Best Public Colleges in North Carolina 2023

Best Public Colleges in North Carolina 2023

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in North Carolina provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

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 the difference between public and private colleges?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models. Public colleges and universities are owned by the state and receive both state and federal funding to operate. Private colleges and universities are private companies with private funding. If you’re looking at the pros and cons of private vs. public colleges, 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 bachelor’s 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. Attending a college in-state is usually the cheapest option. Private universities and colleges can be very competitive with their funding opportunities, so do not simply believe that private colleges are always going to be more expensive. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually. But in the end, the cost of college comes down to each student’s academic and financial situation.

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This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees. We’ve identified 15 public universities in North Carolina. To be included in our list of the best public colleges in North Carolina, shcools must receive direct funding from the state, be fully accredited, and offer a broad range of bachelor’s degress.

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Best Public Colleges in North Carolina 2022

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1385/30

    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:

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    47%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1320/29

    North Carolina State University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Leadership In The Public Sector
    • Required Credits: 12
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  3. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/24

    University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Online Degrees

    BA in Respiratory Therapy
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (Rn To Bsn)
    • Required Credits: 121
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Engineering Technology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Electrical
    • Fire Safety
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  4. #4

    East Carolina University

    Greenville , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    24K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/21

    East Carolina University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Communication
    Degree Concentrations
    • Interpersonal/Organizational
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Hospitality Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Industrial Distribution And Logistics
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSBA in Management
    Degree Concentrations
    • Management And General Business
    • Human Resource Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSBA in Marketing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSBA in Supply Chain Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSBA in Management Information Systems
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Birth Through Kindergarten (B-K) Teacher Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Elementary Education (K-6)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Family And Consumer Sciences Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Middle Grades Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Special Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in University Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Information Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Services Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing
    Degree Concentrations
    • Rn To Bsn
    • Required Credits: 125-133
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  5. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    17K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/22

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Online Degrees

    BA in Entrepreneurship
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Business Administration (Business Studies)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Information Systems And Supply Chain Management
    • Required Credits: 125
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Peace And Conflict Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Birth-Kindergarten Teacher Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Integrated Professional Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BLS in Liberal Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Philosophy
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  6. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    20K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    Appalachian State University’s Online Degrees

    BSBA in Management
    • Required Credits: 53
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Workforce Leadership & Development
    • Required Credits: 50-59
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Child Development - Birth Through Kindergarten
    • Required Credits: 63
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Elementary Education
    • Required Credits: 70
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Middle Grades Education
    • Required Credits: 73
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  7. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    12K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/19

    North Carolina A&T State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Economics
    • Required Credits: 179
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Electronics Technology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Information Technology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Business
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Liberal Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • African American Studies
    • Applied Cultural Thought
    • Applied Cultural Thought
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing
    Degree Concentrations
    • Rn Completion Option
    • Required Credits: 31
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Agricultural Sciences
    Degree Concentrations
    • Agricultural Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Environmental Health And Safety
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  8. Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/22

    Western Carolina University’s Online Degrees

    BSBA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Innovation Leadership And Entrepreneurship
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSBA in Business Administration And Law
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    Degree Concentrations
    • Concentration In Administration Of Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Emergency And Disaster Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Birth-Kindergarten Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Emergency Medical Care
    • Required Credits: 16
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 30
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  9. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1165/24

    What is University of North Carolina at Asheville known for?

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1235/25

    University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Online Degrees

    BA in Criminology
    • Required Credits: 24
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Elementary Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Clinical Research
    • Required Credits: 83-84
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  11. #12

    Fayetteville State University

    Fayetteville , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    37%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    920/18

    Fayetteville State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • General
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Fire & Emergency Services Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Intelligence Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Birth Through Kindergarten (Non-Teaching)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in English Language And Literature
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Professional Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Sociology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing
    Degree Concentrations
    • Rn-Bsn
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  12. #13

    Winston-Salem State University

    Winston-Salem , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    965/18

    Winston-Salem State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Bachelor Of Science
    Degree Concentrations
    • Birth To Kindergarten Education
    • Clinical Laboratory Science
    • Required Credits: 120-126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BIS in Bachelor Of Interdisciplinary Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Integrative Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Bachelor Of Science In Nursing
    Degree Concentrations
    • Rn-Bsn
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  13. Tuition + fees

    $3K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1000/19

    University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s Online Degrees

    BIS in Applied Professional Studies (Financial Administration)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration (Finance Track)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration (Marketing)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BIS in Applied Professional Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • General
    • Office Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration (Management Track)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration (Economics Track)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BIS in Hospitality
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BIS in Public And Nonprofit Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • General
    • Allied Health Administration
    • Public Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BIS in Applied Management Information Systems
    Degree Concentrations
    • Operations Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BIS in Criminal Justice Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Sociology
    • Substance Abuse
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BIS in Applied Education Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Learning And Development
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BIS in General Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  14. #15

    Elizabeth City State University

    Elizabeth City , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $3K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    40%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    920/17

    Elizabeth City State University’s Online Degrees

    BSBA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Management & Entrepreneurship
    • Marketing & Mis
    • Economics & Finance
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Homeland Security
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Interdisciplinary Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Global Studies
    • Community Services
    • Individualized
    • Security Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
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North Carolina’s Best Public College in Your Area of Interest

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utilized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  2. North Carolina State University
  3. Appalachian State University
  4. University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  5. East Carolina University
  6. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  7. University of North Carolina at Asheville
  8. Western Carolina University
  9. University of North Carolina Wilmington
  10. North Carolina Central University
  11. North Carolina A&T State University
  12. Winston-Salem State University

Check out our directory of public colleges throughout the U.S. for a look at the top public colleges in every state.