Best Value Colleges in North Carolina

PayScale's 2016 College ROI Report ranks North Carolina colleges by their return on investment for your educational dollars.

The Tar Heel State is home to the famous Research Triangle, a wide selection high value colleges and universities, as well as hundreds of square miles of rolling hills and mountains and some of the most beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast.  Read More

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1Duke University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$589,000
Total 4 Year Cost$243,000
Grad Rate95%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$24,000
2North Carolina State University (NCSU)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$499,000
Total 4 Year Cost$85,200
Grad Rate75%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$24,700
3Wake Forest University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$497,000
Total 4 Year Cost$237,000
Grad Rate88%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$38,100
4North Carolina State University (NCSU)(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$444,000
Total 4 Year Cost$140,000
Grad Rate75%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$24,700
5University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$379,000
Total 4 Year Cost$75,400
Grad Rate55%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$25,900
6University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$330,000
Total 4 Year Cost$94,100
Grad Rate90%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$26,600
7University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC)(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$329,000
Total 4 Year Cost$125,000
Grad Rate55%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$25,900
8North Carolina A&T State University(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$311,000
Total 4 Year Cost$62,600
Grad Rate48%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$27,200
9Winston-Salem State University(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$296,000
Total 4 Year Cost$66,300
Grad Rate46%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$25,800
10High Point University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$271,000
Total 4 Year Cost$173,000
Grad Rate63%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$37,100
11North Carolina A&T State University(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$267,000
Total 4 Year Cost$107,000
Grad Rate48%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$27,200
12Winston-Salem State University(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$260,000
Total 4 Year Cost$103,000
Grad Rate46%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$25,800
13East Carolina University (ECU)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$243,000
Total 4 Year Cost$80,700
Grad Rate59%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$28,300
14University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC)(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$242,000
Total 4 Year Cost$182,000
Grad Rate90%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$26,600
15 (tie)Methodist University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$228,000
Total 4 Year Cost$186,000
Grad Rate34%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$52,100

*NOTE: Unranked schools on this list don’t have on-campus living options, so on-campus costs are not available.

PayScale's data can help you easily pinpoint the best value colleges in North Carolina before you apply.

Duke University easily earns the top slot in our North Carolina College ROI Report. This prestigious private university, which is located in Durham, is ranked 69th nationally in terms of 20-year net ROI. (It should be noted that the typical financial aid package at Duke makes a big impact on those rankings - if you qualify for financial aid, Duke shoots to 38th place overall.) Founded in 1838, it sprawls across an immense, 8,600-acre campus that is lovingly referred to as the Gothic Wonderland due to its overwhelmingly Collegiate Gothic architecture. Don't let the fact that the average cost of a Duke education is $243,000 deter you. Alumni report a median return of investment of $589,000 in the two decades after they graduate. When financial aid is factored in, that number skyrockets to $751,000. Made up of two undergraduate schools, including the Pratt School of Engineering, Duke produces more Fulbright, Rhodes, Goldwater and Truman scholars than any other private university in the nation. Without question, it is one of the best value colleges in North Carolina and a great choice if you can get in. And if you are a basketball fan, Duke's Blue Devils are one of the most successful college basketball teams in the country year after year. (Just don't wear the wrong shade of blue to a game!)

As the largest university in the Carolinas, North Carolina State University stands apart from other colleges in many ways. Ranked 133rd nationally in terms of 20 Year Net ROI, NC State is located in Raleigh and offers more than 100 bachelor's degrees, more than 100 master's degrees and more than 60 doctoral degrees. The average cost to earn a degree from the school is just $85,200 (almost one-third the cost of Duke), and the 20 Year Net ROI is $499,000, a figure that jumps to $537,000 with financial aid. Best known for its programs in engineering, agriculture, textiles and design and the life sciences, NC State offers the value of college education North Carolina residents can use to build strong careers.

With its location just north of downtown Winston-Salem, Wake Forest University provides a return on investment North Carolina students and their families are sure to appreciate. The average cost of a Wake Forest education is $237,000, but with a 20-year net ROI of $496,000 without financial aid and $628,000 with it, that's an investment that pays off The university is made up of an undergraduate college, a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and four professional schools, and it's an optimal choice for students who want top-notch educations that deliver the best value for their educational investments.