Home to historic Charleston and miles of beautiful beaches, South Carolina can boast of a robust system of higher education. Public colleges and universities in the state fall into one of the following four categories:
- Research institutions
- Comprehensive teaching institutions
- Two-year regional campuses of the University of South Carolina
- Technical colleges
The University of South Carolina is the state's main public system of higher education. Its flagship campus, located in Columbia, is one of the state's research institutions. The university also has another seven campus locations. Together, these schools confer 40 percent of the bachelor's and graduate degrees awarded by public institutions in South Carolina.
Articulation agreements between schools can make it simple to transfer credits from two-year colleges to four-year universities. For example, the University of South Carolina-Columbia's Bridge Program is an agreement with the South Carolina Technical College System. The agreement allows students who have earned at least 30 credits at a technical college to easily transfer and continue their education at the university.
In addition to public colleges and universities, students may also enroll in a private institutions or one of the online colleges for South Carolina.
Best 4-Year Colleges in South Carolina
A few of the ten best colleges and universities in South Carolina may be obvious choices, but some of the entries that came up when we analyzed cost, quality, flexibility and student engagement statistics may surprise you. Tap the methodology button for information on how we calculated the scores, and check out the list below for our ten top South Carolina schools. When done, read about the top South Carolina community colleges, too.
The esteemed Clemson University is a highly selective modern research institution that got its start as an all-male military school in 1893. Today, Clemson serves more than 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students and comprises nine academic colleges, including an honors college and a graduate school.
Across its 120+ years of history, Clemson has always kept its eye on cutting-edge tech. More than two-thirds of the first 40 degrees awarded by the university -- in 1896 -- were in "mechanical-electrical engineering," and today's Palmetto Cluster supercomputer ranks among the top ten such devices at U.S. universities.
Not only that, but outdoor areas around Clemson exemplify the state's famous natural beauty. The Blue Ridge Mountains, Devils Fork State Park, Hartwell Lake and the university's own Experimental Forest are all nearby and full of things to do and see.
The Columbia campus of the University of South Carolina is another research institution among South Carolina universities and serves as the flagship location for the University of South Carolina system. The school was founded in 1801 and has grown into one of the nation's most respected centers of higher learning.
It's also one of the top colleges and universities in South Carolina for advanced nursing degrees, whether delivered on-campus or online degrees. The College of Nursing at the Columbia school offers four Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) plans, four graduate certificates in nursing and three doctoral programs.
USC Columbia is one of just two South Carolina colleges to receive the highest research activity designation from the Carnegie Foundation. Primary focus areas for research include advanced materials, energy, sustainability and the health sciences.
Established in 1927 in Bay County, Florida, Bob Jones University changed locations twice before finding its current home in Greenville. This private Christian institution includes five schools, a college and a seminary.
The approximately 3,000 students enrolled at BJU can choose from a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs. Accounting, nursing, business administration, ministry and the Bible are among the top degrees chosen. All degree plans at BJU are taught from a biblical perspective, and the institution's core curriculum mixes Bible courses into a liberal arts foundation.
The university maintains a number of student support initiatives to promote success in its learners and graduates. The Academic Resource Center offers advising, tutoring and writing help as you work toward your degree, and professional development, job networking and career assessment resources are available from Career Services.
Anderson University is a private university at the northwestern tip of South Carolina. Its sponsorship by the South Carolina Baptist Convention gives the campus culture a decidedly Christian slant, including two religion courses in the core curriculum and required attendance at eight or more worship events each semester.
More than 80 major concentrations and 25 minors await undergraduates at this small campus. The list of subjects contains study plans in both sacred and secular disciplines, from criminal justice and musical theatre to youth ministry and biblical studies.
What's more, the variety of distance education programs at AU qualifies it for a spot among the top schools in South Carolina for online degrees. Online undergraduate programs include business administration, human services and Christian studies, while graduate students can earn master's degrees in music education, ministry and instructional design, among other majors with online courses.
Since its founding in 1891, North Greenville University has grown into a comprehensive institution that offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree options. This relatively small college of around 2,500 students is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention and fosters a Christ-centered campus environment.
Located in the foothills of Glassy Mountain near the North Carolina Border, the Tigerville campus of NGU features seven academic colleges that collectively offer close to 40 bachelor's degree programs. Online degrees in business, ministry, education and other online courses are also available, although students must be over the age of 22 to enroll in some.
Students at NGU are encouraged to participate in at least one international ministry outreach program when working on their degrees. Student mission initiatives travel to South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, as well as to Mexico and other select North American countries.
Columbia International University began its existence as Columbia Bible School in 1923. Although its name has changed twice over the years, CIU retains its Christian identity. Although students may choose an additional major, every graduate of this Columbia-based institution majors in the Bible, and the university's Statement of Faith maintains that the Bible is the foundation for all life and learning.
CIU might be the right fit for Christian students looking for an intimate learning environment. With an enrollment of just over 1,000 students, it's one of the smallest institutions among South Carolina colleges.
Distance education has been embraced at CIU, particularly for the programs offered through its seminary and graduate school, which could be good news for those with a preference for online courses. Online graduate programs include master's degrees in Bible exposition, Muslim studies, intercultural studies, education, divinity and business administration.
This public liberal arts and sciences university located in one of the oldest cities in the U.S. has a history that dates back to before the American Revolution. In the centuries since its 1770 founding, the College of Charleston has grown into a sizeable campus of nearly 10,000 undergraduates earning degrees from seven accredited colleges and schools.
The 130+ majors and minors available at the College cover quite a range, from social sciences and modern languages to meteorology and commercial real estate finance. Graduate students here have a catalog of more than 30 master's degree plans and graduate certificate programs to choose from.
Pursuing your degree in certain disciplines at the College of Charleston may grant you access to enhanced services. Students in pre-law and health professions programs can meet with special advisors trained in the specific circumstances of those fields.
Furman University has been educating South Carolina students for almost two centuries. Founded in 1826, the Greenville school is the oldest private institution of higher education in the state. More than 40 bachelor's degree plans and about half a dozen graduate programs are offered here.
Originally established as a men's academy and religious institute, Furman became a secular university when the theological school split off as Southern Baptist Seminary in 1858. With a total enrollment of approximately 2,800 and an average class size of under 20 students, it's likely that Furman students never feel like just a face in the crowd.
Hands-on learning and real-world perspectives are a big part of the educational approach at Furman. More than 80 percent of students take part in internships or undergraduate research projects in their field of study.
Based in Conway and near Myrtle Beach, Coastal Carolina University boasts a stunning location. The institution was inaugurated in 1954 as a junior college and grew to award its first four-year degree in 1975.
CCU offers 73 baccalaureate fields of study and 21 graduate level programs. The most popular undergraduate majors here include management, communication, exercise and sport science and one less common subject, thanks in part to the rich academic resources of the school's coastal environment. Degrees in coastal marine science or wetland studies are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels.
With the addition of Coastal's Office of Online Learning (COOL), the university has a platform to compete with the best schools in South Carolina for online students. Online bachelor's degrees in marketing, management and science are available, as well as graduate plans in business and education.
With a population of less than 75,000, Winthrop University's home city of Rock Hill is a great size for college students. It's big enough to have a few of the urban amenities common in metropolitan areas, but it's still small enough that the needs of students are likely to be overlooked by the city at large.
Total enrollment at Winthrop is approximately 6,100, with around 80 percent of enrolled students pursuing undergraduate degrees. The ratio of 14 students per faculty member is better than the national average by about 12 percent, so professors shouldn't be too busy to sit one-on-one with students if they need a boost.
If you're interested in a multifaceted education, look into service learning at Winthrop. Service learning opportunities combine community service work with classroom instruction to bring a nuanced perspective to the learning process.
Most Popular Degree Programs in South Carolina
Are you curious what other South Carolina students are studying? Whether you simply want to know or need some inspiration as you make your own plans, here's a look at the most popular fields of study in South Carolina.
In-Demand Careers in South Carolina
Before enrolling in a degree program, students should know their prospects of getting a job after graduation. To that end, you might be interested to know that these careers are expected to see strong growth in South Carolina in the years to come.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||46.5%||29,510||$22,470|
|Operations Research Analysts||36.8%||880||$81,130|
|Rail-Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operators||33.9%||-||$60,970|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||33.7%||7,790||$92,440|
|Physical Therapist Aides||31.5%||620||$27,310|
|Hearing Aid Specialists||30.4%||100||$55,960|
|Fast Food and Counter Workers||30%||73,730||$19,500|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||29.8%||1,580||$56,430|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||28.7%||200||-|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||27.7%||1,170||$74,310|
|Computer Numerically Controlled Tool Programmers||27.3%||180||$57,980|
|Machine Feeders and Offbearers||26.9%||1,260||$28,250|
|Occupational Therapy Aides||26.3%||40||$26,080|
|Security and Fire Alarm Systems Installers||26.2%||700||$42,380|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||26%||760||$68,800|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||25.9%||910||$74,020|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||25.9%||390||$61,310|
|Personal Financial Advisors||25.3%||1,930||$87,170|
|Orthotists and Prosthetists||24.9%||250||$68,780|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in South Carolina
Whether you plan to learn on campus or want to earn an online bachelor's degree in South Carolina, a number of financial aid programs can help reduce the cost of your education. In addition to federal assistance, South Carolina residents may eligible for aid from the state. This assistance is awarded in the form of Palmetto Fellows Scholarships, LIFE Scholarships, South Carolina HOPE Scholarships, South Carolina Need-based Grants and Lottery Tuition Assistance.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable for up to four years if recipient passes 24 semester hours per year and meets college satisfactory academic progress requirements.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Recipient must meet specified requirements, pending money available.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Minimum 3.0 GPA is required to retain scholarship.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable when funded and if the recipient maintains a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA.
- University of South Carolina System
- South Carolina Transfer and Articulation Center
- SC Technical College System
- South Carolina Commission on Higher Education
- South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
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- Attractions near Clemson, SC, Visit Clemson, accessed March 30, 2018, http://visitclemson.com/attractions/
- Higher Education, U.S. News and World Report, accessed March 30, 2018: Best Online Colleges, University of South Carolina, https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/university-of-south-carolina-columbia-218663; Best Graduate Schools, University of South Carolina, https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/university-of-south-carolina-columbia-218663/overall-rankings; Best Colleges, Anderson University, https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/anderson-university-3418;
- History of City, Official Website for Charleston, SC, accessed March 30, 2018, http://www.charleston-sc.gov/index.aspx?nid=110
- 21 Liberal Arts Colleges With the Lowest Student-Faculty Ratios, U.S. News and World Report, Jordan Friedman, April 19, 2016, accessed March 30, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2016-04-19/21-liberal-arts-colleges-with-the-lowest-student-faculty-ratios
- Rock Hill city, South Carolina, QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed March 30, 2018, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/rockhillcitysouthcarolina/PST045216
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- SC Technical College System, Accessed April 2017, http://www.sctechsystem.com/
- Scholarships & Grants for South Carolina Residents, South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, Accessed April 2017, http://www.che.sc.gov/Students,FamiliesMilitary/PayingForCollege/FinancialAssistanceAvailable/ScholarshipsGrantsforSCResidents.aspx
- University of South Carolina System, Accessed April 2017, http://southcarolina.edu/index.php