2022 Top Public Colleges and Universities in South 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 colleges and universities also rank highly among the best institutions in many states, South Carolina included.

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 South 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

    Clemson University

    Clemson, SC

    Graduation Rate

    84%

    Enrollment

    25,822

    Format

    Online, In person

    From its campus in Clemson, South Carolina, Clemson University enrolls students in programs as a public institution. The school's accredited programs prepare graduates for the workforce. The institution's affordable programs provide a rigorous course of study. The school's programs appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. Current students receive an average aid award of $ 9672, making the average tuition cost after aid $ 21482. Learners choose from academic and technical programs. Based on their major, students take foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Clemson University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  2. #2

    University of South Carolina-Columbia

    Columbia, SC

    Graduation Rate

    77%

    Enrollment

    35,364

    Format

    Online, In person

    University of South Carolina-Columbia, a public institution in Columbia, South Carolina, enrolls learners in multiple programs. The school's academic and technical programs help learners reach a variety of professional goals. The institution's bachelor's programs incorporate lower-division and upper-division requirements. Undergraduates also complete general education courses. Upper-division credits emphasize advanced concepts in the major. Learners receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. At the accredited institution, learners qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. University of South Carolina-Columbia has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  3. #3

    Academy for Careers and Technology

    Mullins, SC

    Graduation Rate

    76%

    Enrollment

    57

    Format

    In person

    Ranked among the top public schools in South Carolina, Academy for Careers and Technology offers a variety of professional programs. Learners interested in an accelerated course of study can select from 1 certificate programs at the school. Students take core courses and receive specialized training. The rigorous curricula prepare students for the workforce. Graduates seek opportunities in related fields after finishing a certificate. The school awards financial aid to 100% of students. Learners can receive federal financial aid at this accredited institution. To learn more about the application process, prospective students can contact the school's admissions department. The institution holds programmatic accreditation from Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

  4. #4

    Medical University of South Carolina

    Charleston, SC

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    2,971

    Format

    Online, In person

    From its campus in Charleston, South Carolina, Medical University of South Carolina enrolls students as a public institution. The school offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. The institution's bachelor's programs incorporate lower-division and upper-division requirements. Undergraduates also complete general education requirements. Students learn advanced concepts in their major during upper-division courses. Learners benefit from support services like tutoring and career counseling. The school's average cost per credit is unknown. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  5. #5

    Citadel Military College of South Carolina

    Charleston, SC

    Graduation Rate

    74%

    Enrollment

    3,767

    Format

    Online, In person

    Located in Charleston, South Carolina, Citadel Military College of South Carolina offers multiple programs as a public institution. Students complete programs that prepare them for the workforce. Learners enroll in academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The institution's cost per credit is unknown. As an accredited institution, degree-seekers qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Students receive an average aid award of $11940, making the average tuition cost after aid $17723. The institution offers both academic and technical programs. Depending on their major, learners complete fundamentals courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  6. #6

    Lander University

    Greenwood, SC

    Graduation Rate

    45%

    Enrollment

    3,226

    Format

    Online, In person

    From its campus in Greenwood, South Carolina, Lander University offers programs as a public institution. The college offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that allows students to bolster their knowledge. Applicants may qualify for a standardized test score waiver. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to apply. The school supports learners with tutoring and career services. The institution's cost per credit is unknown. Learners at the accredited school often fund their education with federal aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Lander University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  7. #7

    Trident Technical College

    Charleston, SC

    Graduation Rate

    19%

    Enrollment

    12,351

    Format

    Online, In person

    From its campus in Charleston, South Carolina, Trident Technical College enrolls learners in 107 programs. The institution's top-ranked programs offer students a challenging course of study. The school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 20-to-1. Approximately 94% of students at this institution fund their education, at least in part, with financial aid. Enrollees graduate from the school at a rate of 19%. Graduates often benefit from hands-on experience, which makes them more competitive candidates on the job market. The school's admission rate is unavailable. Many schools no longer require test scores for admission. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements and start dates.

  8. #8

    University of South Carolina-Upstate

    Spartanburg, SC

    Graduation Rate

    48%

    Enrollment

    6,308

    Format

    Online, In person

    University of South Carolina-Upstate, a public organization located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, offers multiple programs. Students can earn a degree or certificate that prepares them for the workforce. The institution offers academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's programs appear in national rankings. Information on the school's cost per credit is 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 $8173, making the average tuition cost after aid $15838. Learners at the institution choose from academic and technical programs. Based on their major, students take essential courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. University of South Carolina-Upstate is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  9. #9

    College of Charleston

    Charleston, SC

    Graduation Rate

    66%

    Enrollment

    10,545

    Format

    Online, In person

    From its campus in Charleston, South Carolina, College of Charleston educates students as a public institution. The school offers accredited programs that prepare students for a successful career. Learners benefit from 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. Enrollees receive an average aid award of $9821, making the average tuition cost after aid $19764. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the institution. Students complete fundamentals courses, technical classes, and general education requirements depending on their program. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  10. #10

    Coastal Carolina University

    Conway, SC

    Graduation Rate

    47%

    Enrollment

    10,484

    Format

    Online, In person

    A public institution located in Conway, South Carolina, Coastal Carolina University enrolls learners in multiple programs. The school grants accredited degrees that prepare learners for the workforce. The institution's affordable programs provide a rigorous course of study. Many of the school's degrees make national rankings. The school's cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers at this accredited institution may qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Students receive an average aid award of $ 9107, making the average tuition cost after aid $ 15111. Learners at the institution choose from academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, enrollees complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

Why Choose a Public College or University in South Carolina?

To choose the right college, prospective students need to consider every option available to them, including private vs. public colleges and on-campus and online colleges in South Carolina. There are 71 colleges and universities in South Carolina, including 34 public institutions.

Public colleges in South Carolina provide many benefits to students, including lower average tuition rates than private colleges, greater program selection, and more facilities and extracurricular activities. The Academic Common Market allows South Carolina residents to study in other states for in-state tuition rates.

On the flip side, public schools tend to have larger class sizes, possibly leading to less personalized support and one-on-one time with the instructors. However, larger schools tend to boast better research facilities and faculties.

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

Pros

Lower average tuition and room and board ratesMore programs and courses available to choose fromMore campus diversity and a wider variety of entertainment optionsMore facilities, extracurricular offerings, and student organizationsMore accessible admission requirementsReciprocity agreements with other states

Cons

Larger class sizes and less personalized support from teachers and administratorsSchools may not have the prestige of private schoolsClasses may be less specialized and more genericScholarships may not be available to students without financial needLarge campuses can feel less community oriented

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

Public schools receive government funding, while private schools rely on student tuition to fund their programs. The primary difference between nonprofit vs. for-profit colleges is how they manage the incoming tuition money. Nonprofit colleges have to reinvest that money into the school, whereas for-profit colleges can use that money to pay out investors and other stakeholders.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), South Carolina has 36 for-profit colleges. Among the pros and cons of for-profit colleges, prospective students typically benefit from career-focused training. The main drawbacks of for-profit colleges include lower six-year graduation rates and higher rates of graduate loan debt than in nonprofit schools.

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

Prospective students should pay attention to the differences between in-state vs. out-of-state tuition. The average tuition rate at public colleges and universities in South Carolina was $12,500 in 2019-20 for in-state students, according to the NCES. Room and board rates were $6,400 and $3,900, respectively.

The average cost for out-of-state tuition and fees in South Carolina came in at $32,850 for public school students. Meanwhile, the average private school tuition rates and fees were $36,240 in 2019-20. Each of these South Carolina rates exceeded the national average out-of-state tuition rate of $27,020.

One of the misconceptions about paying for college is that public colleges always cost less than private schools. While the least expensive public institutions in South Carolina, like Williamsburg Technical College and Florence-Darlington Technical College, offer tuition rates below $5,000 a year, Clemson University’s tuition rates exceed $15,000.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Public Colleges and Universities in South Carolina

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

In total, there are 96 institutions of higher education in South Carolina, according to the NCES. There are 34 public institutions, which includes 14 public 4-year colleges and 20 public 2-year colleges.

Of the 62 private colleges, 26 are nonprofit and 36 are for-profit. There are also 33 private 4-year colleges, eight 2-year schools, and 24 schools that run programs shorter than two years.

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

The most expensive public institution in South Carolina is likely Clemson University. With a tuition rate above $15,000, this school costs more than most other public schools in the state. According to the NCES, however, tuition here is still considerably lower than the state’s average private school tuition of $26,270.

In general, college is expensive in South Carolina. The average tuition rate of $12,497 exceeds the national average tuition of $9,349, as per the NCES. Prospective students should look into their financial aid options to help manage the costs.

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

The least expensive public colleges and universities in South Carolina are Williamsburg Technical College and Florence-Darlington Technical College. The tuition rates at these schools come in below $5,000 per year. At Williamsburg Technical College, full-time students may even pay less than $3,000 per year.

Thanks to the Academic Common Market, South Carolina students can find affordable out-of-state schools as well. This multistate agreement permits South Carolina learners to access in-state tuition rates at many colleges within participating states.

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

The biggest public institution in South Carolina is the University of South Carolina-Columbia, which enrolls more than 35,000 students. Clemson University is the second-largest school, enrolling more than 27,000 students.

While big public schools may have larger class sizes, they also have their benefits. For example, they may offer more class and program options, facilities, extracurricular activities, and student organizations. These large schools also tend to have superior research facilities and faculties.

Is a public college or university right for me?

Public colleges and universities have many strengths and benefits that students find appealing, but every individual needs to decide on a school that aligns with their needs and goals. Public schools typically feature lower tuition rates and a greater selection of programs and courses.

Public schools also tend to have more extensive facilities, more diverse campuses, and a larger variety of student services. Students may feel less connected in big public schools, however. They may want a more personal and intimate school experience that smaller private schools can offer.