#1 Duke University
Duke University in Durham is highly competitive, private, and based in the United Methodist tradition. This institution offers five online master's degrees, which is why only 8% of graduate students attend exclusively online. Majors include engineering management, environmental management, nursing, quantitative management: business analytics, and quantitative management in health analytics. These online programs may require on-campus, cohort-centric residencies to graduate. Students can generally finish in two years even while studying at a full-time pace.
Sakai is Duke's primary learning management system for distance learners. Classes at Duke are small, and it has a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio, allowing instructors and students to build working relationships. Duke has a diverse student body. Less than 50% of students are White, 21% Asian, 11% Hispanic, and 8% Black. Duke's online student body represents countries around the globe, which can enrich the learning experience. While attending Duke is expensive — at approximately $31,400 annually — graduate median earnings of $97,400 are almost twice as much as average.
#2 Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem's Wake Forest University (WFU) is a private, nonprofit institution that is relatively competitive. It offers online graduate degrees at the master's and doctoral levels. A little under a quarter of WFU graduate students attend exclusively online. Notable majors include business administration, law, healthcare leadership, and project management. Programs may also offer concentrations, such as the MBA program with tracks in business analytics, finance, and strategy and leadership. It generally takes full-time students just over two years to complete one of WFU's online master's programs.
WFU uses Canvas to deliver online coursework and instruction to its distance learners. It has a low 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an average class size of approximately 33 students. WFU assigns Student Success Managers to distance learners to support them throughout their education. Student Success Managers help individuals complete the admission process, onboard new students, help students with career development, and track and analyze educational progress.
#3 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) is a competitive public institution offering online master's and doctoral degrees. Of all UNC's graduate students, 17% participate solely online. Fields of study are primarily in health, including pharmacy, public health, nursing, health informatics, and allied health. Non-health majors include business, government, data science, and information and library science. Programs are offered in three tracks to provide scheduling flexibility. The full-time fast track takes students a year to complete, the standard track takes 1.5 years, and the part-time track takes 2-4 years.
UNC delivers its online curriculum via Canvas, and its student-to-faculty ratio is 15:1. UNC is renowned for being prestigious and offering high quality education. Founded in 1795, UNC is the oldest public university in the U.S. It's classified by Carnegie as an R1 university for high research activity.
#4 North Carolina State University
North Carolina State University in Raleigh (NC State) is a public institution offering online graduate programs at the master's and doctoral levels and bachelor's degree completion programs. Approximately one-quarter of graduate students and 4% of undergrads participate in distance-only education. Fields of study include design, education, engineering, management, and humanities and social sciences. Notable master's degrees include aerospace engineering, clinical mental health counseling, and business administration. Online bachelor's completion programs include agricultural science, engineering, and leadership in the public sector. NC State has a 47% acceptance rate and a high graduation rate of 82%.
Moodle is the official LMS at NC State. It's a large school with approximately 37,000 students and a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio. NC State is considered a leading STEM university. Carnegie classifies it as an R1 university for offering doctoral degrees and having very high research activity. Its top research areas include regenerative medicine, bioinformatics, mental health and wellness, sustainable community design, and agriculture.
#5 Pfeiffer University
Rural Misenheimer's Pfieffer University (PU) is a private, faith-based institution in the Methodist tradition. It offers online master's degrees and bachelor's degree completion programs. Less than 15% of students enroll in distance-only education at PU. Notable online master's degrees include business administration, health administration, and teaching. Online bachelor's degree completion programs include criminal justice, education, and nursing. PU has a 72% acceptance rate and a 51% graduation rate.
PU's online learners access online programming through Blackboard. As a small college with approximately 1,100 students, its student-to-faculty ratio is 11:1. With such small class sizes, students can expect individualized instruction. PU students participate in a one-of-a-kind, four-year mentoring program, called Pfeiffer Journey, that helps prepare them holistically for workforce entry, build confidence and self-acceptance, and develop skills in their chosen fields.
#6 Queens University of Charlotte
With adult learners and working professionals in mind, Queens University of Charlotte (Queens) is a private, Presbyterian institution that offers online degrees at the master's level in various fields, including healthcare, business, and education. It enrolls about three-quarters of its graduate students in distance-only education. Some online master's degrees include nursing, global business management, health administration, and educational leadership. Students generally take 2.5 years of full-time attendance to complete these online graduate degrees. However, its online MBA program may be completed in as few as 18 months.
Queens gives distance learners access to Canvas to participate asynchronously in classes. It has a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio and small class sizes that foster communication and help generate engagement between students and instructors. Queen's unique approach to general education is less prescribed than in some universities. It allows students to explore various topics during their senior year capstone experience, such as how they experience the arts.
#7 University of North Carolina at Charlotte
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) is another branch of the State's public university system. It offers online degrees at the bachelor's completion, master's, and doctoral levels, graduate certificates, and teacher licensure programs through its School of Professional Studies. While less than 10% of undergrads enroll exclusively online, 35% of graduate students do. Programs of interest include community/public health nursing, engineering management, business administration, social work, and political science. Online bachelor's degree completion programs include those in the fields of nursing, education, and engineering technology. UNC Charlotte accepts 79% of applicants and has a 62% graduation rate, slightly higher than average.
UNC Charlotte's distance learners rely on Canvas for online coursework and instruction. It has a student body of just over 30,000 students. The student-to-faculty ratio is 20:1. Remote student services include tech support, academic advising, access to the library and bookstore, and career development, including virtual events.
#8 University of Mount Olive
The University of Mount Olive is a private, nonprofit institution affiliated with the Baptist church. Students here can earn associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees online. Among the school's more popular programs are the bachelor's in criminal justice, education, and nursing. The school has a 75% acceptance rate and a 49% graduation rate.
Mount Olive students access their online course materials and class learning activities through the Moodle learning platform. Nearly two-thirds of students attend school full time.
#9 East Carolina University
East Carolina University (ECU) offers a robust selection of online bachelor’s degrees in majors such as business, education, healthcare, and technology. For example, students can enroll in an online bachelor’s degree in business administration, with concentrations such as human resources, marketing, and supply chain management. ECU’s online industrial technology degree includes a range of concentrations to choose from, such as bioprocess manufacturing, industrial management, and distribution and logistics. Students who desire to teach can complete an online bachelor’s degree program in Elementary, Secondary, or Special Education. These distance learners can access online tutoring, library services, tech support, writing help, and career services.
#10 Campbell University
Campbell University is a private, nonprofit institution affiliated with the Baptist church. The school offers an array of fully online degrees, including 18 bachelor's programs and three master's programs. Among the school's most popular options are the bachelor's in psychology, the bachelor's in social sciences, and the bachelor's in finance.
At Campbell, online students access their course materials and group discussions through the Blackboard system. The school has an 89% acceptance rate and a 56% graduation rate. More than 83% of enrollees are full-time students.
#11 University of North Carolina at Wilmington
Similar to UNCG, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) helps make earning a degree convenient and flexible by offering a wide range of online bachelor’s degrees. Disciplines include clinical research, criminology, respiratory therapy, and education. Students with bachelor’s degrees seeking teaching licensure can enroll in online certificate programs and add-on licensure programs in areas of focus, such as teaching the academically and intellectually gifted, mathematics, and English as a second language. Distance learners can also access online career resources, counseling, tutoring, math services, library resources, and writing assistance.
#12 Gardner Webb University
Boiling Spring's Gardner-Webb University (GWU) is a private, Southern Baptist institution that offers a broad range of online degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Roughly a quarter of GWU's students participate in distance-only education. Popular online undergraduate degrees include criminal justice, cybersecurity, healthcare management, and nursing. Online master's degrees include educational leadership, nursing, sport education, and international business administration. While most degrees are standard, taking four years to earn a bachelor's and two for a master's, an accelerated online MBA can be completed in as few as ten months. GWU has a 79% acceptance rate and a 54% graduation rate.
GWU delivers online coursework and instruction via Blackboard. It has an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and small class sizes. GWU works with Barnes and Noble to reduce the costs of textbooks and ensure students have the materials they need before classes start. It's also in the process of switching to 8-week terms, which can save time and money.
#13 University of North Carolina at Greensboro
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) offers accessibility and flexibility to students through online bachelor’s degrees in programs such as Finance, Hospitality and Tourism, Public Health, Nursing (RN to BSN), and Philosophy. UNCG’s distance learners can expect the same access to student resources as their on-campus peers. Online resources include student support services, such as career and academic advising, as well as academic support services, such as tutoring, writing assistance, and tech support. Online students can also access UNCG’s Digital Media Commons (DMC) for project assistance.
#14 University of North Carolina at Pembroke
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP), which is a public institution offering online degree programs, including seven online bachelor's degrees and 12 online master's degrees. For example, students who prefer to study online can earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, business administration, nursing, or sociology. UNCP is also highly ranked on many of our lists of the most affordable online degree programs.
Online learners access their courses through the Canvas learning management system. The school accepts 90% of applicants, and it graduates 45% of its students. Three-fourths of enrollees study full time.
#15 Western Carolina University
Students interested in convenience and affordability when seeking degrees in today’s in-demand fields can enroll in one of several Western Carolina University’s (WCU’s) online bachelor’s programs. WCU’s online undergraduate degrees are considered degree completion programs and require students to enroll with transfer credits. Areas of study are diverse and include popular majors, such as business administration and law, emergency and disaster management, emergency medical care, and nursing. Professors design courses individually, so some may have self-paced instruction while others have specific completion dates for online assignments. Remote student resources include tutoring support, tech support, writing support, and access to library services.
#16 Fayetteville State University
North Carolina’s Fayetteville State University (FSU) offers a range of online bachelor’s degree programs. To apply, students must complete the University College Core Curriculum or dual-enroll in a partnering community college. Once eligible, FSU students can enroll in online bachelor’s programs, such as accounting, fire and emergency services administration, intelligence studies, math, nursing, and psychology. FSU offers the University of North Carolina System Online Learning 101 course to help familiarize students with the online learning environment in order to prepare for their first online class. Remote student orientation and the Canvas learning management system has tutorials that go further to help distance learners succeed. Online students also have remote access to free proctoring, web conferencing tools, tech support, and tutoring services.
#17 North Carolina Central University
North Carolina Central University is a public institution offering the following online programs: 12 online undergraduate degrees and 29 graduate degrees. For example, bachelor's degrees are available in teacher education, nursing, psychology, and criminal justice. North Central is also highly ranked on several of our lists of the most affordable online degrees.
Online courses are delivered through the Canvas learning platform. This school has an acceptance rate of 84% and a graduation rate of 44%. Of the entire student population, 81% study full time.
#18 North Carolina A&T State University
A public university, North Carolina A&T State University provides more than 30 bachelor's and master's degrees through distance education. One of the school's most notable options is the bachelor's in teacher education.
Online learners use the Blackboard learning system to view lectures and readings, submit assignments, and engage in group learning activities. The school accepts only 56% of applicants, and it graduates 57% of students. Most enrollees — 89% — study full time.
#19 Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University (App State) is a public two-year institution in Boone offering online bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees and online certificate programs students can complete in as little as a year. Less than 5% of undergrads and almost half of graduate students enroll solely online. Popular fields of study include business administration, education, nursing, vet tech, and social work. Programs are traditional in length, taking an average of four years of full-time study for bachelor's degrees and two for master's degrees. App State accepts 85% of applicants, and 74% graduate, which is significantly more than average.
App State uses AsULearn, a Moodle product, for online program delivery. It has a 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio. App State offers scholarship opportunities to undergraduate and graduate distance learners based on need to help lessen the burden of student debt. Its annual cost of $14,000 is also less than average.
#20 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest is a private, faith-based institution offering online graduate degree programs, including five online master's degrees and one online doctoral degree. Degrees at SEBTS are mostly religious-based, such as divinity, Christian studies, church planting, and a mentored program in Christian ministry. Of its graduate students, 38% enroll in distance-only education. It generally takes full-time students two years to complete these online degrees. SEBTS has a 90% acceptance rate and a 42% graduation rate.
SEBTS distance learners use CampusNet to access online programming. As a small college of approximately 3,000 students, its student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1, and class sizes are small, allowing educators to tailor instruction based on need. Online student support services include access to the library, writing assistance, advising, coaching, and chapel. Like other Southern Baptist institutions, conservative values and beliefs are integrated into the SEBTS program curriculum. For example, it has adopted the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
#21 Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) is a public Historically Black College and University (HBCU) offering a limited selection of online degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. A little over a third of WSSU undergrads and almost three-quarters of graduate students participate exclusively in online-only education. Notable degrees include nursing, healthcare administration, a bachelor's degree in birth to kindergarten education, and physical therapy doctoral program that we've ranked as one of the best in the U.S. WSSU accepts 81% of applicants and has a higher-than-average 64% graduation rate.
WSSU uses Blackboard for online program delivery. It has a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio. WSSU is relatively affordable, with an annual average cost of approximately $5,000 less than average. As an HBCU, 79% of students and just over half of the full-time staff are Black. WSSU has a rich history. In 1925, it became the first black institution in the U.S. to confer degrees for teaching the elementary grades. It also ranks #1 in the UNC system for average salary for triad-area graduates.
#22 Carolina University
Winston-Salem's Carolina University (CU) offers online degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels as a non-denominal Christian institution. It enrolls a little over half of its students in distance-only education. Majors include business administration, criminal justice, criminology, education, engineering management, and social work. Several ministry degree programs are also available. CU believes in early graduation, so it delivers courses in seven-week sessions to ensure undergrads finish in four years and master's students in two. CU is relatively competitive, accepting just under half of applicants, and 43% of students graduate.
CU is a small school serving approximately 1,000 students and a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, so that students can expect small classes. Small class sizes help educators deliver targeted instruction to individual students as needed. Online student services include tutoring and writing, career development and job exploration, access to the online bookstore, and tech support.
#23 Lees-McRae College
Lees-McRae College (LMC) in rural Banner Elk is a private, Presbyterian-faith-based institution offering six online bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration, criminal justice, education, teaching, and human services. All online degree programs at LMC are designed to be completed in two years, and its online master's degree in criminal justice in just one. Most courses last eight weeks, and programs have rolling start dates. LMC accepts 59% of applicants and has a 58% graduation rate on par with the average.
LMC distance learners rely on Brightspace to access online coursework and instruction. It's a small college with less than 1,000 students and an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. LMC has some of the lowest out-of-pocket tuition costs in the region at $350 per credit hour. Students may also qualify for price reductions, scholarships, and discounts to help pay for college and minimize student debt.
#24 Manna University
Manna University (MU) — formerly known as Grace College of Divinity — is a Protestant institution in Fayetteville that offers online degree programs supporting careers in ministry. This includes online degrees at all academic levels. Notable programs include online associate and bachelor's degrees in divinity, Christian leadership, and worship ministry. Over 70% of MU students participate in distance-only learning. It generally takes full-time students four years to complete bachelor's degrees and two for associate and master's degrees. MU accepts nearly all applicants and has a 39% graduation rate.
MU distance learners rely on the Populi learning management system to receive online coursework and instruction. It's a small school with less than 300 students and a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It's important to note that students must play an instrument, such as the piano or guitar, or sing in order to complete degree programs.
#25 Charlotte Christian College
Charlotte Christian College (CCC) is a very small, private, faith-based institution offering a Christian education through online degrees at all academic levels. All CCC students attend exclusively online. They choose from majors, including Biblical studies, urban Christian ministry, pastoral studies, and divinity. Online courses last between 8 and 16 weeks. CCC has an open admission policy and accepts all applicants. On average, 27% of students graduate from CCC, which is about half of the average.
Populi is the primary learning management system for distance learning. There are less than 200 students at CCC, so class sizes are small. This allows instructors and students to develop strong working relationships and build community. CCC supports its distance learners by providing remote access to student services such as the library and librarians, tutoring, career exploration, and a job board.
Higher Education in North Carolina
There are 137 schools in North Carolina with associate, bachelor's, or graduate degree programs. Many of these are North Carolina's community colleges, while others are four-year institutions granting bachelor's degrees and above. Most of the state's colleges and universities are public, though more than 50 are privately funded.
The largest portion of North Carolina colleges are in small cities. But many of these schools provide online degree programs, so students might never visit a campus.
Online Colleges in North Carolina
There is only one completely online North Carolina college — Heritage Bible College — but many schools feature online programs in addition to on-campus offerings. More than 30% of North Carolina's college students were enrolled in a fully remote program in 2020-2021. Another 31.8% took a mix of online and in-person courses. These numbers show that North Carolina is part of the rising trend of earning a degree online.
Most North Carolina online degrees feature asynchronous courses, meaning that students can sign in to their learning management system whenever is convenient for them. As long as they respect due dates, distance learners can watch lecture recordings and complete assignments on their own schedule. This helps grant maximum flexibility to students aiming to balance school with work and other obligations.
There are online education options at all levels in North Carolina. The following table lays out some of the differences among these credentials:
FAQs About Online Colleges in North Carolina
What Are the Best Colleges in North Carolina?
You can review the rankings on this page for our list of the best online colleges in North Carolina. We’ve listed them by online enrollment.
However, these aren't necessarily the best North Carolina colleges for you. There are many factors to consider, such as cost, your preference for online or in-person learning, and positive or negative student reviews. Once you've made a decision, read through our Guide to Applying to Online College or University for help with the next steps.
What Are the State Colleges in North Carolina?
North Carolina's 75 public colleges include nearly 60 community colleges with associate degrees and certificate programs. The four-year institutions are all part of the University of North Carolina (UNC) system, which has seven UNC campuses and 10 affiliated schools.
Are There Online Colleges in North Carolina?
There is only one fully online North Carolina college, but many North Carolina schools feature 100% online degrees. These include most of the UNC system public colleges along with several private universities. A number of schools also have hybrid learning options that feature a mix of on-campus and online classes.
How Much Is College in North Carolina?
North Carolina college costs are different for every school. But the National Center for Education Statistics calculated the average college costs for each state, including North Carolina.
- Public four-year college, in-state resident: $7,260
- Public four-year college, out-of-state resident: $23,136
- Private four-year college: $36,772
- Public two-year college, in-state resident: $2,474
- Public two-year college, out-of-state resident: $8,511
Keep in mind that these are the U.S. Department of Education's latest numbers but they come from the 2020-2021 school year. Most costs are probably a bit higher now.
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