The 10 Cheapest Colleges in South Carolina
- Tips for Saving Money on College
- The 10 Cheapest Colleges in South Carolina
- How Much Will You Pay for College?
The cost of college has been rising for decades—between 1980 and 2020, the average price of tuition, fees, and room and board for an undergraduate degree increased by 169%. Consequently, the price of college is a growing concern for students; a recent poll of more than 4,000 current students, recent graduates, and parents found that four out of ten rank cost as the “most important” factor in choosing a school.
One method for keeping college costs down is to choose an affordable school, such as one of the ten cheapest colleges in South Carolina listed below.
Choosing an affordable college is just one approach students employ to control the expense of college. Below are a few other strategies for saving.
Plan Your Courses Wisely
Taking classes that don’t count toward your degree is a common way students increase the cost of college—they not only end up paying for courses and textbooks that don’t contribute to their degree, but also extend the time they spend in college, which adds other expenses like extra years of room and board. A mere 41% of first-time full-time college students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. Students should work with their academic advisors to ensure efficient planning and sequencing of their coursework to avoid spending extra time in college.
Taking summer and winter classes is another strategy to stay on schedule to graduate on time.
AP Courses and Dual Enrollment
Earning credit while in high school is another tried-and-true method for reducing college costs. Most colleges will award students credit if they score a 3 or higher on their AP exams, which allows them to get a jumpstart on their degree—at a fraction of the cost—before ever setting foot on a college campus.
Dual enrollment allows high schoolers to earn high school and college credit simultaneously and reduces the number of classes they need to complete while at college to earn their degree. Dual enrollment costs significantly less than traditional college credits—helping keep overall college costs down while also exposing students to the rigors of university-level work.
Understand the Real Cost of College
The sticker price of a school is a poor indicator of what college will cost. A 2019 report from the New York Times Magazine found that 89% of students don’t pay full price for college. In fact, it’s not unusual for expensive private schools to cost less than their public counterparts with more affordable sticker prices after grants, scholarships, and merit aid are calculated. For example, all 50 schools on Collegevine’s list of colleges that give out the most merit aid are private.
Private colleges generally have larger endowments and are more generous in awarding merit aid for a variety of reasons, including attracting students to their campuses, competing against other schools, and improving enrollment.
Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $75/$75
Location: Charleston, SC
Acceptance Rate: 80%
Undergrad Enrollment: 2,900
The Citadel provides students with a classic military education. An overwhelming majority of undergraduates are members of the Corps of Cadets, who participate in physical fitness training and military instruction along with regular college classes. Citadel cadets are not required to enter the military, however, about one-third of each graduating class accepts a military commission. The Citadel provides cadets with an exceptional return on investment—according to the website Payscale, The Citadel ranks 172nd for in-state students and 296th for out-of-state students (out of 1,978 schools) on its list of best value colleges.
Learn more about The Citadel and what it takes to get accepted.
Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $9,528/$20,21
Location: Orangeburg, SC
Acceptance Rate: 94%
Undergrad Enrollment: 2,400
South Carolina State University (SCSU) was founded in 1896 as the state’s sole public college for Black youth and, throughout its history, has played a critical role in the education of African Americans. According to a 2017 New York Times study, SCSU ranked ahead of every other college in South Carolina for income mobility—that is a student’s ability to move up income quintiles. SCSU’s ROTC program—the “Bulldog Battalion”—is one of the Army’s largest producers of minority officers.
Learn more about South Carolina State University and what it takes to get accepted.
Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $9,920/$9,920
Location: Rock Hill, SC
Acceptance Rate: N/A
Undergrad Enrollment: Less than 200
Clinton College is one of eight historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that call South Carolina home. Clinton College has operated continuously for more than 120 years since its founding by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church during Reconstruction. Today, the school continues its heritage as a Christian College that promotes academic achievement along with moral and spiritual development. Clinton College made news in 2021 when it provided its full-time students with free tuition and laptops for the 2021-22 academic year.
Learn more about Clinton College and what it takes to get accepted.
Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $10,344/$21,390
Location: Bluffton, SC
Acceptance Rate: 67%
Undergrad Enrollment: 2,100
There are numerous desirable qualities that attract students to the University of South Carolina-Beaufort (USCB), including its proximity to the ocean and relaxed coastal lifestyle. Another attention-grabbing characteristic of USCB is its Hilton Head Island campus, which is home to the university’s Hospitality Management degree program. Located at a world-class destination, USCB’s Hilton Head campus is just a mile from the beach and offers students an incredible opportunity to gain firsthand hotel, restaurant, tourism, and event management experience. Another reason why students love USCB is its dorms, which the website Niche ranks as the 11th best in the nation.
Learn more about the University of South Carolina-Beaufort and what it takes to get accepted.
Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $10,384/$20,768
Location: Florence, SC
Acceptance Rate: 75%
Undergrad Enrollment: 3,400
Francis Marion University (FMU) takes its name from General Francis Marion—nicknamed ”the Swamp Fox”—one of the heroes of the southern theater of the American Revolution. It should come as no surprise that the school is known as the Patriots. Despite delivering an affordable education to its students—96% of which come from in-state—the school prioritizes teaching. Nearly all of FMU’s classes are taught by full-time faculty members and the average class size is less than 20 students.
Learn more about Francis Marion University and what it takes to get accepted.
Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $10,398/$20,856
Location: Aiken, SC
Acceptance Rate: 56%
Undergrad Enrollment: 3,300
The University of South Carolina Aiken’s position as the cheapest college in the state reverberates with its students in various ways, most notably how much debt they graduate with: 31% of students who start college at USC Aiken and graduate do so with no debt. USC Aiken students who do graduate with student loans accumulate considerably less debt over their time in college compared to the national average ($19,415 versus $32,731). The university is also known for its commitment to veteran students—the Military Times ranked USC Aiken in the top tier nationally for vets and number one in South Carolina.
Learn more about the University of South Carolina Aiken and what it takes to get accepted.
Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $10,700/$20,300
Location: Greenwood, SC
Acceptance Rate: 57%
Undergrad Enrollment: 2,900
Lander University was founded in 1872 as a college for women and didn’t become coeducational until 1943. Lander University offers more than 60 areas of study through its eight colleges and schools:
- College of Arts & Humanities
- College of Behavioral & Social Sciences
- College of Business
- College of Education
- College of Graduate & Online Studies
- College of Science & Mathematics
- School of Nursing
- The Honors College
Lander University’s Experience Your Education (EYE) Program provides students with the opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world issues and prepare for post-graduation careers through internships, co-ops, service learning, course-embedded projects, and study abroad experiences.
Learn more about Lander University and what it takes to get accepted.
Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $11,208/$22,170
Location: Spartanburg, SC
Acceptance Rate: 60%
Undergrad Enrollment: 6,000
University of South Carolina Upstate is one of four universities in the South Carolina state system. USC Upstate is located in Spartansburg, a quietly great college town and center for higher education—seven colleges and universities and nearly 15,000 students call it home. In fact, more than 80% of USC Upstate graduates remain in the region after college and join an impressive network of 30,000+ alumni.
Learn more about the University of South Carolina Upstate and what it takes to get accepted.
Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $11,460/$27,214
Location: Conway, SC
Acceptance Rate: 70%
Undergrad Enrollment: 9,900
A big appeal of Coastal Carolina University (CCU) is its location—it’s just minutes from the popular resort area Myrtle Beach. Another attractive quality is its campus, which the website Niche ranks the 57th best college campus in the country (out of 1,396). A unique program at CCU is its bike rental program—the university has a fleet of 350 cruiser bikes, which students can rent (along with a helmet and lock) for 30 days at a time for free.
Learn more about Coastal Carolina University and what it takes to get accepted.
Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $11,630/$11,630
Location: Denmark, SC
Acceptance Rate: N/A
Undergrad Enrollment: 400
Voorhees University is another of South Carolina’s HBCUs—it was the first Black college in the state to receive full accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools along with being the first HBCU founded by a woman. Voorhees is affiliated with the Episcopal Church and provides a liberal arts education that blends the beliefs of Dr. Booker T. Washington and Dr. W.E.B. Dubois by balancing career training with liberal arts. Voorhees University is committed to the community that surrounds it—for example, local students and community members are welcome at the school’s gym and track while its radio station reaches outside of campus into Denmark and surrounding areas.
Learn more about Voorhees University and what it takes to get accepted.
Sticker price is a poor indicator of what college will cost to attend. Net price—a calculation that uses factors like financial aid and scholarships—provides a more accurate picture of what you can expect to pay for college. While you can use each individual school’s net price calculator, Collegevine’s free Financial Aid Calculator lets you estimate the cost of South Carolina colleges and universities along with hundreds of schools across the country in just minutes.