Best Public Colleges in North Carolina 2022

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.

Best Public Colleges in North Carolina 2022

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.

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

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great! 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 in their fields of study.

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

To rank the influence of schools, we first determine the influence of scholars and professionals based on the number of citations and publications they have had over the past 10 years. In addition to publications and citations, we consider the web links to and from these sources, and the page views of those sources. We then match the influential people to their alma maters and institutions of employment, so that their influence is attributed to those schools. Our machine-learning Influence Ranking algorithm produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data. If you are interested in exploring how and why we rank by influence, explore our methodology in more depth.

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Best Public Colleges in North Carolina 2022

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1405/30

    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:

    • Law
    • Communications
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1335/29

    What is North Carolina State University known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Physics
    • Philosophy
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1205/24

    What is University of North Carolina at Charlotte known for?

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

    • Anthropology
    • Computer Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Physics
    • History
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    East Carolina University

    Greenville , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    24K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1115/22

    What is East Carolina University known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • History
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/22

    What is University of North Carolina at Greensboro known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Education
    • History
    • Economics
    • Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Nursing
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    970/18

    What is North Carolina Central University known for?

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

    • Criminal Justice
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/25

    What is Appalachian State University known for?

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

    • Earth Sciences
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • Education
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

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  8. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    12K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1060/19

    What is North Carolina A&T State University known for?

    North Carolina A&T State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Nursing
    • Economics
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    Western Carolina University

    Cullowhee , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/22

    What is Western Carolina University known for?

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

    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • History
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/24

    What is University of North Carolina at Asheville known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1245/24

    What is University of North Carolina Wilmington known for?

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

    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Anthropology
    • Economics
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  12. #12

    Fayetteville State University

    Fayetteville , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    940/19

    What is Fayetteville State University known for?

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

    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Biology
    • History
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Business
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #13

    Winston-Salem State University

    Winston-Salem , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    960/17

    What is Winston-Salem State University known for?

    Winston-Salem State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. Tuition + fees

    $3K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    42%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/19

    What is University of North Carolina at Pembroke known for?

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

    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #15

    Elizabeth City State University

    Elizabeth City , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $3K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    962/18

    What is Elizabeth City State University known for?

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

    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

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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 utiulized 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

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