North Carolina’s Most Affordable Colleges and Universities of 2021

Here are the most affordable colleges and universities in North Carolina. Our list will help you find the right kind of school for you, at a price you can afford.

North Carolina’s Most Affordable 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.

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What are North Carolina’s Colleges & Universities?

North Carolina’s Best Overall


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We’ve identified 16 affordable colleges and universities in North Carolina with stated tuitions and fees below the national average of $16,000/year.

  1. It must be fully accredited.
  2. It must offer a broad range of bachelor’s degrees
  3. Its stated tuition and fees must be under $16,000/year.

How do we determine North Carolina's most affordable colleges and universities?

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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Most Affordable Colleges & Universities in North Carolina

  1. #1

    Elizabeth City State University

    #1625 institution's historical influence
    #1017 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $3K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    962/18

    Elizabeth City, NC

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    What is Elizabeth City State University known for?

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

    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • History
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Psychology
  2. #2

    University of North Carolina at Pembroke

    #2794 institution's historical influence
    #909 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $3K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    42%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/19

    Pembroke, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Pembroke known for?

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

    • Education
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Criminal Justice
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Nursing
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Western Carolina University

    #1331 institution's historical influence
    #632 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/22

    Cullowhee, NC

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    What is Western Carolina University known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Medical
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Fayetteville State University

    #3250 institution's historical influence
    #823 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    940/19

    Fayetteville, NC

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    What is Fayetteville State University known for?

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

    • Education
    • History
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Nursing
  5. #5

    Winston-Salem State University

    #2382 institution's historical influence
    #1448 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    960/17

    Winston-Salem, NC

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    What is Winston-Salem State University known for?

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

    • Education
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Communications
    • Nursing
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    North Carolina Central University

    #1074 institution's historical influence
    #789 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    970/18

    Durham, NC

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    What is North Carolina Central University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Law
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • History
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    North Carolina A&T State University

    #1658 institution's historical influence
    #1173 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1060/19

    Greensboro, NC

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

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    University of North Carolina at Charlotte

    #767 institution's historical influence
    #1385 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1205/24

    Charlotte, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Charlotte known for?

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    University of North Carolina Wilmington

    #3065 institution's historical influence
    #1260 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1245/24

    Wilmington, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina Wilmington known for?

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

    • Biology
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

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  10. #10

    University of North Carolina at Asheville

    #1994 institution's historical influence
    #555 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/24

    Asheville, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Asheville known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    East Carolina University

    #598 institution's historical influence
    #1186 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1115/22

    Greenville, NC

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    What is East Carolina University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Business
    • Education
    • Biology
    • History
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    #881 institution's historical influence
    #1364 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/22

    Greensboro, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Greensboro known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #13

    Appalachian State University

    #1121 institution's historical influence
    #1467 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/25

    Boone, NC

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    What is Appalachian State University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #14

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    #63 institution's historical influence
    #38 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1405/30

    Chapel Hill, NC

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    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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #15

    North Carolina State University

    #230 institution's historical influence
    #176 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1335/29

    Raleigh, NC

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    What is North Carolina State University known for?

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

    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #16

    Shaw University

    #1599 institution's historical influence
    #950 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    19%

    Student body

    1K

    Raleigh, NC

    View profile

    What is Shaw University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Social Work
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

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