In the past, a Bachelor’s degree gave learners a competitive edge in the workforce. These days, though, a degree isn’t a bonus; For a lot of careers, it’s a requirement. As many people say, when it comes to a career, “college is the new high school.” Whether you think that fact is good or bad, a college education is increasingly important. Unfortunately, a college education is also increasingly expensive.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you know where to look, you can absolutely find an affordable education. Between low tuition costs and scholarship opportunities, you can minimize your loan debt and get a great learning experience at the same time. Take North Carolina, for example. This state is full of affordable colleges that don’t compromise on learning quality.
Why North Carolina?
North Carolina makes a great choice for college students. It’s perfect for those who want that “not too big, not too small” feel. On the one hand, North Carolina has several major cities, which is great for students who want networking opportunities. On the other hand, the state is friendly overall. Plus, what state can compare to North Carolina in terms of beauty? Why not enjoy rolling hills and gorgeous foliage as you study outdoors?
The Top 15 Cheapest Colleges in North Carolina
We’ve put together a list of the top 15 cheapest colleges in North Carolina. These schools are ranked according to in-state tuition and graduation rates, with both factors carrying equal weight. The lower the tuition and the higher the graduation rate, the better the score. In the case of a tie, we factored in out-of-state tuition rates, with the lower tuition rates gaining the most points.
1. Carolina Christian College (45 points)
Carolina Christian College may not be the most well-known school, but for the students it serves, it certainly makes a big difference. This school is for Black students who want to pursue Christian ministry. Its academics are rooted in the Christian Bible.
This school has very small class sizes, which is perfect for students who want to learn in a tight-knit community. Teachers here develop close, mentor-like relationships with their students. All the while, the school provides challenge, deep thought, and goal-focused learning.
Plus, its tuition is extremely reasonable, especially compared to other private, Christian schools. It even has the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students. This low tuition rate, combined with its excellent learning environment, give CCC a high ranking on this list.
- In-state tuition: $3800
- Out of state tuition: $3800
- Graduation rate: 100%
2. University of North Carolina at Wilmington (44 points)
The University of North Carolina at Wilmington benefits all kinds of students, from first-time freshmen to working professionals. In all areas, UNC Wilmington commits to greatness. This school attracts smart, talented students who want to make a difference in the world and in their careers.
Because it’s part of the bigger UNC system, it has plenty of resources to offer students, but it offers those resources at a very reasonable price. It’s a student-centered school that puts the needs of learners above everything else. UNC Wilmington prepares students to think creatively, reach career milestones, and develop a global mindset.
- In-state tuition: $2200
- Out of state tuition: $18505
- Graduation rate: 72%
3. North Carolina State University (43 points)
North Carolina State University offers a lot for its reasonable price. While its tuition remains low, its teaching style packs a punch. NC State is a leader across several disciplines, from math and science to humanities and the arts.
Students at NC State learn through participation. This school takes a hands-on approach to learning. Students don’t just focus on theories; They apply those theories to internships, mentorships, and much more. This way, students can feel confident in their abilities as they graduate and move on to their careers.
- In-state tuition: $3267.50
- Out of state tuition: $13327
- Graduation rate: 77%
4. Elizabeth City State University (41 points)
Elizabeth City State University boasts of some of the lowest tuition rates in North Carolina. Don’t let the low tuition rate fool you, though. This school still provides a great education for the price. It’s part of the broader University of North Carolina system, so it certainly has lots of resources and opportunities for its students.
Elizabeth City State offers a liberal arts education with flexibility and access to technology. This school strives for excellence at all levels of education, from Bachelor’s degrees to Master’s degrees and professional degrees. While ECSU offers several degree options, it really shines when it comes to science, health, and education.
- In-state tuition: $1000 per semester
- Out of state tuition: $5000 per semester
- Graduation rate: 37%
5. Winston-Salem State University (41 points)
Winston-Salem State University is a Historically Black university with a reputation for excellence. This school welcomes people from all walks of life. Not only does it commit to excellence in learning, it also commits to service. Students have lots of opportunities to serve their communities and make the world a better place. That’s why this school appeals to philanthropy-minded learners.
WSSU encourages students to dig deeper and ask the tough questions. Students aren’t just learners at WSSU. They’re future leaders, and their teachers help them along the pathway to success.
- In-state tuition: $1700 per semester
- Out of state tuition: $6824 per semester
- Graduation rate: 56%
6. East Carolina University (40 points)
At East Carolina University, the price tag doesn’t keep deserving students from a great education. Instead, tuition remains relatively low, and students still benefit from a great learning environment.
ECU has many great programs and lots of chances for students to excel. All the while, it helps students develop their leadership skills so that they can make a difference in the world. As a matter of fact, making a difference is one of the core values that ECU brings to the table. This school values service, so those who want to change the world can find their home here.
- In-state tuition $2226 per semester
- Out of state tuition: $10365 per semester
- Graduation rate: 60%
7. North Carolina A&T State University (36 points)
North Carolina A&T State provides a great education. It especially delivers for science, technology, and agriculture students. Students get a great ROI from an A&T education. Those who graduate from this school earn consistently high earnings right out of the gate.
This school takes a direct, hands-on learning approach, and it has high-quality technology in its classrooms. Students graduate feeling prepared, confident, and ready to take on rewarding careers.
- In-state tuition: $1770 per semester
- Out of state tuition: $8525 per semester
- Graduation rate: 43%
8. Western Carolina University (35 points)
Western Carolina University is part of the UNC system, but it provides a small-school feel. This way, those who prefer a smaller learning environment can thrive, but they don’t have to sacrifice the resources that they can get from a bigger school. WCU values quality education and hard work. It blends both to make sure that students succeed after graduation.
What started as a humble school has since grown into a thriving university. Now, WCU has a big impact on the surrounding community. It serves, teaches, and employs lots of people from the local area. Meanwhile, students get a chance to serve and help the community, too.
- In-state tuition: $3450.90 per semester
- Out of state tuition: $5450.90 per semester
- Graduation rate: 56%
9. University of North Carolina at Charlotte (34 points)
As “North Carolina’s urban research university,” the University of North Carolina at Charlotte provides a lot for its students. Thanks to its city location, students can take advantage of networking opportunities, internships, and more. Of course, UNC Charlotte doesn’t only benefit its students. It also makes a difference in the Charlotte community as a whole. For those who want to be part of the greater good, this school provides a path.
UNC Charlotte encourages boldness, creativity, and leadership in its students. It also provides challenging and meaningful academics at a price that students can afford.
- In-state tuition: $3548 per semester
- Out of state tuition: $10265 per semester
- Graduation rate: 56%
10. University of North Carolina at Greensboro (32 points)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is known for a lot of things, including social mobility, high academic standards, and commitment to racial equity. For all of its benefits, UNC Greensboro doesn’t come with a high price tag. In fact, it’s one of the cheapest schools in North Carolina.
This school has strong research with the academics to match. In addition to quality classroom learning, students benefit from mentorships, hands-on application, leadership development, and much more.
- In-state tuition: $3703 per semester
- Out of state tuition: $11282.50 per semester
- Graduation rate: 54%
11. North Carolina Central University (31 points)
North Carolina Central University has provided a great education for more than 100 years. It has a beautiful campus, but more importantly, it has a commitment to big ideas, diversity, and creativity. Whether students learn on campus or from a distance, they get a strong education with opportunities for growth.
NCCU is a highly-ranked HBCU that encourages students to serve their communities. This school provides lots of opportunities for learners to make a difference. Students get to use their skills for the common good, and they learn how to spot opportunities to help others.
- In-state tuition: $1864 per semester
- Out of state tuition: $4108.75 per semester
- Graduation rate: 42%
12. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (31 points)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a well-recognized university. Plenty of employers recognize the UNC Chapel Hill name when they see it on a resume. Compared to similar colleges, UNC-Chapel Hill comes with fairly low tuition costs, especially for residents of North Carolina. For the price, students enjoy a vibrant campus, strong academics, and great athletics.
This school combines teaching and research for a big overall impact. It has lots of majors to choose from and thrives especially in the areas of business, science, and journalism.
- In-state tuition: $9018 per semester
- Out of state tuition: $36000 per semester
- Graduation rate: 91%
13. University of North Carolina at Asheville (28 points)
The University of North Carolina at Asheville has plenty to offer, and all at an affordable price. For one thing, the small class sizes make it easy for students to get to know their teachers and personalize their education. For another, this school comes with a great ROI.
Focusing on the liberal arts and sciences, UNC Asheville provides an education that is both relevant and enduring. Here, learning goes beyond the classroom. It extends to mentorships, hands-on projects, research, and more. As a final bonus, the city of Asheville is a beautiful place to live, with green grass and vibrant foliage. Overall, UNC Asheville provides a great college experience.
- In-state tuition: $8597 per semester
- Out of state tuition: $12295.75 per semester
- Graduation rate: 61%
14. Fayetteville State University (27 points)
Fayetteville State University is an HBCU with great academics, a strong community, and a commitment to community outreach. This school serves its students and its community as a whole. FSU’s teachers emphasize leadership and global citizenship so that students will continue to make a difference in their careers after graduation.
FSU offers several majors, but its history and reputation are rooted most deeply in teacher education. With all of its majors, though, FSU helps students become great learners, leaders, and communicators.
- In-state tuition: $8381 per semester
- Out of state tuition: $99,945 per semester
- Graduation rate: 57%
15. Appalachian State University (25 points)
Appalachian State University is more than just a beautiful campus, although the hills of Boone definitely provide a great view. App State also provides a world of opportunities, including opportunities for underrepresented students.
This respected school has a great ROI. Students get a lot for their money here. They get great academics, and they learn how to see themselves as global citizens. Not only do students find their own pathways to success, they also learn how to make their skills work for the good of the world.
- In-state tuition: $4242 per semester
- Out of state tuition: $17251 per semester
Our Ranking Methodology
We gathered tuition information from each school’s website. Our numbers do not include additional costs such as books and housing. For schools that report their tuition costs by credit hour, we multiplied the cost by twelve. For schools that report their annual tuition costs, we divided the number by two, assuming two semesters per year. Our graduation rate information came from Google.
Issues With Your School’s Ranking?
If you work for one of the schools listed and noticed an error in your ranking information, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can make any necessary corrections.