North Carolina’s Best Private Colleges and Universities of 2021

Private colleges, unlike large public institutions, can be a great option for students wanting a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Here is our list of the best private colleges in North Carolina.

North Carolina’s Best Private 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.


What are North Carolina’s Colleges & Universities?

North Carolina’s Best Overall

What is a public college? And what is the difference between a private and public college?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models — one is a private company with private funding; the other is owned by the state and receives both state and federal funding to operate. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of private vs. public college, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a four-year degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a four-year public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually.

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This list is composed entirely of private colleges and universities that offer four-year undergraduate degrees. We’ve identified 34 private universities in North Carolina; 16 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the best private universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a private, non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It must offer a broad range of bachelor’s degrees.
  4. It must have a graduation rate of greater than 50%.

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

Methodology

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.

Best Private Colleges & Universities in North Carolina

  1. #1

    Duke University

    Durham , NC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    8%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1525/34

    What is Duke University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  2. #2

    Wake Forest University

    Winston-Salem , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    32%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    8K

    What is Wake Forest University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Law
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  3. #3

    Davidson College

    Davidson , NC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1397/31

    What is Davidson College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Physics
    REQUEST INFO
  4. #4

    Guilford College

    Greensboro , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/20

    What is Guilford College known for?

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

    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Religious Studies
    REQUEST INFO
  5. #5

    Warren Wilson College

    Swannanoa , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    42%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1177/25

    What is Warren Wilson College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • History
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Chemistry
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Social Work
    • Economics
    • Psychology
    REQUEST INFO
  6. Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/24

    What is Queens University of Charlotte known for?

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    REQUEST INFO
  7. #7

    Catawba College

    Salisbury , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/20

    What is Catawba College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  8. Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    49%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    881/16

    What is Johnson C. Smith University known for?

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

    • Social Work
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    REQUEST INFO
  9. #9

    Elon University

    Elon , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/27

    What is Elon University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Communications
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  10. #10

    Campbell University

    Buies Creek , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/22

    What is Campbell University known for?

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

    • Law
    • Education
    • Medical
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Engineering
    REQUEST INFO
  11. #11

    Salem College

    Winston-Salem , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/19

    What is Salem College known for?

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

    • Education
    • History
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Religious Studies
    REQUEST INFO
  12. #12

    High Point University

    High Point , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1175/25

    What is High Point University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    REQUEST INFO
  13. #13

    Meredith College

    Raleigh , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/21

    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
  14. #14

    Barton College

    Wilson , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/20

    What is Barton College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  15. #15

    Wingate University

    Wingate , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/20

    What is Wingate University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Medical
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies
    • Chemistry
    REQUEST INFO
  16. #16

    University of Mount Olive

    Mount Olive , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $22K

    Acceptance

    62%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1000/19

    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
    • Nursing
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO

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