Universities across North Carolina were forced to abruptly adapt courses to serve students online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But some schools offer academic programs designed to be fully online that rank among the best in the nation.
U.S. News & World Report released its 2021 Best Online Programs rankings Tuesday, which evaluate colleges and universities’ online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. The rankings don’t consider schools that temporarily switched to online or virtual learning because of the coronavirus.
“As in-person gatherings remain limited, we might see more interest in online degrees than in prepandemic years,” Anita Narayan, managing editor of Education at U.S. News, said in a statement. “But online degrees aren’t only practical in the short term — distance education can also be conducive to a schedule that includes full-time work or other commitments.”
UNC-Chapel Hill earned the highest ranking with the No. 1 online MBA program in the nation in a tie with Carnegie Mellon University. N.C. State University and UNC Wilmington rank in the top 20 for online bachelor’s degrees. And Duke University’s master’s in nursing program ranks 3rd-best overall.
Institutions are ranked using data about student services and technology, faculty credentials and student engagement specifically for distance learners, according to U.S. News & World Report.
UNC-Chapel Hill took the top spot for its online MBA program through the Kenan-Flagler Business School. The program was also ranked No. 1 in 2020.
UNC’s online MBA program specialties were highly rated for finance (3rd), general management (3rd), marketing (4th) and business analytics (6th). The online master’s in business, non MBA program ranks 6th overall and 8th for veterans.
NC State University
For prospective students looking to earn a bachelor’s degree, NC State has the highest-ranking program in the state. NCSU ranks 14th nationally, up 25 spots from 2020.
N.C. State’s online MBA program also ranks among the best at 16th overall and 24th for veterans. The MBA program’s business analytics specialty ranks 4th.
The university’s master’s in engineering program is its highest-ranked online program at 6th overall and 7th for veterans. N.C. State’s online engineering program specialties were highly rated for mechanical (4th), civil (11th), industrial (11th), electrical (13th) and management (15th).
NCSU’s master’s in computer information technology program ranks 16th overall. And the online master’s in education program ranks 42nd overall and 12th for veterans, with the educational/instructional media design specialty recognized at 13th.
Duke University offers one of the nation’s top online nursing programs for students looking to earn a master’s degree. Duke’s master’s in nursing program ranks 3rd overall and 3rd for veterans. The specialties for administration/leadership, education, nursing practitioner and nursing practitioner for psychiatric mental health, across the lifespan are each ranked No. 1 in the country.
Duke’s online master’s in engineering program ranks 32nd overall, 24th for veterans and the management specialty ranks 2nd nationwide.
UNC Wilmington’s online bachelor’s program ranks 19th overall, down 11 spots from 2020. UNCW’s online master’s in nursing program ranks in the top 100 at 80th overall.
East Carolina University
East Carolina University’s top online education program is its master’s in criminal justice, which ranks 21st nationally.
ECU’s master’s in nursing program ranks 27th overall, 9th for veterans, 6th for education nursing specialty and 12th for the administration/leadership specialty.
The university’s online master’s in education ranks 52nd overall and the MBA program ranks 100th and 58th for veterans.
UNC Greensboro’s online bachelor’s degree program ranks in the top 100 nationally at 67th overall, 43rd for veterans and 19th for business.
UNCG’s highest-rated online program is the master’s in nursing at 14th overall and 8th for the nursing education specialty.
The university’s master’s in computer information technology program ranks 34th overall. The UNCG master’s in education program ranks 68th overall and 21st for veterans.
NC A&T University
NC A&T’s online master’s in computer information technology program ranks 27th overall and 17th for veterans.
The university’s online master’s in education program ranks 58th nationally.
Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University’s online bachelor’s in business degree program ranks 19th nationally and the overall bachelor’s program is 107th.
App State’s online master’s in education (91st) and nursing (92nd) programs rank in the top 100 nationally.
Western Carolina University
Western Carolina’s online bachelor’s in business degree program ranks 27th nationally and the overall bachelor’s program is 164th. WCU’s online master’s in business, non MBA program ranks 76th overall.
For online bachelor’s degrees, UNC Charlotte ranks 34th overall.
UNC Charlotte has the state’s best online master’s in education program, which ranks 27th nationally with top-rated specialties for special education (10th), curriculum and instruction (13) and educational/instructional media design (13th).
UNCC’s master’s in engineering ranks 44th overall. The university’s master’s in nursing program ranks 52nd overall and 11th for the nursing education specialty.
The online master’s in nursing at Winston-Salem State ranks 17th overall.
Online bachelor’s degrees top 100
- NC State — 14
- UNC Wilmington — 19
- UNC Charlotte — 34
- UNC Greensboro — 67
Online MBA top 100
- UNC-CH — 1
- NC State — 16
- Fayetteville State University — 88
- ECU — 100
Online master’s in nursing top 100
- Duke — 3
- UNCG — 14
- WSSU — 17
- ECU — 27
- UNCC — 52
- UNCW — 80
- App State — 92
Online master’s in education top 100
UNCC — 27
NC State — 42
ECU — 52
- NC A&T — 58
- UNCG — 68
- App State — 91
Online master’s in engineering
- NC State — 6
- Duke — 32
- UNCC — 44