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.

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 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?

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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Best Private Colleges & Universities in North Carolina

  1. Duke University
    #1

    Duke University

    #31 institution's overall influence
    #12 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1510/34

    Durham, NC

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    What is Duke University known for?

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

    • Religious Studies
    • Nursing
    • Earth Sciences
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. Wake Forest University
    #2

    Wake Forest University

    #474 institution's overall influence
    #48 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    29%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    7K

    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
    • Business
    • Law
    • History
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Davidson College
    #3

    Davidson College

    #865 institution's overall influence
    #36 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $51K

    Acceptance

    19%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1370/31

    Davidson, NC

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    What is Davidson College known for?

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

    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Anthropology
    • Economics
    • Biology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. Guilford College
    #4

    Guilford College

    #1302 institution's overall influence
    #343 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    2K

    Greensboro, NC

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    What is Guilford College known for?

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

    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Warren Wilson College
    #5

    Warren Wilson College

    #2649 institution's overall influence
    #374 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1212/24

    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
    • Religious Studies
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Queens University of Charlotte
    #6

    Queens University of Charlotte

    #2308 institution's overall influence
    #431 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/23

    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:

    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Nursing
    • Biology
    • History
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Catawba College
    #7

    Catawba College

    #3021 institution's overall influence
    #893 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/21

    Salisbury, NC

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    What is Catawba College known for?

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

    • Sociology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Communications
    • Education
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Johnson C. Smith University
    #8

    Johnson C. Smith University

    #2219 institution's overall influence
    #570 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $18K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    895/16

    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
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. Elon University
    #9

    Elon University

    #1815 institution's overall influence
    #1234 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    82%

    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:

    • Communications
    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Law
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. Campbell University
    #10

    Campbell University

    #1825 institution's overall influence
    #486 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/22

    Buies Creek, NC

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    What is Campbell University known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Law
    • History
    • Economics
    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Social Work
    • Medical
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. Salem College
    #11

    Salem College

    #2756 institution's overall influence
    #989 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $29K

    Acceptance

    39%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    Winston-Salem, NC

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    What is Salem College known for?

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

    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Sociology
    • Communications
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. High Point University
    #12

    High Point University

    #2103 institution's overall influence
    #312 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/24

    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:

    • Anthropology
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • History
    • Criminal Justice
    • Business
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. Meredith College
    #13

    Meredith College

    #2967 institution's overall influence
    #1109 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/22

    Raleigh, NC

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    What is Meredith College known for?

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

    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Social Work
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. Barton College
    #14

    Barton College

    #2904 institution's overall influence
    #1425 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    40%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1020/20

    Wilson, NC

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    What is Barton College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • Medical
    • History
    • Communications
    • Social Work
    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. Wingate University
    #15

    Wingate University

    #7478 institution's overall influence
    #1100 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/21

    Wingate, NC

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    What is Wingate University known for?

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

    • Religious Studies
    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Education
    • Communications
    • History
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. University of Mount Olive
    #16

    University of Mount Olive

    #8555 institution's overall influence
    #1147 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $21K

    Acceptance

    53%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1017/19

    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:

    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics
    • Criminal Justice
    • History
    • Education
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

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