North Carolina

Located in the southeastern United States, North Carolina shares several state borders and shores along the Atlantic. Neighboring states include Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. It’s considered the state with the 9th largest population, totaling over 10 million residents. Major cities include Raleigh and Charlotte. Early industries consisted of tobacco, furniture-making, and textiles. Modern industry has expanded to include engineering, biotechnology, energy, and finance as well. The state encompasses a wide variety of terrain, from Mount Mitchell to the Eno River to the Cullasaja Falls to coastal plains. The state has been home to many top institutions of higher education since the first public university in the country was opened in 1795 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For the sake of this list , a “college” is considered any accredited public or private not-for-profit institution that offers four-year degree programs. Campus crime stats, graduation rates, and student retention rates were taken from U.S. Department of Education annual reports. Campus crime rates are based on the number of crimes per 1,000 residents.

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#1 Meredith College


The liberal arts college known as Meredith College is situated in Raleigh, North Carolina. The student body consists of approximately 2,000 undergraduate women and 300 postgraduate men and women. A majority of students hail from within the state. Students have an opportunity to study from 37 majors in addition to graduate and pre-professional programs. Common majors include interior design, psychology, and business administration. Students can also become involved in NCAA Division III athletics.

#2 Bennett College for Women


Bennett College of Greensboro, North Carolina is a historically black liberal arts college. On average, 800 students attend the school each year. Academics have a particular focus on women’s leadership roles. Students can choose from 24 majors and 19 minors to earn degrees such as a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Fine Arts, or Bachelor of Social Work. Campus includes the Global Learning Center, the Thomas F. Holgate Library, and the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel and Little Theater in addition to residence halls and academic facilities. Students can participate in over 60 on-campus clubs, such as student council, student publications, religious groups, and women’s athletics.

#3 St. Andrews University – North Carolina


North Carolina’s St. Andrews University is a four-year liberal arts school located in Laurinburg. Each year, approximately, 600 students come to the university to pursue academics in elementary education, liberal studies, and business administration. Bachelor’s as well as Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees are available to all students. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Students can join athletics teams and Greek Life sororities and fraternities.

#4 Davidson College


Located in Davidson, North Carolina, Davidson College is a private liberal arts college that attracts nearly 2,000 undergraduate students each year. The school proudly boasts 23 Rhodes Scholars. Students have 26 major options in addition to 17 minors. Some interdisciplinary studies include Biochemistry, Computer Science, Asian Studies, International Studies, Medical Humanities, and Neuroscience. Student athletes can compete in Division I sports. Admission to the school is on a need-blind basis, meaning loans and financial aid packages have been eliminated in favor of grants and work study programs.

#5 North Carolina State University


North Carolina State University, or NCSU, is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. The public research institution works with Duke University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in a partnership known as the Research Triangle. In addition to research efforts, the school is also committed to sustainability, through waste reduction and local food consumption. Over 25,000 undergraduates attend the school, in addition to 9,600 postgraduates. Strong academic programs include statistics, agriculture, life sciences, textiles and designs.

#6 University of Mount Olive


The University of Mount Olive is a private liberal arts school set on a 250-acre campus in Mount Olive, North Carolina. Each year, approximately 4,200 students attend the university. In addition to academic and residential buildings, University of Mount Olive’s campus consists of Rodgers Chapel, the Nido and Mariana Qubein Garden House, the Moye Library, and the Pope Wellness Center. Students can become involved in a variety of extracurriculars, including student media, student government, and spiritual and cultural groups.

#7 University of North Carolina – Wilmington


Wilmington, North Carolina is home to the University of North Carolina Wilmington, a member of the University of North Carolina System. Each year, approximately 13,200 students attend the school as undergraduates, and an additional 1,700 as graduates. Students can choose between 52 undergraduate degree programs, 36 master’s programs, and four doctoral programs. Athletic teams participate in Division I sports including 17 varsity teams for both men and women. Other activities on campus include Greek Life, including a Christian sorority, honors fraternity, and historically black fraternities and sororities.

#8 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the oldest public universities in the United States. The public research institution welcomes about 18,400 undergraduates and 10,700 postgraduates to its 729-acre campus each year. Students can study in one of over 70 academic courses. UNC boasts its own hospital known as UNC Health Care, which works specifically in cancer care. There are over 550 student-run clubs for students to become involved in, including The Daily Tar Heel newspaper or the student radio, WXYC, as well as student athletics.

#9 Queens University of Charlotte


Each year about 2,400 students attend the Queens University of Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina. Campus is set near downtown, and includes facilities like the Sports Complex at Marion Diehl Park and the Presbyterian School of Nursing at Queens for the school’s large nursing program. There are a total of 39 undergraduate programs to choose from, 80 concentrations, and 19 graduate programs. Students can choose to become involved in Greek Life, athletics, and over 40 other clubs and organizations.

#10 Appalachian State University


Located in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian State University, or ASU, is a public college and home to a total of 19,000 students. The school has consistently ranked high for its master’s program, for which their are 37 majors. Undergraduates can choose from a total of 174 majors. The school has also ranked well for best value. Academic concentrations include studies such as history, geology, psychology, biology, and computer science. The school has extensive music-based programs as well, including Music Education, Music Therapy, Sacred Music, and Music Performance. Additional campuses are situated in Hickory, Morganton, and Lenoir.

#11 Salem College

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Salem College of Winston-Salem, North Carolina is an all women’s liberal arts school. It’s considered the longest running all women’s educational institution in the Southern United States. A total of 565 undergraduates and 300 postgraduates attend the school each year. Most students hail from within the state, although there are also international students that attend Salem College as well. Students pursue such degrees as a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and Master of Arts in Teaching. Student athletes participate in NCAA Division III sports.

#12 University of North Carolina – Greensboro


The public liberal arts school, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is located in Greensboro, North Carolina. Undergraduate students, totaling approximately 19,600, choose from over 100 programs. Postgraduates, about 13,600 in total, have 61 master’s options. In addition, the school offers 26 doctoral programs. The school is well-regarded for both its community involvement and high quality research. Student athletes participate in NCAA Division I sports as the Spartans.

#13 Wingate University


Wingate University is located in Wingate, Charlotte, and Hendersonville, North Carolina. Each year, about 3,000 students attend the university. A total of 35 undergraduate majors, 34 minors, and 12 pre-professional programs are offered to students. Wingate has consistently ranked high in terms of best value higher education institution. Master’s programs are developed in the areas of sports management, education, business, and accounting. The school also boasts highly competitive sports teams, which compete at the NCAA Division II level.

#14 University of North Carolina at Charlotte


The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is a well-regarded public research center.  In addition to the Charlotte Research Institute Campus, UNCC is also home to the Center City Campus and main campus, in University City. About 28,700 students attend the university in total, including about 5,000 postgraduate students. Students represent most of the United States, as well as 103 other countries. Popular programs include engineering, education, computer science, and business.

#15 Elon University



The independent school of Elon University is situated in Elon, North Carolina. The liberal arts school is home to about 6,500 students. Elon is known for its School of Law, in addition to undergraduate curriculum. Students are encouraged to study abroad, as well as participate in internships and service learning experiences at locations in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York City, Hawaii, and Alaska. Students choose between a total of 51 undergraduate majors. The school operated on a 4-1-4 calendar. In addition to athletics, students can choose from over 150 student-run clubs and organizations.

#16 William Peace University 


The liberal arts school of William Peace University is located Raleigh, North Carolina. Although the school was previously a women-only college, today, William Peace University is coeducational as of 2012. Over 1,000 students attend the school each year. Students commonly pursue Bachelor of Arts degrees in anthropology, criminal justice, education, and liberal arts. Students can participate in out-of-classroom activities such as NCAA Division III athletics in sports such as cross country, softball, volleyball, basketball, and golf.

#17 North Carolina A&T State University


Greensboro, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, or N.C. A&T, is one of the oldest public institutions of higher education in the country. It is also a historically black college and research institution. Early academic programs focused on agriculture, English, horticulture, and math. Today, students can choose from over 177 undergraduate programs, 30 master programs, and 9 doctoral programs. During the Civil Rights Movement, A&T students played an integral role in staging protests such as sit-ins to demand racial equality. The school has been awarded grant funds from prestigious programs such as the National Science Foundation.

#18 Catawba College


Approximately 1,500 students attend Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina. The coeducational liberal arts college holds an affiliation with the United Church of Christ. There are over 70 undergraduate programs, including economics, computer science, history, literature, pre-law and public administration. In addition, students can become involved in the Honors Program, Center for the Environment, and NCAA student athletics, Division II of the South Atlantic Conference.

#19 Wake Forest University


Wake Forest University is a coeducational research center and educational institution located in Wake Forest, North Carolina, just north of Raleigh. The university of over 7,500 students has consistently ranked high for its undergraduate programs. Former students have gone on to become Rhodes Scholars, Marshall Scholars, and Truman Scholars, as well as Fulbright recipients. Campus spans 340 acres and includes landmarks such as the Wait Chapel, the Hearn Plaza and the Benson University Center. Undergraduate students can choose from 40 majors and 57 minors. “Open Curriculum” is also available to students in which they can choose their own course of study with the assistance of their academic advisor. Students are encouraged to study abroad, in over 200 cities within 70 countries.

#20 East Carolina University


The public research center and school known as East Carolina University is set in Greenville, North Carolina. Each year, approximately 28,500 students attend the school as undergraduates and postgraduates. Campus is spread across five locations, nine undergraduate colleges, the graduate school, and four professional program facilities. Students focus their academics in areas such as health sciences, nursing, and dental medicine. Students have the option to become involved in Greek Life, as well as NCAA Division I athletics.

#21 Guilford College


Originally founded by Quakers in 1837, Guilford College is located in Greensboro, North Carolina. Approximately 2,000 students attend the 340-acre campus each year. Common academic programs include Peace and Conflict Studies as well as Community and Justice Studies. In addition to school atheltics, students can also participate in a number of campus-wide annual events, including public lecture series and music festivals.

#22 Winston – Salem State University


Winston-Salem State University is a historically black college that admits approximately 6,500 students each year. Both undergraduate and graduate students are admitted to pursue programs in more than 40 majors and 10 graduate degree programs. Campus stretches over 117 acres, and is home to the notable WSSU Diggs Gallery. Student athletes can participate in NCAA Division II sports as well as Greek Life and honor societies.

#23 Fayetteville State University


Fayetteville, North Carolina is home to the historically black institution known as Fayetteville State University. The student body totals nearly 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students who can benefit from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Student pursue Bachelor degrees in 43 concentrations, master’s degrees in 23 areas, as well as a doctoral program in educational leadership. As far as extracurriculars, students can choose to participate in more than 78 student-run clubs and organizations, including performing arts and student media.

#24 Lenoir – Rhyne University


Lenoir-Rhyne University of Hickory, North Carolina welcomes 2,200 students each year. The institution has an association with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and as such created the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. Academics include 50 undergraduate major offerings, as well as 19 master’s programs. Common areas of study include business, marketing, education, health, and social sciences. Students can also join athletic teams, sororities and fraternities.

#25 High Point University


The private liberal arts school of High Point University is located in High Point, North Carolina. Each year, 4,500 student attend to pursue 47 undergraduate majors and 12 graduate programs. High Point has ranked high int terms of  employment soon after graduation. The school has also ranked high based on academic programs offered for a reasonable price. Facilities on campus include research centers, and a human biochemics lab. Students are encouraged to attend Access to Innovators seminars as well as community involvement events.

#26 North Carolina Wesleyan College


Rocky Mount, North Carolina is home to the North Carolina Wesleyan College, a private liberal arts school open to men and women. The college is associated with the United Methodist Church and is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Campus span 200 acres and includes the Everett Gymnasium and the Dunn Center for the Performing Arts. Academic programs include chemistry, accounting, environmental science, liberal studies: international studies, marketing, political science, religious studies, and sociology, among many others. Students can become involved in cultural programs, ethnic and diversity groups, religious gatherings, and performing groups in addition to student publications and athletics.

#27 Lees-McRae College


Each year, Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, hosts nearly 1,000 students both on and off campus as well as online. The private, four-year school has a large focus on health and biological sciences. Campus includes notable buildings like Tufts Tower, the North Carolina Building, and Tate Residence Hall. The college’s four schools facilitate 17 majors and 14 minors. Common studies include nursing, business administration, wildlife biology and performing arts studies. Some of the student clubs include the Student Government Association, competition climbing team and greek life among several others. Many student-athletes participate in NCAA Division II athletics– the cycling team competes in Division I athletics.

#28 Greensboro College


The liberal arts school known as Greensboro College is a four-year coeducational institution. About 1,300 student pursue degrees at the school; bachelor’s as well master’s programs are available. Students hail from approximately 32 states, in addition to nearly 30 countries around the world. Common areas of study include economics, criminal justice, elementary education, business administration, and political science, among many others. In addition to academics, students can become involved in 20 student organizations, including Greek Life, athletics, and religious groups.

#29 University of North Carolina School of the Arts


Winston-Salem hosts the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). It’s considered the first public arts conservatory in the United States. Each year, over 700 undergraduates attend the school and approximately 125 postgraduates. Professional programs are devised within five main schools: School of Dance, School of Design & Production, School of Drama, School of Filmmaking, and School of Music. Performance is an important part of campus and academic life. Students have many opportunities throughout the year to view and participate in many student-run productions.

#30 Brevard College


Brevard College of Brevard, North Carolina is a private liberal arts college associated with United Methodist teachings. Approximately 700 students attend the school each year to earn degrees as Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Music. Student athletes can participate in NCAA Division II athletics, including basketball, cross country, lacrosse, soccer, and women’s volleyball, among others.

#31 Methodist University


Methodist University (previously Methodist College) is situated in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The private university is home to about 2,500 students, including undergraduates and postgraduates. Students choose from over 80 majors within bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs. Students hail from over 41 states and 53 countries. In addition to academics, students can participate in NCAA Division III athletics including baseball, golf, cross country, soccer, and tennis.

#32 Johnson C.Smith University


The historically black institution of Johnson C.Smith University is located in Charlotte, North Carolina. The co-ed school welcomes about 1,300 students each year to pursue Bachelor or Science, Bachelor of Arts, and Bachelor of Social Work to its students. Students are given a total of 23 degree concentration to choose from. Common studies include criminology, education, history, music, political science, biology, chemistry and performing arts, among many others. Students can participate in many extracurriculars as well as Division II athletics belonging to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

#33 Saint Augustine’s University


Approximately 1,500 student attend Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina each year. The historically black college played a significant role in educating freed slaves when it was founded in 1867. Campus spans across 105 acres including the Penick Hall of Math & Sciences and the George “Pup” Williams Track & Field Stadium in addition to many other academic and residential buildings. Although many students hail from within state, the student body represents 37 states and 30 other countries in total. Common areas of study include accounting, real estate, education, journalism and mass communications, history & political science, film and theatre, and mathematics and engineering.

#34 Elizabeth City State University


Elizabeth City State University, ECSU, is a historically black college that admits about 2,300 students each year. Located in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, ECSU’s campus spans 200 acres. Undergraduate students can choose from 37 programs, and postgraduates can pick from three master’s and programs. Students can become involved in campus life through student media and Division II athletics.

#35 Mars Hill College


The coeducational institution of Mars Hill University is situated in Mars Hill, North Carolina. Each year, 1,500 students attend the liberal arts school just north of Asheville. Students can choose between academics focused on nursing, health sciences, math, and business. The school belongs to the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and School (SACS) as well as the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Student athletes are able to join Division II sports teams like cycling and cross country.

#36 Livingstone College 


Salisbury, North Carolina is home to Livingstone College, a historically black college since its founding in 1879. About 1,200 students attend the school each year. Students pursue degrees in Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Bachelor of Social Work. Students are encouraged to become active in student life through various cultural, social, religious, and athletic outlets. Livingstone belongs to the National Collegiate Athletic Association as well as the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

#37 Shaw University


Shaw University is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. The historically black university opened in 1865, and today welcomes approximately 2,000 students each year. Common academic interests include, natural science, business & accounting, religion, education, and computer science. Over half a century ago, Shaw University became the first HBC to run its own radio station. The university also played an integral role during the Civil Rights Movement. Students can join many extracurricular activities such as Greek Life, music groups, marching band, and literary groups.

#38 Chowan University


Chowan University is home to about 1,500 students annually. Situated in Mufreesboro, North Carolina, Chowan University offers academic studies in 70 concentrations. The schools also provides one-on-one tutoring services to keep students on track academically. Students have the opportunity to participate in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II sports teams, including men and women’s soccer, football, volleyball, cross country, basketball, softball, and tennis.

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