According to projections from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the state will add close to 400,000 new jobs by 2026. The agency projects a significant increase in jobs for healthcare, computer, and technical services professionals and a decline in positions for manufacturing and production workers. As soon as 2020, 67% of jobs in the state will require some postsecondary education. Expanding opportunities for college-educated workers makes now a great time to earn an online degree in North Carolina.
This guide ranks the top affordable online colleges in North Carolina and provides important information on financial aid, admissions deadlines, and finding the best online programs.
The colleges below represent some of the best and cheapest options for online programs in North Carolina. These schools combine academic excellence and low tuition costs to give students the most value for their dollar. We ranked these schools based on quantitative metrics such as graduation rate and in-state tuition cost, along with qualitative factors like availability of career advising services and academic resources. Review the following list to learn more about the best affordable online universities in North Carolina.
Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution
At least 3 online associate degrees or certificate programs (2-year schools)
At least 3 online bachelor’s or master’s degrees (4-year schools)
Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)
Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)
Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:
Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates
Count and breadth of online programs available
6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)
% of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college
Average $ of financial aid students receive directly from the college
Availability of academic/career counseling services
Availability of job placement services for students and graduates
3-year loan default rate
AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*
*PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or 'bang for your buck' – of an online degree.
Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.
Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017
|number||University||Score||Location||Annual Tuition||# of Online Programs||Financial Aid %||Student-Teacher Ratio||Grad Rate||Credit for Experience||Placement Services||Counseling Services||University Information|
|1.||Pamlico Community College||100.00||Grantsboro, NC||$2,304||24||21%||9:1||N/A||yes||yes||yes|
|2.||Mitchell Community College||92.78||Statesville, NC||$2,304||43||10%||16:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|3.||Haywood Community College||91.32||Clyde, NC||$2,304||14||28%||10:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|4.||Stanly Community College||91.29||Albemarle, NC||$2,304||27||10%||17:1||N/A||yes||yes||yes|
|5.||Lenoir Community College||91.19||Kinston, NC||$2,304||25||18%||15:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|6.||Pitt Community College||89.76||Winterville, NC||$1,893||27||10%||20:1||N/A||yes||yes||yes|
|7.||Durham Technical Community College||88.80||Durham, NC||$1,955||6||34%||14:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|8.||Wake Technical Community College||88.41||Raleigh, NC||$2,304||33||1%||18:1||N/A||yes||yes||yes|
|9.||Fayetteville Technical Community College||87.66||Fayetteville, NC||$2,304||32||1%||19:1||N/A||yes||yes||yes|
|10.||Surry Community College||86.50||Dobson, NC||$1,728||21||15%||16:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|11.||Wayne Community College||86.36||Goldsboro, NC||$2,304||18||2%||12:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|12.||Montgomery Community College||86.12||Troy, NC||$2,304||14||17%||7:1||N/A||no||no||yes|
|13.||Vance-Granville Community College||85.19||Henderson, NC||$1,728||11||18%||13:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|14.||Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College||84.72||Asheville, NC||$1,938||10||8%||15:1||N/A||yes||yes||yes|
|15.||Randolph Community College||84.63||Asheboro, NC||$1,728||3||15%||11:1||N/A||yes||yes||yes|
|16.||Blue Ridge Community College||84.51||Flat Rock, NC||$2,304||9||12%||10:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|17.||Guilford Technical Community College||83.99||Jamestown, NC||$2,016||24||3%||20:1||N/A||yes||yes||yes|
|18.||Piedmont Community College||83.14||Roxboro, NC||$2,304||5||13%||12:1||N/A||yes||yes||yes|
|19.||Southwestern Community College||82.11||Sylva, NC||$2,016||7||9%||15:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|20.||Wilkes Community College||81.66||Wilkesboro, NC||$2,304||5||22%||12:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|21.||Richmond Community College||81.19||Hamlet, NC||$2,304||12||9%||15:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|22.||Alamance Community College||80.86||Graham, NC||$2,145||4||17%||16:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|23.||Craven Community College||80.76||New Bern, NC||$1,728||21||11%||13:1||N/A||yes||no||yes|
|24.||Central Piedmont Community College||80.67||Charlotte, NC||$2,304||10||3%||19:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|25.||Coastal Carolina Community College||79.48||Jacksonville, NC||$2,304||7||2%||14:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|26.||Mayland Community College||79.34||Spruce Pine, NC||$2,429||4||11%||14:1||N/A||yes||yes||yes|
|27.||Sandhills Community College||79.32||Pinehurst, NC||$2,288||4||13%||16:1||N/A||yes||yes||yes|
|28.||Forsyth Technical Community College||78.11||Winston Salem, NC||$1,848||18||N/A||10:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|29.||Davidson County Community College||77.58||Thomasville, NC||$1,973||8||9%||15:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|30.||Bladen Community College||77.42||Dublin, NC||$2,016||8||3%||13:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|31.||Tri-County Community College||77.10||Murphy, NC||$2,304||5||4%||13:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|32.||Edgecombe Community College||76.89||Tarboro, NC||$2,304||4||7%||22:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|33.||Central Carolina Community College||74.79||Sanford, NC||$2,304||18||6%||16:1||N/A||yes||no||yes|
|34.||South Piedmont Community College||72.59||Polkton, NC||$1,728||9||N/A||14:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|35.||Gaston College||71.91||Dallas, NC||$2,288||3||3%||19:1||N/A||yes||yes||yes|
|36.||Cleveland Community College||71.53||Shelby, NC||$2,304||7||10%||10:1||N/A||yes||no||yes|
|37.||Brunswick Community College||71.12||Bolivia, NC||$2,304||7||6%||24:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|38.||Robeson Community College||70.90||Lumberton, NC||$2,288||7||4%||17:1||N/A||no||yes||yes|
|39.||Western Piedmont Community College||69.14||Morganton, NC||$2,304||4||10%||11:1||N/A||no||no||yes|
|40.||Wilson Community College||67.41||Wilson, NC||$2,288||11||10%||15:1||N/A||no||no||yes|
More than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students study exclusively online in North Carolina, and colleges in the state offer 130 fully online programs. The strong presence of online education in the state provides new occupational and educational opportunities to many people. Single parents, for instance, can complete an online degree while juggling family and career duties. Workers in declining labor industries can study in their free time to transition to a new career.
Number of Programs Offered Completely Online in North Carolina 130
Undergraduate Students Enrolled Exclusively Online in North Carolina 17,387
Graduate Students Enrolled Exclusively Online in North Carolina 14,371
Total International Students Enrolled Exclusively Online in North Carolina 262
Public universities generally offer more affordable tuition for in-state students than for nonresidents, and out-of-state tuition in North Carolina is more than triple the cost of in-state tuition on average. However, online learners can sometimes pay in-state tuition regardless of where they live. To qualify for resident tuition in North Carolina, students must live in the state for 12 months before the start of classes.
Students enrolling in private universities pay the same tuition rate whether they live in-state or out-of-state. In addition, through reciprocity agreements, students in nearby states may qualify for reduced tuition at North Carolina's public colleges.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
Both in-state and out-of-state students at North Carolina's public four-year universities pay slightly less than the national average tuition rates.
Private four-year universities charge more than public four-year institutions, and two-year colleges tend to be the most affordable option. However, rates for distance learners vary between schools — some colleges give discounts to online students, some charge them extra fees, and others charge all students the same rate.
Attending college in North Carolina as an out-of-state student may be a great choice depending on your specific academic and career interests. Nonresident students should consider a few factors as they weigh their options. Out-of-state learners should look into any interstate reciprocity agreements that reduce tuition costs. They should also research any restrictions in their state and make sure their desired program can operate where they live. Nonresident students can consider the government data below.
Out-of-State Undergraduate Students Studying Exclusively Online in North Carolina 1,167
Out-of-State Graduate Students Studying Exclusively Online in North Carolina 3,074
North Carolina belongs to the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), which also includes states like Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, and Georgia. All 15 member states except North Carolina participate in the Academic Common Market, an SREB program that provides in-state tuition to qualifying students in any member state.
However, North Carolina Promise, a program from the University of North Carolina System, offers reduced tuition to out-of-state students studying at three public universities. Nonresidents at Elizabeth City State University, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Western Carolina University pay $2,500 per semester.
North Carolina participates in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), which consists of 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. All SARA states agree to evaluate their state's distance education programs based on shared criteria, simplifying the process for institutions who wish to enroll nonresident students. Prospective out-of-state learners can choose from more than 70 North Carolina colleges and universities approved through SARA.
Tuition rates are ultimately program- and institution-based. Ask someone from a prospective program about what rates apply to you specifically as a potential member of a specific program.
Below, you will find answers to some of the most common questions about online degrees in North Carolina. Read on to discover some helpful resources for prospective online students.
In general, earning a degree online can be a great way to save on a college education. Online learners do not need to pay for print textbooks, transportation, housing, or meal plans. However, actual tuition costs for online students vary between colleges in North Carolina. Some schools set different tuition structures for distance learners, while others require all students to pay the same rate regardless of how they learn. Additionally, online tuition rates depend on the major you choose and whether you study part time or full time or pursue undergraduate or graduate study.
You should conduct your own research to find the programs that best fit your budget. The FAQ page from the University of North Carolina System can help you better understand tuition rates for online programs at North Carolina's public universities.
Each North Carolina school determines its own admissions requirements and transfer policies. Some colleges boast generous transfer policies, while others restrict the amount of credits one can transfer in. Catawba College, for instance, allows students from accredited four-year universities to transfer up to 90 credits, while students attending community colleges can transfer up to 60 credits. Community college students transferring to Wake Forest University must complete at least their last 60 credits through the university and cannot apply credits toward 12 departments, including economics, English, and chemistry.
Articulation agreements in North Carolina make it easier to transfer to certain schools. The Comprehensive Articulation Agreement allows students from all 58 North Carolina community colleges to transfer to all 16 public universities in the state. To qualify, students must graduate from an associate of arts or associate of science program with at least a 2.0 GPA, and they must earn at least a "C" in certain classes. The Independent Comprehensive Articulation Agreement enables North Carolina community college graduates to simply transfer to participating private institutions in the state. Students can learn more about transfer policies in North Carolina through their online resource.
A majority of higher learning institutions in the U.S. accept a GED in lieu of a high school diploma. GED holders should keep in mind that colleges often look at GED exam scores, and a high score on the exam can increase your chances of getting into a top school. Online colleges also take into account several other factors when evaluating applicants. Schools may require transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, personal essays, or recommendation letters.
Prospective students may become familiar with North Carolina's High School Equivalency Diploma program, which readies students to pass exams such as the GED. Through the GED Online program, students can learn more about earning a GED online in North Carolina. The University of North Carolina System's website features information about minimum admissions requirements for public universities.
Online programs often appeal to students looking for a flexible learning experience. Distance learners can attend class from nearly anywhere and complete assignments at their own convenience. Many online programs also feature several start times each year to accommodate as many students as possible. Programs commonly start 3-6 times each year.
Some online programs at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, including the BS in exercise science and the RN-to-BSN program, boast six start dates each year in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. The University of Mount Olive offers six start times per year for its online associate of science in general studies program.
The number of start dates a program offers depends largely on its delivery format. Asynchronous and self-paced programs, which allow students to work through courses independently whenever is convenient, offer more flexible start dates. Cohort programs, in which students progress through the curriculum as a group, may offer fewer start dates.
Through the UNC Online resource, prospective students can search through courses at North Carolina's public universities to get a feel for the academic calendars at various schools.
Prospective students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find out if they qualify for any government-sponsored grants, scholarships, loans, or work-study opportunities. Students should take advantage of any federal aid programs before searching for private loans. However, only accredited online schools in North Carolina accept the FAFSA, so be sure to apply to properly accredited schools. Moreover, the school's accrediting agency must be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Students can learn more about the FAFSA and financial aid in general through many resources. The University of North Carolina System's website outlines scholarship opportunities at public universities in the state. Through the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities' website, prospective students can learn about financial aid options and get tips on affording a private school degree. The College Foundation of North Carolina, a state organization, also provides numerous resources on paying for college.
Many U.S. colleges, including some in North Carolina, make free online courses available to the public. These courses, sometimes called massive open online courses (MOOCs), can help students considering an online degree. Though they do not provide any college credit, MOOCs resemble paid courses and typically involve lecture videos. By completing a free online course, students familiarize themselves with online learning platforms while expanding their knowledge. Prospective students can also gain basic knowledge in core subject areas through free online classes.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers several MOOCs through its center for continuing education. UNC Chapel Hill faculty members developed the courses, which cover topics including the American South, epidemiology, psychology, and environmental law. Wake Technical Community College offers six MOOCs designed to prepare students for postsecondary education. Topics include computer basics, introductory algebra, reading and writing fundamentals, and chemistry concepts.
In addition, the Open Education North Carolina initiative provides free textbooks for popular courses across two-year and four-year schools in the state. The initiative also offers free articles, books, videos, and other useful materials.
With so many schools and programs to choose from, students often struggle to find the ideal online program. Navigating through every North Carolina school's website to find online offerings can prove tedious, and you might overlook a great program. Fortunately, prospective students can use online tools to streamline their search for an online program.
Students considering public four-year institutions in the state can use the UNC Online program search tool to compare close to 400 online degrees and certificate programs. Students can filter results by keyword, degree level, and discipline. Likewise, those looking to study at a two-year community college can explore online programs through the Virtual Learning Community website. Students interested in private institutions should consult the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities page, which summarizes online degree options at 15 universities.
One of the most desirable options for funding, Pell Grants help students looking to reduce the cost of college tuition. However, these grants only apply to first-time degree seekers who demonstrate adequate financial need. Those who do not qualify can take advantage of many scholarships specifically for North Carolina students.
North Carolina high school seniors may apply for this scholarship. Applicants must hold a 2.5-3.5 GPA and demonstrate community service and leadership qualities. Applicants must also show SAT scores between 990 and 1130 or ACT scores between 20 and 24.
Scholarship Amount: UnknownView Details
The North Carolina Technology Association offers this scholarship in honor of its founding CEO. The scholarship supports young women interested in a career in technology or engineering. Applicants must be North Carolina residents studying at an accredited institution in the state. The scholarship requires at least a 3.0 GPA.
Scholarship Amount: $1,000 per yearView Details
Crumley Roberts, a law firm in Greensboro, awards the Next Step Scholarship to North Carolina community college students transferring to a four-year institution. Applicants must submit college transcripts, recommendation letters, and a 500-word essay. Students should also provide information about extracurricular activities and leadership experience.
Scholarship Amount: $2,500View Details
The North Carolina Association of Educators established this award in 1992 for students at public high schools in the state. Applicants must submit a resume, two letters of recommendation, and a transcript showing a GPA of at least 2.5. Students must also submit an essay explaining how Dr. King's philosophies influence their lives.
Scholarship Amount: VariesView Details
The North Carolina Society of Engineers assists undergraduate engineering and technology students through this scholarship. North Carolina residents enrolled at one of nine approved universities may apply. Applicants must submit college transcripts and two letters of recommendation. The committee awards scholarships based on academic merit and financial need.
Scholarship Amount: $5,000View Details