Like many schools in the southeastern U.S., South Carolina’s institutions come with an extensive selection of online programs. The top online school in the state is its flagship public institution: the University of South Carolina. USC offers six online programs in a variety of subjects across its three campuses and in some senses serves as the model online school for the state, for reasons we’ll explore below.
But before we dive into our list of best online colleges in South Carolina, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in South Carolina today.
Overview of Higher Education in South Carolina
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that South Carolina had 79 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 33 public schools, 24 nonprofits and 22 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 15,945 at public schools, 3,869 at private nonprofits and 233 at private for-profits.
- 33 public
- 24 non-profit
- 22 for-profit
Tuition-wise, the College Board found that, in the ’15-’16 school year, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public schools was $11,820, while the out-of-state average was $28,850. As of 2012, according to the SREB, there was an earnings gap of $17,794 between the state’s bachelor’s degree holders and those who held only a high school diploma.
As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that South Carolina awarded $60.6 million in need-based grants and $298.9 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 39.6% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education; the largest percentage amongst all states. It should be noted that South Carolina has two distinct organizations responsible for awarding grants: the state’s Commission on Higher Education (CHE) and the state’s Tuition Grants Commission (TGC). CHE is responsible for some scholarships and a small selection of need-based grants. TGC handles the state’s entire tuition grants program and is thereby exclusively focused on said grants.
State of Online Higher Education in South Carolina
The NCES estimates that at least 5.9% of students enrolled in South Carolina’s Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 83.1% were reported to be undergraduates and 91.1% were found to be living in South Carolina.
The CHE, as mentioned before, is responsible for a portion of the state’s financial aid, but it is also the body responsible for major reports on postsecondary education in South Carolina; they are also central to the state’s higher education legislative efforts. With regards to distance learning, the CHE has established some principles or standards it holds itself to when pushing a distance learning agenda: quality instruction, equitable access, collaboration, program suitability for online learning, market demand and individual student success, just to highlight a few. Insistence on these standards indicates a level of rigor many states would do well to model. What starts with the state’s governing higher education body carries down to every online colleges in SC, which in turn helps ensure that distance students actually get the learning experience they deserve.
South Carolina is also a member of the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus. An initiative that lets students sift through an impressive directory of online programs throughout the southeast U.S. SREB also has strong aid initiatives. Services like the Academic Common Market/Electronic Campus and the Regional Contract Program for Health Professions let students fully enroll in a selection of out-of-state programs while paying in-state rates. While the program selection is small and the admissions criteria strict, for qualified students these are incredible opportunities.
Best Online Colleges in South Carolina
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in South Carolina. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in SC, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in South Carolina or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||Clemson University||Clemson||201 Sikes Hall|
Clemson, SC 29634
Clemson University offers 13 online graduate degrees and an online bachelor’s completion program in youth development studies. Clemson's online completion program requires annual three-day campus visits, including an on-campus orientation and weekly synchronous meetings. Courses are offered in an accelerated format, and students register for two courses each term to complete the 120-credit program in 10 semesters.
Applicants to the degree-completion program must have already earned 60 credits of general education requirements and have a minimum GPA of 2.5. Admission is conferred each August; priority is awarded to students who submit application materials by May 1. Other online programs include construction science management, healthcare genetics, human resource development, and athletic leadership.
Clemson's main 1400-acre campus is located on the shores of Lake Hartwell. Programs of this online school in SC are developed by instructors and provide quality learning experiences through cutting-edge technologies.
|2||University of South Carolina||Columbia||$$$$$||Columbia-Campus|
Columbia, SC 29208
USC offers a BS in information science and online BA programs in elementary education, liberal studies, and organizational leadership. Students applying to this online college in South Carolina must have completed at least 45 credits with a minimum GPA of 2.25.
Field experience in state public schools is a requirement of the elementary education program. Students pursuing the 120-credit BA in liberal studies must complete an internship and senior capstone project. The BS in information science is a 121 credit program; completion time varies based on courses required for a major concentration.
Online courses are developed and taught by the same professors who teach on campus, and online students have access to USC academic resources. Programs start in spring, summer and fall. In and out-of-state tuition rates apply; active duty military personnel may qualify for discounted fees.
|3||Anderson University||Anderson||$$$$$||316 Boulevard|
Anderson, SC 29621-4035
Anderson, founded in 1911 as a women's college, is a Christian university that offers online degrees in business administration, human services, organizational leadership, and emergency services management; 14 other programs are offered. The university's RN-BSN program accepts students on a rolling admission and offers accelerated, five-week classes. Students in the accelerated program can earn their degree in 15 months.
Applicants to Anderson, an online college in South Carolina, need a high school diploma or GED, SAT or ACT scores, and official transcripts from all attended institutions of learning. Online applicants are matched with a "journey coach," a personal academic adviser who assists students from application to graduation. Journey coaches check in monthly to address any concerns. Textbooks are mailed to online students one week before the start of classes. Online students pay the same tuition as on-campus learners; out-of-state tuition rates do not apply.
|4||Lander University||Greenwood||$$$$$||320 Stanley Avenue|
Greenwood, SC 29649-2099
Lander, one of the best online colleges in SC, was founded in 1872 as a women's college. The school is located in Greenwood and offers online graduate degrees and an online BSN completion option for registered nurses. Admission requirements for the BSN program include completed coursework in anatomy, physiology, and statistics with a minimum GPA of 2.6. Students are required to complete 32 credits at Lander; the required nursing courses satisfy 24. Most students complete their 126-credit online degree in two years. The BSN program application deadline is April 30 or October 15. Acceptance to this program is a two-part process. Students must first be accepted into Lander University, then apply to the school of nursing. An on-campus orientation, normally held one week prior to the start of classes, is required for students accepted into the program. In and out-of-state tuition rates apply; veterans assistance is available to those who qualify.
|5||Limestone College||Gaffney||$$$$$||1115 College Drive|
Gaffney, SC 29340-3799
Limestone's 11 online bachelor’s programs accept students on a continuous enrollment basis. Classes are asynchronous and are offered in eight-week sessions with six terms per year. Their online BA programs include criminal justice, liberal studies, psychology, human resource management, healthcare administration, and computer science. Bachelor degrees require a minimum of 123 credits to graduate, and online students are advised to take two courses per term. Hardware and software requirements vary from course to course. Students of this online school in SC should have a good headset with an attached microphone and a webcam to fully participate in their classes.
Limestone accepts up to 66 transfer credits from accredited two-year colleges and up to 92 credits from accredited four-year colleges. Online students pay the same tuition as those studying on campus; out-of-state tuition rates do not apply. Discounted military tuition rates are available to those who qualify.
|6||North Greenville University||Tigerville||$$$$$||7801 N. Tigerville Road|
Tigerville, SC 29688-1892
North Greenville University, affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, is a Christian school with a faculty dedicated to providing a quality education that inspires spiritual growth. NGU students can complete their coursework at the university's main campus, in Tigerville, at its sister campus in Greer, or completely online. Bachelor’s programs include business administration, Christian ministries, criminal justice, elementary educational studies, psychology, and general studies.
All students admitted to this online college in South Carolina take a three-credit general education course in e-learning to familiarize themselves with the virtual classroom. The business administration program offers four field-based internships; students with real work experience may qualify for 12 credits of internship experience. Students pursuing a BA in general studies may participate in the week-long senior service project. The flexible elementary educational studies program allows students to design their degree with courses that best meet their vocational goals.
|7||Charleston Southern University||Charleston||$$$$$||9200 University Blvd|
Charleston, SC 29406-9121
Charleston Southern is a Christian liberal arts university that offers online undergraduate programs through their College of Adult and Professional Studies. Applicants must be at least 20 years of age with work experience; having at least 24 transferable credits is recommended. Students pursuing an online BS in organizational management can choose concentrations in HR management, project management, healthcare management, and hospitality and tourism.
The school's bachelor of technology in computer science is designed for students with an associate degree in an approved technical field. Applicants must also have completed at least one traditional classroom programming course, such as Visual Basic or C++. This program is customized to meet the student's career goals.
Courses at this online college in South Carolina are offered in seven-week terms. Per residency requirements, 36 of the student's last 46 credits must be earned at CSU. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and tuition fees are the same for out-of-state students.
|8||University of South Carolina - Upstate||Spartanburg||$$$$$||800 University Way|
Spartanburg, SC 29303-4999
In association with Palmetto College, USC-Upstate offers four online programs: criminal justice, RN-BSN, health informatics, and information management and systems. Depending on the program, students need at least 45 transferable credits with a minimum GPA of 2.0 prior to applying.
Students pursuing a degree in information management and systems take courses in computer programming, database design, and business theory. The school's 120-credit bachelor’s program in criminal justice provides an academic examination of crime and the justice system. Licensed RNs in good standing who meet admission requirements—61 completed credits from an accredited program—can complete the BSN program in one year.
Upon admittance, students at this online school in SC attend a virtual orientation and have a phone appointment with an academic adviser. Course content is delivered through Blackboard or Adobe Connect. Transcripts and diplomas are issued by the University of South Carolina-Upstate.
|9||Columbia College||Columbia||$$$$$||1301 Columbia College Dr|
Columbia, SC 29203
Columbia College offers 15 online bachelor’s programs, including an RN-BSN, sociology, human services, art history, and public administration. All students are required to complete an ethics course and fulfill the six-credit foreign language requirement. Classes are asynchronous and courses are offered in accelerated eight-week sessions with six terms per year. Online students have access to 24/7 technology support, academic advising, and online library materials. Discounted tuition is available to members of the military. Online students pay the same tuition as those studying on campus; out-of-state tuition rates do not apply.
Columbia College has more than 35 campus locations around the country; 15 are on military bases, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The main Missouri campus is midway between Kansas City and St. Louis, and although affiliated with the Disciples of Christ, this online college in South Carolina is non-sectarian.
|10||University of South Carolina-Beaufort||Bluffton||1 University Boulevard|
Bluffton, SC 29909
The University of South Carolina-Beaufort offers online bachelor’s degree completion programs through Palmetto College, part of the USC system. Students spend two years on the campus of their choice, earning an associate degree and completing the carolina core courses, USC’s general education program. Students meeting admission requirements—a minimum 2.0 GPA and 45 transferable credits—may apply to a BS completion program in health promotion, hospitality management, or human services.
Full-time students of this online college in SC can earn a degree in two years, even with the three internships required for the human services program. Students in hospitality management must complete a practicum. Graduates with a BS in health promotion are eligible to sit for the national CHES certification exam. In- and out-of-state tuition rates apply; active duty military personnel may qualify for discounted fees.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in South Carolina
Below you’ll find a second ranking of the top online schools in South Carolina, sorted by their tuition rate.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Coastal Carolina University||Conway||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||University of South Carolina - Upstate||Spartanburg||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Lander University||Greenwood||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||Limestone College||Gaffney||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||Charleston Southern University||Charleston||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||Southern Wesleyan University||Central||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||Anderson University||Anderson||School profile||$$$$$|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in South Carolina
The Avery Scholarship is designed to help first-generation, underserved, and economically disadvantaged students entering the College of Charleston. Selection is competitive, based on academic performance and financial need. A GPA of 2.75+ is required. Preference is given to South Carolina residents.
Carolina Scholars Award
Provided by the University of South Carolina, the Carolina Scholars Award is one of the university’s most prestigious awards for South Carolina residents. Selection is based on outstanding academics, and leadership within high school and community. A personal interview is required. The award is $10,000 per year for 4 years.
Lieber Scholars Award
The Leiber Scholarship is provided to National Merit and Achievement Finalists, and National Hispanic Recognition Scholars who select University of South Carolina as their first-choice school. The maximum award is $6,000 per year for 4 years. Out-of-state students who receive this award qualify for reduced tuition; they will be charged only in-state tuition.
McNair Scholars Award
Provided by the University of South Carolina, the McNair Scholars program is available to out-of-state students attending USC. Selection is highly competitive, and recipients are chosen based on academic merit and leadership. The scholarship includes a $15,000 monetary award plus tuition reduction for 4 years.
Palmetto Fellows Scholarship
The Palmetto Scholars program is provided by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education for academically talented South Carolina high school seniors who will attend college within the state. To be eligible, applicants must have a 1200+ SAT or 27+ ACT score, a GPA of 3.5+, and rank within the top 6% of their graduating class.
SC LIFE Scholarship
The South Carolina Life Scholarship is open to students attending college in the state. To be eligible, applicants must be South Carolina residents, rank within the top 30% of their class, and have a 3.0+ GPA/ 1100+ SAT. The award amount is $4,700 plus an allowance of $300 for textbooks.
South Carolina Press Association Foundation Internship
The South Carolina Press Association provides the Press Association Foundation scholarship to South Carolina undergraduate students majoring in journalism. Applicants may be college juniors or seniors. The maximum award is $3,000 per year for 4 years, and may be used at a four-year college in South Carolina or out-of-state.
The Transfer Scholarship is available to transfer students entering Coker College. Recipients are selected based on academic achievement (including cumulative GPA), leadership, and financial need. The maximum award is $9,000 per year for 4 years.
Freshmen entering Clemson University are eligible for the Trustee Scholarship if they rank in the top 10% of their graduating high school class and have an ACT score of 27+ or a SAT score of 1200+. The award is $1,000 per year for 4 years.
The Valedictorian Scholarship is offered annually to freshmen entering University of South Carolina – Aiken. It is open to the valedictorian of each Aiken, Barnwell, Edgefield, Allendale, Richmond (GA), and Columbia County (GA) high school. The award covers full tuition for 4 years; recipients must maintain a 3.0+ GPA and full-time enrollment at USC – Aiken.
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