To identify the Best Colleges in South Carolina for 2021 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in South Carolina anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
If you’re interested in distance learning, check out our ranking of the Best Online Colleges in South Carolina. You can also find out more about college financial aid with our list of the Top South Carolina Scholarships.
Citadel Military College of South CarolinaCharleston, SC
Furman UniversityGreenville, SC
Wofford CollegeSpartanburg, SC
Clemson UniversityClemson, SC
University of South Carolina-ColumbiaColumbia, SC
Few states have seen the tremendous highs and devastating lows of South Carolina, nor would they want to. When the Province of Carolina was founded in the 17th century, it was supposed to be a utopia designed around the Enlightenment ideals of John Locke; instead, it became enmeshed in the slave trade and built a fabulously wealthy plantation system on the brutality of slavery. In the years before the Civil War, South Carolina was one of the richest states in the union – rich enough to believe it could secede with impunity. Completely ruined by the Civil War, South Carolina went from one of the wealthiest to one of the poorest states, reliant on agriculture and manufacturing, and slow to modernize.
But one thing South Carolina always had in its favor was a strong system of higher education institutions, including one of the oldest colleges in America (the College of Charleston, also one of the best beach colleges in the nation). It took South Carolina a while to really put those institutions to good use for all the state’s people, unfortunately. In the 21st century, though, the best colleges in South Carolina have renewed their dedication to offering opportunities for social mobility, career advancement, and reinvention – reinvention like the state itself.
The Best Colleges in South Carolina: Leading the Way
The best colleges and universities in South Carolina are leading the state’s charge into the 21st century with research that build on a long heritage of agriculture and innovation; technical training that makes a strong, informed workforce; and professional programs that prepare the next generation of leaders in industry, government, medicine, and education. Major research institutions like Clemson University carry on South Carolina’s history, but link it to the latest discoveries in technology, engineering, and science, all helping to make the Palmetto State a contender in the modern marketplace. Clemson, for instance, was a pioneer in the development of one of the most unique degree programs in the US – packaging science. (It’s also one of the top river and lake colleges, with its beautiful campus along Lake Hartwell.)
Historic institutions like The Citadel, Furman University, and the College of Charleston remind South Carolina of a three-century old tradition of excellence, and point the way to an accomplished future. South Carolina has a wealth of excellent liberal arts colleges, including some of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation (like Furman and Wofford), and these institutions have long cultivated South Carolina’s image as the seat of Southern charm and refinement.
With a deep, rich history of religious faith, South Carolina’s higher education system is also shaped by top-ranked Christian colleges and universities, many ranked among the best small colleges and the best Christian colleges in the US. Institutions like Columbia International University maintain a tradition of Christian faith and belief fused with the liberal arts and professional studies. South Carolina is home to influential liberal arts colleges like Wofford College and Winthrop University, while historical women’s colleges like Columbia College and Converse College carry on a world-changing mission from the era when women were not welcome in higher education, dedicated to demonstrating what women can accomplish. All told, South Carolina’s best colleges and universities represent South Carolina’s best self.
The Palmetto State on the Rise
South Carolina’s iconic state flag features a waxing crescent moon rising over a palmetto tree, an apt symbol for the state. Since the turn of the 21st century, South Carolina has been on the rise, growing just like the waxing moon after its darkest night. For modern-day South Carolina, growth, in part, has come from attracting business, but more importantly, the state is seeing returns from investing in its people. The best colleges in South Carolina are giving their all for students, and those investments aren’t just in amenities and frivolous things (though having one of the best campus recreation centers hasn’t hurt the University of South Carolina); it’s identifying what South Carolina’s people have to offer, and giving them the means to achieve it.