Best Small Colleges in North Carolina 2023

Best Small Colleges in North Carolina 2023

Small colleges in North Carolina are a great option for students interested in a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Whether the focus is on the technical or on the liberal arts, small colleges give you the chance to pursue a well-rounded education while working closely with classmates and professors in a dynamic community atmosphere.

Key Takeaways

  • North Carolina has more than 60 public colleges and universities, including more than 30 fully accredited small colleges with less than 5,000 students.
  • North Carolina is a hub for innovation and technology. As such, colleges in North Carolina award more than 25,000 STEM degrees each year.
  • North Carolina has a relatively low cost of living compared to other states, which is a great benefit to students. Even better, the state has a large number of scholarships and grants available to qualifying students, which makes attending a small college in North Carolina even more affordable.

Small Colleges, Big Outcomes

North Carolina is a perfect home for education excellence. The state has 53 liberal arts colleges and universities, and is home to the third biggest community college system in the US. North Carolina also has three Tier 1 research universities. Its education institution always awards more than 25,000 STEM degrees annually.

What makes North Carolina conducive to learning is the fact that students have so much to do outside the classrooms. Whether they relax on the beach, root for their favorite college or professional football team, drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, see a musical play, visit museums, or dine on exquisite cuisine, North Carolina is indeed very diverse and has so much to offer.

Paying for College in North Carolina

Like any college and university, there are several grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and other forms of financial aid for qualified students. Whether attending a liberal arts college, a small college, or a private institution, so many students have taken advantage of favorable NC tuition rates.

Federal Grants Programs

Federal Pell Grants: These are for undergraduate students who have not yet earned a degree (bachelor’s, graduate, or professional), and are in financial need.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG): These are awarded to undergraduate students who are in dire need of financial assistance. The grants are administered by the participating school’s financial aid offices. These grants are not available in all colleges, so it’s best to check first with the financial aid office of your school.

TEACH or Teacher Education Assistance for College & Higher Education Grants: These are open for qualified undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, or graduate students who want to become teachers in a high-need field or low-income areas. Students should meet certain academic requirements to be eligible.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants: This grant type is for the children of guardians or parents who perished in the military in Afghanistan or Iraq after 9/11. To qualify, a student should be under 24 and is enrolled in college at the time of the guardian/parent’s death.

North Carolina School State Grants

North Carolina Education Lottery Scholarship: This grant is open to North Carolina residents who are in financial need. The student must be enrolled in an NC Community College or any of the 16 UNC system campuses.

UNC Need-Based Grant: This is open to NC students with financial needs, and must be enrolled in at least 6 credit hours at any of the 16 UNC system campuses.

Scholarships

There are so many scholarships that North Carolina offers to its students. Here are just a few:

Aubrey Lee Brooks Scholarship:This is a $12,000 scholarship open to graduating high school seniors from any of the 14 county areas in North Carolina. This scholarship is renewable, as long as the scholar has continued financial needs and remains a full-time student at an eligible institution.

Lenoir-Rhyne University Lutheran Scholarship: The LR Scholars Program grants eligible Lutheran students two awards: the Martin Luther Fellows and the Friends in Faith Program. These scholarships are available exclusively for undergraduate NC students who have contributions to church and community.

NACME Scholars (Block Grant) Program: This is the biggest college scholarship provider for underrepresented minority students who are pursuing degrees at schools of engineering. With a $16,000 grant for every qualified student, the NACME program sponsors 1,000 underrepresented minority engineering and computer students every year.

NIADA Foundation Regional Scholarship: The National Association of Independent Automobile Dealers offers many scholarship opportunities for exceptional high school graduating students interested to pursue a career in the automotive industry.

North Carolina Student Incentive Grant: This is a $700 incentive grant program offered by the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority through College Foundation Inc.

Riding Forward Scholarship: If you have an interesting story about an African-American who has immensely inspired you, then you could earn a $3500-$5,000 college scholarship.

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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.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

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

North Carolina's Best Small Colleges and Universities Badge
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The following list of the best small colleges and universities in North Carolina is composed mainly of four-year undergraduate schools (though a handful also offer graduate programs). We’ve identified 33 small colleges in North Carolina. The list below of the 25 best small colleges in North Carolina. To be included schools must fully accredited, and must have student body populations below 5,000 students.

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Best Small Colleges in North Carolina 2022

  1. #1

    Davidson College

    Davidson , NC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    18%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1380/31

  2. #2

    Campbell University

    Buies Creek , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/22

    Campbell University’s Online Degrees

    BAS in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Information Technology And Security
    Degree Concentrations
    • Management
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Information Technology And Security
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Criminal Justice
    Degree Concentrations
    • Pre-Law
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Criminal Justice
    Degree Concentrations
    • Pre-Law
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Criminal Justice Administration
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Cybersecurity
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Homeland Security
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Homeland Security
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Elementary Education (K-6)
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Christian Studies
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Communication Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Generalist
    • Public Relations And Corporate Communication
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Liberal Arts
    Degree Concentrations
    • Humanities
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Healthcare Management
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing Rn To Bsn
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  3. #6

    Catawba College

    Salisbury , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/19

    Catawba College’s Online Degrees

    BBA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Business Management
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Professional Accounting
    • Information Systems
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Business Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAE in Birth-Kindergarten Education.
    • Required Credits: 56
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  4. 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

  5. #9

    Warren Wilson College

    Swannanoa , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    39%

    Student body

    <1K

  6. #10

    Salem College

    Winston-Salem , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1076/20

  7. #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
  8. #14

    Wingate University

    Wingate , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    3K

  9. #15

    Greensboro College

    Greensboro , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    30%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1000/19

    Greensboro College’s Online Degrees

    BA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Organizational Leadership And Management
    • Required Credits: 72
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in General Psychology
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  10. Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    45%

    Graduation

    39%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    890/15

  11. #17

    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
  12. #18

    Mars Hill University

    Mars Hill , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    34%

    Student body

    1K

  13. #19

    University of Mount Olive

    Mount Olive , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/19

    What is University of Mount Olive known for?

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    University of Mount Olive’s Online Degrees

    BA in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Agribusiness
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Agricultural Communication And Leadership
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Business Management
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Finance
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Human Resource Management
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Marketing
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Computer Information Systems
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice And Criminology
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Early Childhood Education (B-K)
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Human Services
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Leadership
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Religion
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Healthcare Management
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Rn To Bsn
    • Required Credits: 126-141
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  14. #20

    Livingstone College

    Salisbury , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $18K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    23%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    850/14

  15. #21

    Montreat College

    Montreat , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $29K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    29%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/20

    Montreat College’s Online Degrees

    BS in Bachelor Of Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BS in Bachelor Of Science In Human Resource Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Bachelor Of Science In Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Bachelor Of Science In Marketing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Bachelor Of Science In Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Bachelor Of Science In Cybersecurity
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BS in Bachelor Of Science In Human Services
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  16. Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    28%

    Graduation

    40%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    915/17

    What is North Carolina Wesleyan University known for?

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

  17. #23

    Barton College

    Wilson , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    99%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/19

    Barton College’s Online Degrees

    BA in Business
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Justice Administration
    • Required Credits: 42
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Rn To Bsn Nursing
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  18. #24

    Brevard College

    Brevard , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    45%

    Graduation

    32%

    Student body

    <1K

  19. #25

    Pfeiffer University

    Misenheimer , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    34%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1020/18

    Pfeiffer University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Business Management And Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Elementary Education
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Health Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
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North Carolina’s Best Small 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. Davidson College
  2. Guilford College
  3. Warren Wilson College
  4. Queens University of Charlotte
  5. Catawba College
  6. Johnson C. Smith University
  7. Campbell University
  8. Salem College
  9. University of North Carolina at Asheville
  10. Meredith College
  11. Barton College
  12. Wingate University
  13. University of Mount Olive