Best Colleges in South Carolina

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Hannah Muniz
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Hannah Muniz is a managing editor with BestColleges, specializing in college planning, test prep, student life, and sponsored content. She previously worked as a freelance writer, composing articles on the SAT/ACT, higher education, language learning...
Updated on July 6, 2023
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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

  1. Clemson University - Clemson, SC
  2. Columbia International University - Columbia, SC
  3. The Citadel - Charleston, SC
  4. North Greenville University - Tigerville, SC
  5. Furman University - Greenville, SC
  6. University of South Carolina - Columbia, SC
  7. Southern Wesleyan University - Central, SC
  8. University of South Carolina - Aiken, SC
  9. Wofford College - Spartanburg, SC
  10. University of South Carolina - Spartanburg, SC

Featured Online Programs

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.

Best Accredited Colleges in South Carolina

Best Colleges in South Carolina

  1. Clemson University

    Clemson, SC



    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.

  2. Columbia International University

    Columbia, SC



    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.

  3. The Citadel

    Charleston, SC



    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.

  4. North Greenville University

    Tigerville, SC



    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.

  5. Furman University

    Greenville, SC



    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.

  6. University of South Carolina-Columbia

    Columbia, SC



    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.

  7. Southern Wesleyan University

    Central, SC



    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.

  8. University of South Carolina-Aiken

    Aiken, SC



    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.

  9. Wofford College

    Spartanburg, SC



    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.

  10. University of South Carolina-Upstate

    Spartanburg, SC



    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.