutions in North Carolina was $7,230 for in-state residents, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The national average cost for tuition and fees that same year was $9,350.

In-state residents and out-of-state residents pay different tuition and fee costs. However, out-of-state tuition in North Carolina is still lower than the national average for out-of-state tuition and fees. According to the NCES, the average cost of tuition and fees for North Carolina colleges and universities was $23,360 for out-of-state residents, whereas the national average cost was $27,020.

There are many misconceptions about paying for college. For instance, tuition and fees are not the only cost of attending a college or university. You should also consider the cost of room and board. The average cost of room and board for public colleges and universities in North Carolina was $10,340 during the 2019-20 academic year.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Public Colleges and Universities in North Carolina

How many public colleges and universities are there in North Carolina?

North Carolina has over 70 public colleges and universities. According to the NCES, as of 2019-20 North Carolina had 75 public colleges and universities and 60 private institutions. Of the 60 private schools, 50 were nonprofit colleges.

Public colleges and universities with the highest enrollment include the University of North Carolina’s multiple campuses, North Carolina State University, and East Carolina University.

What is the most expensive public college or university in North Carolina?

The most expensive public college or university in North Carolina is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The average cost of tuition and fees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the 2021-22 academic year was $9,040 for in-state residents and $36,900 for out-of-state residents.

Because of expensive tuition, cost may be a huge factor in determining where you attend college. Many aspects contribute to the high cost of colleges. Although colleges and universities in North Carolina are cheaper than the national average, the colleges vary in cost.

What is the least expensive public college or university in North Carolina?

There are several public colleges and universities in North Carolina with exceptionally inexpensive tuition and fees. Elizabeth City State University is one of the least expensive public institutions in North Carolina.

Elizabeth City State University is very affordable, with a flat-rate yearly tuition of $1,000 for full-time in-state residents and $5,000 for full-time out-of-state residents. Including tuition and fees, the in-state tuition for the 2020-21 academic year was $6,600, and out-of-state tuition was $10,600.

What is the biggest public college or university in North Carolina?

There are several large public colleges and universities in North Carolina. The biggest public institution in North Carolina in terms of student population is North Carolina State University. In the 2021-22 academic year, North Carolina State University had over 36,000 enrolled students.

The University of North Carolina has the largest university system in North Carolina. The university has 17 institutions and affiliate schools within the state. Several of these colleges, like the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have some of the largest student populations.

Is a public college or university right for me?

Whether or not to choose to study at a public college or university is a personal decision. Create a list of what is most important for your college experience. When deciding, consider how important factors like majors and programs, location, and cost are for you.

You should also think about the size of the college. You may also want to consider a school’s alumni network, internship opportunities, student clubs and activities, and student support services while deciding.