North Carolina’s Best Colleges and Universities of 2021

Here are the best colleges and universities in North Carolina. Our list will help you find the right kind of school for you.

North Carolina’s Best Colleges and Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in North Carolina

Among these schools are over 60 public colleges and universities, including the state’s largest school, North Carolina State University, which serves almost 30,000 students. Tuition costs average about $9,000, just below the national average, and students also have the option to enroll in over 1,000 online courses. Another notable public school is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is one of the country’s oldest universities.

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The 25,000 students who attend UNC will walk the same halls as Francis Collins, Thomas Wolfe, and former president James K. Polk. North Carolina’s private schools have also made a name for themselves, including the well-known Duke University located in Durham. Here, students can earn degrees in some of the top programs, like nursing, political science, and business. Additionally, students can attend one of the many small schools which serve less than 5,000 students, like Campbell University in Buies Creek, or a religiously affiliated school, like Mid-Atlantic Christian University in Elizabeth City.

From its coastal beaches to its lush forests, it’s no wonder the Wright Brothers dreamed of taking flight over North Carolina. This state is rich with history, scenic views, and famous people who once called it home, like John Coltrane and Nicholas Sparks. Students hoping to earn their associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree also have the option of choosing from over 100 schools in the Tar Heel State.

Whether you prefer ocean views or wooded forests, North Carolina has something for everyone. Discover more about the state’s higher learning options.

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What are North Carolina’s Colleges & Universities?

North Carolina’s Best Overall

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

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How do we determine North Carolina's best colleges and universities?

The best colleges pound for pound!

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call Concentrated Influence. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

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Every fall, more than 2 million high-school graduates will enroll in colleges and universities across the United States. Finding the best college for your educational, personal, and professional goals may be challenging. The purpose of this ranking is to help you manage this challenge with an accurate, objective, and up-to-date ranking of the best colleges and universities in North Carolina for earning a bachelor’s degree.

We’ve identified a total of 49 colleges and universities in North Carolina, 25 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the best schools in the state focuses on those that offer four-year undergraduate degrees, includes both public and private colleges and universities, and also meet the following two conditions:

  1. It must be fully accredited.
  2. It must have a graduation rate of greater than 50%.

25 Best Colleges & Universities in North Carolina

  1. #1

    Duke University

    #28 institution's historical influence
    #12 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    8%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1525/34

    Durham, NC

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    What is Duke University known for?

    Duke University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  2. #2

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    #63 institution's historical influence
    #38 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1405/30

    Chapel Hill, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill known for?

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Law
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Wake Forest University

    #322 institution's historical influence
    #48 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    32%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    8K

    Winston-Salem, NC

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    What is Wake Forest University known for?

    Wake Forest University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Law
    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Davidson College

    #703 institution's historical influence
    #36 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1397/31

    Davidson, NC

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    What is Davidson College known for?

    Davidson College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    North Carolina State University

    #230 institution's historical influence
    #176 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1335/29

    Raleigh, NC

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    What is North Carolina State University known for?

    North Carolina State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Guilford College

    #1439 institution's historical influence
    #343 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/20

    Greensboro, NC

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    What is Guilford College known for?

    Guilford College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Warren Wilson College

    #2414 institution's historical influence
    #374 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    42%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1177/25

    Swannanoa, NC

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    What is Warren Wilson College known for?

    Warren Wilson College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • History
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Chemistry
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    Queens University of Charlotte

    #2488 institution's historical influence
    #431 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/24

    Charlotte, NC

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    What is Queens University of Charlotte known for?

    Queens University of Charlotte’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Psychology
  9. #9

    Appalachian State University

    #1121 institution's historical influence
    #1467 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/25

    Boone, NC

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    What is Appalachian State University known for?

    Appalachian State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    Catawba College

    #2279 institution's historical influence
    #893 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/20

    Salisbury, NC

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    What is Catawba College known for?

    Catawba College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • History
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  11. #11

    Johnson C. Smith University

    #2073 institution's historical influence
    #570 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    49%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    881/16

    Charlotte, NC

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    What is Johnson C. Smith University known for?

    Johnson C. Smith University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    University of North Carolina at Charlotte

    #767 institution's historical influence
    #1385 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1205/24

    Charlotte, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Charlotte known for?

    University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #13

    Elon University

    #1788 institution's historical influence
    #1234 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/27

    Elon, NC

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    What is Elon University known for?

    Elon University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Law
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  14. #14

    East Carolina University

    #598 institution's historical influence
    #1186 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1115/22

    Greenville, NC

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    What is East Carolina University known for?

    East Carolina University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Business
    • Education
    • Biology
    • History
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #15

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    #881 institution's historical influence
    #1364 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/22

    Greensboro, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Greensboro known for?

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #16

    Campbell University

    #1559 institution's historical influence
    #486 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/22

    Buies Creek, NC

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    What is Campbell University known for?

    Campbell University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Education
    • Medical
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #17

    Salem College

    #2753 institution's historical influence
    #989 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/19

    Winston-Salem, NC

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    What is Salem College known for?

    Salem College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • History
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Religious Studies
    REQUEST INFO
  18. #18

    High Point University

    #2140 institution's historical influence
    #312 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1175/25

    High Point, NC

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    What is High Point University known for?

    High Point University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  19. #19

    University of North Carolina at Asheville

    #1994 institution's historical influence
    #555 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/24

    Asheville, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Asheville known for?

    University of North Carolina at Asheville’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Political Science
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #20

    Meredith College

    #1861 institution's historical influence
    #1109 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/21

    Raleigh, NC

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    What is Meredith College known for?

    Meredith College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Social Work
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  21. #21

    Western Carolina University

    #1331 institution's historical influence
    #632 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/22

    Cullowhee, NC

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    What is Western Carolina University known for?

    Western Carolina University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Medical
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. #22

    University of North Carolina Wilmington

    #3065 institution's historical influence
    #1260 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1245/24

    Wilmington, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina Wilmington known for?

    University of North Carolina Wilmington’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  23. #23

    Barton College

    #5221 institution's historical influence
    #1425 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/20

    Wilson, NC

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    What is Barton College known for?

    Barton College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • History
    • Social Work
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  24. #24

    Wingate University

    #3638 institution's historical influence
    #1100 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/20

    Wingate, NC

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    What is Wingate University known for?

    Wingate University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Medical
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Communications
  25. #25

    University of Mount Olive

    #5051 institution's historical influence
    #1147 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $21K

    Acceptance

    62%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1000/19

    Mount Olive, NC

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    What is University of Mount Olive known for?

    University of Mount Olive’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Literature
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

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