South Carolina Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2017-2018

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Best Online Colleges in South Carolina

South Carolina is a state with a thriving college and university community, and students will find that the state’s colleges – public and private alike – offer a wide range of distance learning options on every degree level. Locating a top program in terms of quality academics and services can be a challenge, however. The following list of South Carolina schools is designed to help, by ranking those whose excellence sets them apart from their peers. Here are 2016-2017′s Best Online Colleges in South Carolina.

Rank University Location ScoreAnnual Tuition# of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Anderson University Anderson, SC 99.77$23,75021 95% 14:1 52% No Yes Yes

Advanced education at Anderson University is delivered with a Christ-center approach. Freshmen and other undergraduates can select from more than 35 majors to earn a bachelor’s degree. Anderson’s master’s and doctorate degrees are in ministry, business administration, education and nursing. Total degree options at the school are 36 majors and 25 minors. Some programs are taught online or in a hybrid environment. In recent years, the university has expanded, adding 77 acres through the acquisition of its athletic campus and an additional 125 acres that the school received from John and Marie Pracht.

2 Limestone College Gaffney, SC 99.77$23,00024 54% 14:1 28% No Yes Yes

History at Gaffney, South Carolina’s Limestone College dates back to 1845. The college integrates classroom, clinical, lecture, discussion and digital training to prepare adults for the challenges of working in constantly changing career fields. For many of the school’s students, especially working parents, the ability to attend class comes through evening and online programs. Business and fine arts are the two major areas that associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees are conferred in at the school. The business administration degree is offered in eight different concentrations. Limestone is also accredited to award degrees in areas like computer science and economics.

3 Coastal Carolina University Conway, SC 99.33$10,32015 45% 17:1 45% No Yes Yes

Buildings and land owned by Coastal Carolina University cover more than 1,700 acres. More than 90 degree programs are at the university. Seventy-two of the programs lead to undergraduate degrees. There are 20 master's programs and a doctorate in marine science. Academic areas to explore at the university are in finance, business, politics, math, science, technology, medicine and the arts. For some of the school's 10,263 students, pursuing a certificate is a better option. High secondary GPAs and SAT scores make getting into Coastal Carolina University challenging. On average, students who enter the school had a 3.42 GPA. Average freshmen SAT scores are 1,005.

4 Lander University Greenwood, SC 98.98$10,4186 43% 15:1 45% Yes Yes Yes

Lander University is in Greenwood, South Carolina. The school was founded in 1872 by Reverend Samuel Lander with the intent to offer training to women. Industries that Lander University gets adults ready to enter are financial services, education, technology, science, business, healthcare, humanities and the arts. Above average students could join the honors club and learn in other countries, places like Korea, England and Italy. Honors club training prepares students for graduate school. Faculty who teach at the Lander graduate school provide instruction in education, including Montessori Education, nursing and emergency management.

5 University of South Carolina-Upstate Spartanburg, SC 98.57$10,51812 17% 17:1 38% No Yes Yes

The University of South Carolina-Upstate is the home of the Spartans. Nearly 6,000 students enroll in a combination of bachelor's and master's programs at the school. Student to faculty ratio in these education, nursing, informatics, liberal arts, sciences and liberal arts programs is 18 to 1. The university's courses prepare students to meet the demands of a changing labor force. To teach adults a second language, the school create a service learning program. Students in the program participate in community events as a way to give back and engage area citizens.

6 Clemson University Clemson, SC 98.53$13,4463 59% 16:1 82% No Yes Yes

Clemson University has been educating adults since 1889. The Blue Ridge Mountains are near the school. Outreach, research and social life are as robust at Clemson University as is academics. The four pronged approach to learning provides adults a well rounded educational foundation. About 22,000 adults receive multi-faceted training at the school in practical and complex fields like applied psychology, architecture, computer science, literacy, mechanical engineering and philosophy. After earning a Clemson bachelor's degree, adults can register for master's and doctorate programs. Over 1,000 of the students receive their education via international studies.

7 Francis Marion University Florence, SC 98.51$9,7383 29% 15:1 41% No Yes Yes

Francis Marion University is a state assisted institution that was established in 1970. As much as 95% of the students enrolled in its undergraduate and master's programs are from South Carolina. Wooded areas and natural landscapes surround the more than 500 acre campus. Classes are smaller than average with no more than 21 students generally enrolled in a class. Popular subjects at the school include health, sciences and business. Supplementing the school's main campus in Florence, is the performing arts center that is located downtown. School admissions are handled on a rolling process.

8 University of South Carolina-Aiken Aiken, SC 98.34$9,6023 25% 15:1 39% No Yes Yes

The university offers a diverse array of online courses, including a wide range of legal studies/paralegal classes and certificates, and 26 online equestrian classes. There are also several non-credit courses and career-training programs, as well as programs designed specifically for seniors. Many of the professors who teach online courses are authors or otherwise experts in their fields. Sessions start monthly, follow a six-week format and are delivered in an interactive format in which students engage with professors. Many online career-training programs can be finished in fewer than six months. All programs come with personal instructor assistance.

9 Southern Wesleyan University Central, SC 98.22$22,9503 94% 18:1 49% No Yes Yes

The School of Business offers undergraduates both online and hybrid programs, and both formats are available for general studies degrees. The schools of education and social science offer online degree programs. Graduate programs include online-only options in the School of Education and both hybrid and online options in the School of Business. There are also several programs available for non-degree seeking students. Southern Wesleyan University, and all of its degrees, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Coursework delivered online, like that on campus, is infused with Christian ethics and principles.

10 University of South Carolina-Beaufort Bluffton, SC 92.41$9,4043 9% 17:1 26% Yes Yes Yes

University of South Carolina-Beaufort has a goal of providing adults in South Carolina and other states and countries a comprehensive education that encompasses in demand and traditional fields like liberal arts, sciences, medicine, education and business. Its main campus is in Bluffton, South Carolina. The Center for the Arts and Sea Islands Center are in Beaufort. The university’s third campus is in sought after Hilton Head. Event management, hospitality training and coastal ecology research take place at the Hilton Head location. This campus opened in 2004. A total of about 1,500 students attend the university.

11 Medical University of South Carolina Charleston, SC 90.18$16,0764 N/A 9:1 N/A No No Yes

Medical University of South Carolina is for adults who want to work in one or more medical fields. Its admissions, financial aid, registrar and enrollment management offices are located in Charleston, South Carolina. The school operates undergraduate, continuing education and graduate program through six colleges, which are dental, nursing, pharmacy, medicine, health professions and graduate studies. Hands on training, clinical and research skills are developed at the university’s spine center, simulation center and wellness center. In addition to training students, the university provides medical care to actual patients. Post graduate training is offered.

12 Charleston Southern University Charleston, SC 86.00$22,84015 97% 15:1 34% No No Yes

Charleston Southern University blends instructor led learning with faith based training and opportunities to serve both at school and in the community. The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school was founded in 1964. More than 3,600 students enroll in more than 50 degree programs, including bachelor’s and master’s programs. Located near beaches, shopping and businesses, the school attracts adults focused on gaining a robust education. It also attracts high school graduates who are athletically gifted and who want to participate in one of the school’s more than 15 sports.

Best 2-Year Online Colleges in South Carolina

Rank University Location ScoreAnnual Tuition# of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Trident Technical College Charleston, SC 89.97$4,37024 4% 21:1 10% Yes Yes Yes

Trident Technical College offers an affordable choice in education for both students looking for a degree that prepares them for employment with a two-year technical degree, or those who prefer the personal attention, lower tuition fees, and convenience of a smaller school for their core classes, then plan to transfer to a university for a four-year baccalaureate. Courses are offered in an intense, compressed, seven-week format, allowing students to accelerate their learning, and find success faster. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Trident offers over 150 programs in fields such as business, STEM, aeronautics, health care and social sciences.

2 Technical College of the Lowcountry Beaufort, SC 89.39$4,6609 9% 17:1 10% Yes Yes Yes

South Carolina's Technical College of the Lowcountry serves four counties on the southern coast of the state with three campuses, as well as with two additional offices for military service families on bases located on Merritt Field and Parris Island. Offering a mix of non-traditional, traditional, online, full-time and part-time educational programs, the school offers associates degrees, technical programs, continuing education credits, and transfer credits to four-year institutions. The technical college focuses on affordable programs in areas that include STEM, computer technology, industrial and occupational technologies, business, health science, and community service.

3 Piedmont Technical College Greenwood, SC 89.06$4,4609 4% 20:1 13% Yes Yes Yes

The transformative mission of Piedmont Technical College is to strengthen local communities by providing educational opportunities for economic success and intellectual growth. This two-year college offers both technical career training and university-level education. With affordable tuitions, small classes, and a dedicated staff, students may enroll in programs that result in a two-year technical degree or take core classes, transferring those credits to a larger, four-year university. Offering college prep classes for high schoolers as well as continuing education classes for professionals in the workforce, Piedmont features eight campuses, one for each other the eight counties they serve.

4 Spartanburg Community College Spartanburg, SC 89.05$4,8966 3% 17:1 12% Yes Yes Yes

Bridging the gap between for-profit schools and four-year colleges, Spartanburg Community College offers affordable educational pathways for those pursuing a technical, two-year degree, students looking for an affordable way to take core classes before transferring to a four-year university, and for professionals in need of continuing education credits. Some 5,000 students per semester seek diplomas, certificates and associates degrees. With campuses in three counties, the upstate South Carolina-based school offers a robust online learning option, allowing students to attend classes from home, as well as day, evening and weekend classes on-campus.

5 Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College Orangeburg, SC 87.49$4,8613 2% 16:1 10% Yes Yes Yes

Billed as "the college for the working adult," Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College focuses on continuing education, technical degrees, and flexible educational plans for those already in the workforce. The fully-accredited institution also provides a path to transfer credits to a four-year college, obtain a two-year associates degree, or earn continuing education credits. OCtech serves central South Carolina with day, evening and online classes with a focus on areas including advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, computer technology, STEM, nursing and health sciences. Their innovative "middle college" curriculum offers high school students the opportunity to earn college credits prior to graduation.

A Guide to Online Colleges in South Carolina

In the early stages of the online education business, postsecondary programs were mainly offered by private online for-profit providers. Much has changed in the last several years, however, with a growing number of traditional colleges and universities establishing a strong online presence in South Carolina and elsewhere.

The major contributor among South Carolina public online colleges and universities is the University of South Carolina System, which consists of four 4-year campuses (USC Aiken, USC Beaufort, USC Columbia and USC Upstate) and four 2-year, associate degree-granting campuses (USC Lancaster, USC Salkehatchie, USC Sumter and USC Union). The four 2-year campuses, along with the system’s online bachelor’s degree completion program, are collectively known as Palmetto College. Other South Carolina public online schools of note include Clemson University in Clemson, the College of Charleston in Charleston and Coastal Carolina University in Conway.

There are currently 15 private not-for-profit colleges in South Carolina offering distance education programs. Of particular note are Charleston Southern University in Charleston, Converse College in Spartanburg and Limestone College in Gaffney.

A good way to get a feel for the state of higher education in South Carolina is to take a closer look at what is happening on the college and university campuses of its biggest cities. South Carolina’s two biggest cities are Columbia and Charleston. The following two sections examine the current college climate in the greater Charleston metropolitan area.

Charleston Colleges and Universities

Located centrally on the eastern seaboard of South Carolina, Charleston is home to a number of renowned public and private colleges and universities. Ranked fourth on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Top Public Schools in the South, the College of Charleston’s incoming freshman class averages a 3.9 grade point average in high school. Students at the College of Charleston are encouraged to study abroad and take advantage of independent research to round out their education.

Also located in Charleston, The Citadel is consistently recognized as the top public college in the South for master’s degrees. With only 20 students or less per class in 40 percent of the classes, and an average student retention rate of 82 percent, The Citadel places on many “top” lists from U.S. News.

Medical University of South Carolina has a mission to “preserve and optimize human life,” evident in its growth into one of the country’s top academic health science centers. Its academic hospital was the only hospital in the state to earn an “A” by Leapfrog, an organization that scores hospitals’ health safety based on survey and safety ratings.

Online Courses and Degree Programs in Charleston

Distance learning opportunities allow students the flexibility to take courses from across the globe. The Citadel offers a combination of online courses and synchronous distance learning, where students attend classes in real time from a location outside the traditional classroom. Some graduate programs, such as a master’s in leadership, are available completely online, while other programs have evening and weekend options. At Trident Technical College, distance learning programs continue to grow, as online education gains popularity. From continuing education to associate degrees and accredited programs in accounting, business and technology, students have a variety of options when choosing online programs at TTC.

Tuition and Other Expenses for Online Colleges in South Carolina

Whether in South Carolina or any other state, pursuing a college or university degree is an expensive proposition, which requires a great deal of planning when considering how one will pay. The first cost that any student must consider is tuition. Tuitions vary greatly from school to school, particularly when it comes to private colleges. South Carolina ranked 26th among all states in terms of average college tuition rates in 2012, with resident students averaging $11,762 per year for in-state tuition costs.

Another major expense for college students is also known as room and board. Again, these costs vary substantially by school and location. Recent cost of living (COL) numbers place South Carolina at approximately 1 percent below national averages. COL figures for specific South Carolina cities, compared to the national average (100), are indicated below.

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Greenville -9.7% -27.1% 2.7% -9.9% -2.9% -1.8% -2.3%
Anderson -8.2% -23.0% 3.4% 1.6% -7.7% -0.3% -4.1%
Myrtle Beach -4.8% -21.6% 5.7% 4.5% -5.3% 0.4% 2.4%
Sumter -3.7% -9.8% 3.4% 8.4% -2.2% -8.7% -4.7%
Camden -2.6% -12.2% 3.4% 7.5% -14.0% -6.9% 4.3%
Charleston-N Charleston -1.7% -7.4% 5.7% -3.4% -6.1% 4.4% 1.5%
Columbia 0.4% -17.7% 5.2% 9.0% 2.0% 6.2% 10.6%
Beaufort 5.2% 3.5% 6.9% 14.3% -0.4% -4.3% 6.0%
Hilton Head Island 14.1% 19.8% 11.4% 0.4% 1.6% 10.7% 18.5%

In addition to tuition, room and board, students should also vet the value of a college’s degree. Specifically, once a student graduates, will that degree lead to solid career and salary potential? This return on investment (ROI) analysis, while overlooked and underrated, could be one of the most important metrics to consider when choosing a college. The following South Carolina colleges had the state’s best ROIs in 2013:

  1. Clemson University
  2. Presbyterian College
  3. Furman University
  4. University of South Carolina – Main Campus
  5. College of Charleston

Accreditation of South Carolina Online Colleges

Accreditation is a crucial factor when it comes to choosing a college or university degree program. Proper accreditation of an institution is also an absolute prerequisite for students who plan on paying for their education with the help of federal loans or grants. U.S. Department of Education recognized regional institutional accreditation for South Carolina colleges is administered by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Individual programs, colleges, or departments within a larger institution in South Carolina may also hold specialized or programmatic accreditation. For example, the University of South Carolina Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Search Accredited South Carolina Online Colleges

Online college programs provide a great deal of convenience and flexibility for their students. Yet, each college delivers its coursework in slightly different ways, and on different schedules. The key is for each individual student to determine which program best suits his or her particular requirements and preferences. Once that is accomplished, finding the right program becomes a process of narrowing down the choices based on each student’s priority list. The search tool below is designed to allow its users to do just that.

Degree Level:
Student Population:
School Type:
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Best Online Colleges in South Carolina for 2015-2016

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCostMORE INFO
1 North Greenville University 99.6114:1100%

When it comes to finding online colleges in South Carolina that offer students graduate degrees, North Greenville University is a great option to look at. With both MBA and MCM programs, students can further their careers in business or ministry, working over the internet with excellent teachers to move forward in their careers.

2 University of South Carolina-Upstate 97.9115:197%

University of South Carolina-Upstate offers a distance education program that enables students to takeclasses from home while also participating in clubs and other school organizations. The university offers the final two years of a several degree programs, but it also provides students with a wide range of online courses that span multiple areas of study, including graduate degree programs. Faculty are specially trained in advanced methods of online instruction and craft their courses to capitalize on the benefits of the distance education model. For some online learning opportunities, the university partners with other educational institutions, businesses, industries and community and public agencies.

3 University of South Carolina-Columbia 95.6118:190%

The University of South Carolina at Columbia offers a collection of online degree programs at the bachelor's level, including programs in business, criminal justice, education, human services, organizational leadership, and RN-to-BSN. All distance learning programs are available to students with at least 60 credit hours and who possess the minimum required grade point average. The college's breadth of programs make it one of the top online colleges in South Carolina.

4 Columbia College 95.4610:198%

Columbia College offers two flexible, online degree programs for adult students: a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice or Bachelor of Science in emergency management. Professional instructors who have real-world experience in their field teach the classes, giving students the knowledge and background they need to be successful after graduation. Students are assigned a student success coach to provide support from pre-enrollment through graduation and ensure they are taking advantage of all of Columbia College's many resources. Classes last five weeks and are presented in a cohort model. The average student completes the programs in about 36 weeks.

5 Limestone College 95.0219:1100%

Limestone College offers many different degree programs to students enrolling in their extended campus, with five options at the associate level and nineteen at the bachelor's level. This is one of the bigger offerings out of all the online colleges in South Carolina, so Limestone is a great school to look into.

6 Coastal Carolina University 92.5617:191%

Coastal Carolina University offers a number of bachelor's and master's degrees online. Students can earn Bachelor of Science degrees in health administration, hospitality or marketing. Students access materials, such as digital texts, photos, videos and streaming files asynchronously through CCU's online Moodle system. They interact with instructors and classmates both on their own time via discussion threads and email and synchronously through real-time web conferencing. Each online student is assigned an academic counselor who assists individual students with adjusting to the online format andhelps to ensure students are on the correct academic path.

7 Charleston Southern University 90.5315:1100%

Out of the many online colleges in South Carolina, Charleston Southern University does not have the biggest list of degree programs available, but it does have a varied one. Students are able to choose from anything from nursing to organizational management or graphic design. All of these degrees are accredited and can help students seeking employment in the professional world.

8 W L Bonner College 87.24 N/A 100%

W. L. Bonner College offers a distance learning program offering bachelor's and associate degrees in religious studies, with courses such as Principles of Bible Interpretation, Evangelism, and Counseling and Crisis Intervention. The program is targeted for students who live outside of South Carolina and who wish to teach in congregations, denominational institutions, and public or Christian schools. Students can choose a fully-online program, with no in-person requirements, or enroll in a hybrid program meeting for one week or one Saturday each month. Courses are hosted through the Blackboard learning platform, allowing students to access readings, submit assignments and contact peers and professors in a virtual classroom

Online Colleges in South Carolina: Spotlight

Online Departments in South Carolina

Southern Wesleyan University

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

At Southern Wesleyan, we understand the needs and commitments of working adults. We have been providing working adults with Christ-centered educational opportunities for more than 25 years. At SWU we offer fully online options for select degree programs. Online students will earn the same degree as they would in the on-site classroom. Courses are taught in a flexible virtual classroom experience, designed to be both engaging and challenging. Students have access to an incredible array of learning resources and can complete their online degrees on their own schedule. As a Christ-centered university, our programs offer a faith-based education that combines theory with practical, real-world applications.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

  • Transfer friendly policies
  • Devoted professors and student services coordinators
  • Flexibility via no set login times
  • Student friendly interface provides 24/7 access to course work
  • Established brick-and mortar campus for over 100 years
  • Non-profit institution that is regionally accredited

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

Dedicating tremendous time and resources to increase program offerings (content specific concentrations) and improve systems and processes.

Great Resources for Online Students in South Carolina

College students in South Carolina – and elsewhere – have access to a wide variety of online tools and resources to support their studies. Some services require payment of a fee, but a surprising number of fully functioning tools and applications are available to the general public free of charge. The types of resources offered include tools for time and money management, help in resume writing and job placement, subject-focused learning databases, tutorial services, math and science calculators, and access to language and writing coaches. Below is just a small sampling of the types of tools and resources that can be found online, along with links to a number of helpful websites specifically for South Carolina students.

Major South Carolina Educational Resources: