For students who wish to earn their degree from an online college or university in South Carolina, this guide covers the shape of higher education in the state, cost-efficient schools, tuition reduction programs, scholarship opportunities, and job outlook data.
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.
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Overview of Higher Education in South Carolina
Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) indicate that during the 2015-2016 academic year, South Carolina granted degrees at 77 institutions of higher learning, including 33 public, 22 nonprofit, and 22 for-profit institutions. NCES data also reveals that in 2016, 246,563 students enrolled into degree-granting higher education institutions in the state.
- 33 public
- 22 non-profit
- 22 for-profit
While many postsecondary students hold state residency, the presence of inexpensive online colleges in South Carolina attracts many out-of-state students. According to College Board, residents can anticipate paying $12,950 for public four-year tuition during the 2018-2019 school year, while out-of-state tuition starts out around $15,000 annually and may reach above $30,000. In fact, at the University of South Carolina, the state’s flagship school, residents currently pay $12,616 and out-of-state students pay $33,298.
South Carolina provides noteworthy financial support to its students. According to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs, South Carolina provided $350,957,952 in assistance during the 2015-2015 school year. In fact, $28,218,382 supported the South Carolina primary need-based grant, which helped nearly 30,000 students. Furthermore, a notable $317,570,848 assisted students without considering need at all, which reached over 91,000 students.
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State of Online Higher Education in South Carolina
Around the country, the demand for online learning options continues to grow. In fact, nearly 30% of college students currently take at least one distance education course to satisfy their undergraduate or graduate curriculum. In 2015, at least 39% of students registered for an online course in South Carolina, and 89% of the state’s distance learners live there.
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
For the past 70 years, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) has worked to improve public education by collaborating with education agency officials, influential policymakers, and legislatures to develop stronger policies that help college students complete their programs and lead to professional success. The SREB also engages in ongoing research, analyzes data, and provides public reports for current issues. Additionally, the SREB strives to pool resources across multiple states to provide students access to the best programs at affordable rates.
Out-of-state students considering a degree in South Carolina may qualify for tuition breaks through the SREB’s Academic Common Market. For more than 35 years, this program has provided access to in-state tuition rates when academic programs do not exist in a student’s home state. The SREB program limits duplicate programs due to impracticality, which reinforces existing programs for maximum efficiency. The Academic Common Market does not provide assistance for first-professional degrees including medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, optometry, or law. Students must also meet academic requirements of their university, which may include additional stipulations including full-time enrollment or a higher minimum GPA requirement.
SREB member states include Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
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 South Carolina, 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
One of many cheap online colleges in South Carolina, Clemson University began as an all-male agricultural school, but it now offers more than 80 undergraduate and 110 graduate programs to learners around the world. Located in Clemson, SC, the school provides online and hybrid degrees to accommodate working professionals and distance learners. Through Clemson University's open-education platform, learners access textbooks and other resources with no additional cost.
Clemson University offers several high-level degrees to distance learners. Students may earn an online master of science in athletic leadership, biological sciences, recreation and tourism management, youth development leadership, or wildlife and fisheries biology. Additionally, learners may complete master's degrees in education, engineering (with a specialization in industrial engineering), public administration, human resource development program, and construction management.
Clemson's online doctoral programs include healthcare genetics; rhetoric, communication, and information design; and parks, recreation, and tourism management. For these terminal degrees, students complete on-campus residencies in addition to their online coursework.
Clemson offers certification programs online. For example, graduate certificate programs in youth development and athletic leadership feature coursework that prepares coaches and similar mentors to lead, motivate, and foster youth development and activities. The school also offers an online bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program for registered nurses (RN) wanting to earn their degree. Full-time learners finish the online RN-to-BSN completion program within one year. With the exception of an on-campus orientation, students fulfill all of these degree requirements online.
Clemson University maintains accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Programmatic accreditations include the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the National Recreation and Park Association.
|2||University of South Carolina||Columbia||$$$$$||Columbia-Campus|
Columbia, SC 29208
One of the best online colleges in South Carolina, the University of South Carolina-Columbia received its charter in 1906 and now ranks among the top institutions in the nation for research and community engagement. From its campus in Columbia, USC-Columbia (by way of Palmetto College) offers several online programs to full-time workers and adult learners.
Online bachelor's degree completion programs at USC-Columbia include bachelor of science degrees in criminal justice, public health, human services, and hospitality management. Undergraduate learners can also enroll in one of the online business administration programs, specializing in management or accounting. Online bachelor of arts degree completion programs center on elementary education, health informatics, liberal studies, organizational leadership, special education, and information management and systems. All degree completion programs cater to students with 45 credit hours of transfer credits, allowing learners to complete a bachelor's degree in two years or fewer.
USC-Columbia's online graduate offerings include master's and doctoral programs. Graduate students may major in applied statistics, engineering management, library and information science, education, nursing, public health, or education (with concentrations in teaching, educational technology, or educational administration). The school's master's degree in nursing emphasizes nurse practitioner fields such as family practice, adult and gerontology, and psychiatric mental health. Doctoral programs online at USC-Columbia center on engineering: nuclear, mechanical, and electrical.
Online graduate certificates offered at USC-Columbia provide students with further opportunities to focus their studies and gain advanced competencies in areas including nursing administration, cybersecurity, and library and information science. What's more, the online coursework and community health practicum in USC-Columbia's online registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing program provide a comprehensive program to practicing nurses who want to earn a bachelor's degree. This program includes 31 credit hours, which learners can complete in as few as 12 months.
USC-Columbia holds accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Programmatic accreditation includes the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Engineering Accreditation Commission of Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
|3||Anderson University||Anderson||$$$$$||316 Boulevard|
Anderson, SC 29621-4035
Affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, Anderson University fosters entrepreneurship, innovation, and a Christ-centered community through its online undergraduate and graduate programs and online FLEX degree. Anderson's FLEX program includes 60 credit hours of coursework that learners can complete in as few as five weeks. As part of the FLEX degree, students receive specialized, one-on-one attention from faculty members as they work on a major project or modular curriculum path.
Online undergraduate programs from AU center on the following fields: business administration, criminal justice and homeland security, nursing, education, organizational leadership, human services, and Christian studies.
Online and hybrid graduate degrees at AU allow learners to study at their own pace and collaborate in a classroom setting. Students, for example, can complete an online master's in business administration with a concentration in healthcare leadership, human resources, marketing, or supply chain management. An online master's in education, ministry, music, and instructional design all afford learners entirely online curricula, and master's degrees in nursing leadership, education, and nurse practitioner concentrations include online coursework with practicum requirements. Finally, AU offers doctoral degrees online, including a doctorate of ministry and a doctorate in nursing practice -- with concentrations in advanced practice and executive leadership.
AU holds accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Undergraduate and master's nursing programs maintain accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The school's doctoral programs remain in review.
|4||Lander University||Greenwood||$$$$$||320 Stanley Avenue|
Greenwood, SC 29649-2099
Founded by Methodist clergyman Samuel Lander in 1872, Lander University transitioned from a private women's college to a co-educational institution in 1948. Now home to roughly 3,000 learners, Lander features more than 60 online and on-campus undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs.
Lander offers an online undergraduate program for registered nurses (RN) who want to earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). The school's RN-to-BSN degree online includes 73 credit hours of nursing-specific coursework, although practicing nurses may qualify for reduced credit hours through articulation agreements and transfer credit options. Students complete coursework online after they complete an on-campus orientation.
Lander also boasts three online graduate programs. First, for the online master of science in emergency management -- which focuses on "preparedness and first response to long-term recovery" -- students complete interdisciplinary coursework in as few as six academic terms.
Second, in the 39-credit online master's degree in nursing, learners prepare to sit for the clinical nurse leader certification through the American Association of Colleges of Nurses. Finally, practicing teachers in Lander's online master's degree in education with an emphasis on teaching and learning -- with further specializations in instructional technology and diverse learners -- gain the skills needed to work with emerging technologies and specific populations within a classroom setting.
Lander maintains accreditation through the Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The school's William Preston Turner School of Nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and Lander University's education degrees hold accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
|5||Limestone College||Gaffney||$$$$$||1115 College Drive|
Gaffney, SC 29340-3799
Limestone College in Gaffney provides associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees online for students and working professionals. A nondenominational Christian college, Limestone College upholds academic excellence while emphasizing spiritual reflection, personal integrity, creativity, and hard work. Most of the school's online degrees offer learners the opportunity to complete coursework at one of its extension centers throughout the state. Evening classes at Aiken, Charleston, Columbia, Florence, Greenville, Kingstree, Lowcountry, and Gaffney locations feature online options.
Limestone College offers online associate degrees in business administration, liberal studies, computer science programming, and computer science information technology. Learners who complete any of these degrees develop foundational knowledge and skills they may apply to any of Limestone's bachelor's degrees in criminal justice, liberal studies, psychology, healthcare administration, and human resource management, among other programs. Prospective students should note that Limestone's online bachelor's program in social work includes a 400-hour field practicum to supplement coursework and give learners the opportunity to apply degree knowledge.
Limestone also offers a master's in business administration (MBA) online, which includes 11 or 12 classes, depending on the learner's background. Students study management, marketing, business ethics, and accounting through online coursework and three weekend residencies. Learners generally complete the online MBA in 22 months.
Limestone holds accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Programmatic accreditations include approval by the Council on Social Work Education and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
|6||North Greenville University||Tigerville||$$$$$||7801 N. Tigerville Road|
Tigerville, SC 29688-1892
North Greenville University offers online and on-campus programs to more than 2,500 students from its central Tigerville location. A private Baptist university affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, NGU combines academic excellence with opportunities for spiritual growth, community service, and cultural enrichment. NGU's online programs cater to adult learners over the age of 22. Students can complete their degrees entirely online or meet with fellow students and instructors each week through a hybrid program.
NGU's online undergraduate programs center on business and leadership, Christian ministries, criminal justice, elementary education, applied psychology, and general studies. As an example, learners in NGU's online Christian ministry undergraduate program can specialize in biblical studies, ministry, or theology. Online education majors focus on building knowledge and skills for effective classroom instruction, lesson planning, resource discovery, and use of technology in learning. Students also focus on Christian instruction as they work toward a career as a teacher in a Christian school.
All students in NGU's online business degree pursue a leadership and management track, but they may add a marketing minor. The online bachelor's degree in applied psychology incorporates a Christian worldview into a curriculum based in psychological theory and therapeutic methods. NGU's online general studies programs allow learners to explore a basic liberal arts curriculum while taking classes that meet their interests and future goals. Elective and core classes develop students' communication, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills from a Christian perspective.
NGU's maintains accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts membership with the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education and with the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities.
|7||Charleston Southern University||Charleston||$$$$$||9200 University Blvd|
Charleston, SC 29406-9121
Charleston Southern University holds the designation as the largest accredited, private institution in South Carolina. Based in Charleston, CSU emphasizes biblical core values that espouse the infallibility of God, salvation through an acceptance of Jesus Christ, biblically informed diversity, and an overall evangelical mission.
CSU offers several online degrees. Undergraduate students may major in healthcare administration, hospitality and tourism management, human resource management, general management, project management, and/or computer systems and information sciences. Specifically, the online bachelor's degree in project management prepares learners to sit for the Project Management Professional exam offered by the Project Management Institute.
In addition, the online healthcare administration program incorporates coursework in leadership and management with content on policies and procedures within the healthcare industry. Finally, all online management bachelor's programs provide working professionals with opportunities to gain expertise in organizational settings while developing projects, working with others, and communicating effectively.
Online graduate programs at CSU include several management degrees, including general management, project management, and supply chain management. Learners can also pursue an online master's degree in business administration at CSU with concentrations in general management, finance, leadership, and management information systems. Additional concentrations in accounting and human resource management require learners to complete on-campus coursework.
Students earning CSU's online master's in nursing can focus on nursing education or nursing leadership; both tracks combine practice-based knowledge with faith-focused patient care. CSU's online master of science in computer science includes 33 credit hours for non-thesis students or 27 credit hours for learners who produce a research-based thesis as part of their degree (a thesis prepares students for doctoral study).
CSU is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Programmatic accreditation includes recognition by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education and the Accrediting Commission for Education in Nursing.
|8||University of South Carolina - Upstate||Spartanburg||$$$$$||800 University Way|
Spartanburg, SC 29303-4999
As part of the University of South Carolina system, USC Upstate offers learners the opportunity to study at its Spartanburg campus or through one of its online programs. Many of USC Upstate's online programs include collaborative coursework with other schools within the USC system, but USC Upstate's student-focused approach to academic excellence offers learners an experience in line with the school's values and mission.
USC Upstate provides learners access to several online and hybrid undergraduate and graduate degrees. Students may complete coursework for the school's bachelor's programs in criminal justice, information management and systems, and health informatics entirely online. The same goes for USC's online registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing degree, which allows practicing nurses with associate degrees or certificates in nursing to earn a bachelor's degree in as little as one year. USC Upstate's online offerings cover 70% of the coursework in these programs, with additional classes offered through USC Greenville.
USC Upstate also offers two master's degrees. First, in a hybrid master of science in informatics, students can pursue concentrations in health information management or information resource management by completing 30 credit hours of coursework.
Second, USC Upstate's Mary Black School of Nursing offers a master of science in nursing with a concentration in clinical nurse leadership. Full-time students -- who must hold a bachelor's degree in nursing -- can finish this program in two years, while part-time learners may take up to six years to earn their degree. Students complete all coursework online with clinical practical requirements as well. The program prepares students to sit for the clinical nurse leadership certificate through the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
USC Upstate maintains accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. USC Upstate's nursing programs hold approval from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
|9||Columbia College||Columbia||$$$$$||1301 Columbia College Dr|
Columbia, SC 29203
Founded as Columbia Female College by the Methodist Conference of South Carolina in 1854, Columbia College first opened its doors in 1859. The school closed during the Civil War but reopened in 1873. After changing its name in 1904, Columbia College has continued to focus on preparing students for personal and professional excellence through undergraduate and graduate programs.
Columbia College features nine online programs. Its online undergraduate offerings include bachelor's degrees in criminal justice, disaster and emergency management, nursing, respiratory care, and speech language pathology. For example, the online respiratory care program allows registered respiratory care therapists with previous college coursework to complete their bachelor's degree. Likewise, disaster and emergency management students complete coursework to prepare for manmade and natural disasters while coordinating relief efforts, implementing recovery programs, and assisting victims. Finally, the online criminal justice degree at Columbia College includes specializations in leadership and risk management, general criminal justice, and forensics.
Master's programs online at Columbia College provide working professionals with opportunities to earn advanced degrees on a flexible schedule. Columbia College's online athletic coaching graduate degree includes 30 credit hours that learners can complete in one year. Athletic coaching degree coursework builds leadership and communication skills among coaching professionals. Similarly, the online healthcare administration graduate degree includes 30 credit hours of core and elective coursework, as does the criminal justice program, with sequential coursework offered to groups of cohorts who can complete the program in 20 months.
Columbia College maintains accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Healthcare programs have been approved by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Administration.
|10||University of South Carolina-Beaufort||Bluffton||1 University Boulevard|
Bluffton, SC 29909
10. University of South Carolina-Beaufort
USCB offers three online bachelor's programs in hospitality management, public health, and human services. First, USCB's online hospitality management degree, housed on the Hilton Head Island campus, provides learners with previous college coursework and professional experience the ability to earn a bachelor's degree in South Carolina's largest economic sector. Concentrations in hotels, food service, and tourism allow learners to tailor their degrees to meet their personal and professional goals.
Second, students in USCB's online public health program can complete their degree in two years, with 45-60 credit hours of transfer credits. Learners develop skills applicable to careers in hospitals, clinics, schools, and communities.
Third, USCB's online human services bachelor's degree prepares students to work within helping professions, emphasizing human interventions, counseling, advocacy, and mediation. Learners complete three internships as part of the 120-credit curriculum. Each internship places students in an experiential learning environment under the supervision of a human service mentor. Learners gain valuable insights into which organization, institution, and segment of human services they want to pursue while contributing to groups and communities in need.
USCB maintains accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in South Carolina
Below, you’ll find all of the online schools in South Carolina sorted by their tuition rates.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Coastal Carolina University||Conway||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||University of South Carolina - Upstate||Spartanburg||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Lander University||Greenwood||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||Limestone College||Gaffney||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||Charleston Southern University||Charleston||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||Southern Wesleyan University||Central||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||Anderson University||Anderson||School profile||$$$$$|
Job Outlook for College Graduates in South Carolina
Students planning to join the South Carolina workforce should examine the job market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), South Carolina professionals earn an average of $42,240 per year, and the unemployment rate rests at 3.3%. Students should also consider employment rates by industry since they vary.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in South Carolina
Archibald Rutledge Scholarship
South Carolina high school seniors focusing in creative writing, music, dance, visual arts, or theater may apply. Students must attend a college or university in the state.
Palmetto Fellows Scholarship
South Carolina high school seniors planning to attend a college or university in the state may apply. Recipients may renew this scholarship each year.
Any student attending local two or four-year universities in the state may apply. Students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA.
South Carolina Hope Scholarship
Any student enrolled in a South Carolina university may apply. Students may only receive this scholarship during their freshman year.
Charleston Women in International Trade
Female South Carolina residents enrolled at a local school full-time may apply. Students must major in international trade.
Hampton Fund Scholarship
South Carolina high school seniors planning to attend a local university may apply. Acceptable majors include wildlife biology, forestry, or marine science.
James O. Thomason Scholarship
South Carolina high school seniors who plan to major in photojournalism, advertising, public relations, or mass communications at a South Carolina university may apply.
David M. Cline Scholarship
Students enrolled full time at a South Carolina university may apply. Students must major in law enforcement, criminal justice, or forensic science.
Wallace F. Pate Scholarship
South Carolina residents enrolling into a local university may apply. Acceptable majors for this one-time scholarship include biology, zoology, and environmental science.
African American Network of the Carolinas
African-American South Carolina high school seniors attending local school may apply. Acceptable majors include engineering, accounting, finance, and business administration.
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