Why This Matters


    The higher learning institutions in North Carolina prepare students for a wide range of careers. According to College Navigator, there are 17 public colleges, 46 private non-profit colleges, and six private for-profit colleges in North Carolina.


    During the 2021-22 school year, the average college student in North Carolina paid $7,390 in tuition fees.


    According to College Board, $14,800 was the average amount of financial aid awarded to U.S. students during the 2020-21 academic year.

Our Research

This list features some of the best brick-and-mortar schools in North Carolina. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. We included liberal arts colleges and research universities as well as small, midsize, and large institutions. Next, we compared this comprehensive list to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The colleges on our list are accredited by either the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) or Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). These reputable organizations examine the objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness of post-secondary education programs.

We evaluated each school on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for on-campus students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

The Top 50 Colleges in North Carolina

Best Colleges In North Carolina
Intelligent Pick
Duke University
Best for Veterans
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Best for Study Abroad
Wake Forest University
Best for Agricultural Science
North Carolina State University
Best Part-time MBA
Elon University
Best Marine Biology Program
University of North Carolina Wilmington
Best for Interdisciplinary Studies
Davidson College
Best Rural Medicine Program
East Carolina University
Best for Transfer Students
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Best Education Program
University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Campbell University

Gardner-Webb University

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Meredith College

Western Carolina University

Salem College

Appalachian State University

Carolina Christian College


What You Should Know About Graduating From College in North Carolina

When determining which state to study in, consider the career opportunities that will be available to you. Insight into future job prospects can be found by looking at the biggest industries in North Carolina. As of October 2021, the top five industries in North Carolina are trade, transportation, and utilities; goods-producing; government; professional and business services; and education and health services.

Job seekers with a bachelor’s degree have many high-earning careers available to them. The five fastest-growing careers in North Carolina are information security analysts, agents and talent managers, logisticians, medical and health services managers, and operations research analysts.

You can also learn about employment opportunities in North Carolina by looking at the largest employers in the state. Property Management Childress, Collins Aerospace Systems, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and House of Raeford Farms are all on the list of the top 150 largest employers in North Carolina.

What’s Next?

Federal and state financial aid is available to assist you in covering the costs associated with higher education. Below is a list of resources where you can find additional information regarding financial aid opportunities such as grants, scholarships and fellowships in North Carolina.

  • College Foundation of North Carolina. Detailed information about studying in North Carolina, including how to apply and pay for college, is available through the College Foundation of North Carolina.
  • Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students who are eligible can receive part of the $120 billion allocated every year for higher education by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s free to apply and can be done via the online FAFSA form.
  • CareerOneStop. Information about the scholarships and grants available in each state is provided by CareerOneStop. Use the filter options to search by degree level and state. All listings include the award amount, deadline for applications, and eligibility requirements.