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Western Carolina University is a mid-sized, public, higher learning institution founded in 1889 as a school for teaching children between the ages of 6 and 20. By 1925, the school had evolved into a junior college and in 1929 it became a four-year college. Today, the school has a wide array of degree programs to cater to the needs of its more than 12,000 students. The student population consists of program participants from all over the world, and over 85% of students are enrolled in undergraduate programs.

Overview of Western Carolina University

The school’s teaching programs remain one of the core places to get degrees and professional development for existing teachers in the community, region, and country. In fact, the school has been a recipient of a $200,000 grant to support such initiatives. A number of dedicated buildings and efforts have been made to support the diversity of the university through African American and Cherokee Indian financial and academic endeavors.

Two campus locations are available, as well as online learning opportunities. Students can choose between the primary campus in Cullowhee, North Carolina, centered in the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains, as well as an Asheville location. Over 115 majors and concentrations exist alongside 40 advanced degree programs in high-demand educational areas including business, the arts, education, science, engineering, and humanities. It’s also possible for students to participate in 16 collegiate athletic teams and a variety of clubs and organizations.

General Information

School Type Public
Campus Setting Town: Distant
Campus Housing Yes
Student Faculty Ratio 17 to 1
Graduation Rate 62%
Year Founded 1889

Student Enrollment

Total Students12,167


Undergraduate Student

Male 4,711
Female 5,758

Graduate Student

Male 764
Female 934

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Male 4,484
Female 6,644


Male 3,094
Female 4,584

Acceptance Rate69%

Male 69%
Female 69%

Enrollment 2,150

Male 645
Female 559
Application Fee $65
High School GPA Required
High School Rank Recommended
High School Transcripts Required
College Prep Courses Required
Recommendations Considered But Not Required
SAT/ACT Required
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) Required
Application Deadline March 1
Common Application Accepted No

Tuition Cost & Financial Aid

Since 2018, WCU has participated in the NC Promise Program. This program and its three state university participants lowered the cost of in-state tuition to $500 each semester for each undergraduate student. Out-of-state residents can also benefit from the program by only having to pay $2,500 each semester. While the price tags have been slashed, at least 83% of students still take advantage of financial aid to some extent. As a result, the net price average is $12,965.

Students can expect to pay another $13,000 or so for standard living expenses and additional coursework fees, including room and board, books, and supplies. Western Carolina University also offers a wide array of scholarships and tuition assistance. The school has a number of programs dedicated to veterans as a way to lower overall higher education expenses and work-study programs are widely available to all students to provide career experience and income for daily expenses.

Average net price 2018-2019
Net Price $12,965
Average Total Aid $5,376
Students Receiving Financial Aid 85%
Room & Board $10,725

Sticker Price

  • Tuition In-State - $4,277
  • Tuition Out-of-State - $8,277
  • Books and Supplies - $1,059
  • Room & Board - $10,725
  • Other - $2,679


WCU is committed to applied learning and hands-on experience in all of its colleges and programs to provide greater opportunities upon graduation. Additional advantages exist in small class sizes of less than 30 students in nearly 65% of courses and an honors college is available for students who perform exceptionally well in their traditional coursework. All students will have access to research centers and academic support to aid in the overall academic experience.

Students can select from undergraduate, graduate, and multiple online programs in areas of study including business, education and allied professions, fine and performing arts, health and human sciences, engineering and technology, and more. Many programs are nationally recognized such as those of emergency management, nursing, project management, natural resources conservation, entrepreneurship, education, forensic science, and engineering. It’s commonplace for programs in each college to provide interdisciplinary opportunities to maximize student desirability to employers upon degree completion.

The school has a solid retention rate of 78% and the four-year and six-year graduation rates are at 43% and 62%, respectively. Graduation rates are around the national average. This could be due to the fact, in part, that the school supports students and academic programs sufficiently.

Student Population Total

Student Population 12,167

Evening Classes : No
Online Learning : Yes

Most Popular Programs & Majors

(# of Diplomas Awarded by Subject)

All Business Majors 449 Total Graduates / 21%
Business Administration and Management, General 183 Graduates
Marketing/Marketing Management, General 72 Graduates
Finance, General 49 Graduates
Marketing, Other 37 Graduates
Health Professions and Related Programs 391 Total Graduates / 18%
Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse 192 Graduates
Emergency Medical Technology/Technician (EMT Paramedic) 53 Graduates
Communication Sciences and Disorders, General 50 Graduates
Therapeutic Recreation/Recreational Therapy 35 Graduates
All Education Majors 207 Total Graduates / 10%
Junior High/Intermediate/Middle School Education and Teaching 61 Graduates
Elementary Education and Teaching 45 Graduates
Kindergarten/Preschool Education and Teaching 44 Graduates
Special Education and Teaching, General 17 Graduates
Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting and Related Protective Services 119 Total Graduates / 6%
Criminal Justice/Safety Studies 119 Graduates
Visual and Performing Arts 110 Total Graduates / 5%
Drama and Dramatics/Theatre Arts, General 31 Graduates
Fine/Studio Arts, General 25 Graduates
Music Performance, General 20 Graduates
Interior Design 19 Graduates
All Other Diplomas 40%

Outcome & Salary

As a way to improve job placement for recent graduates, WCU offers a Center for Career and Professional Development. This center has specialized services for students, alumni, employers, and more. The students and alumni can take advantage of several career resources, activities, events, and tools including grad school prep, signature programs, internships, networking, job opportunities, and more. Students can also use the center to find on and off-campus jobs during degree programs.

Employers also have a number of opportunities to connect with WCU students and alumni. They can participate in career fairs and post jobs for both part-time student jobs and full-time positions. These employers help provide feedback to students regarding the most important skills and attributes in today’s workforce.

Graduates Salary
College Grads Early Career Salary $46,000
College Grads Average Salary $58,940
College Grads Mid Career Salary $78,800
Return on Investment (ROI)
10 Year Salary Earnings Potential $589,400
20 Year Salary Earnings Potential $1,377,400
Cost of Education (Net Price) 4 Year $51,860
10 Year Projected ROI $537,540
20 Year Projected ROI $1,325,540
No College Education Salary Comparison
National Average Salary $38,792
10 Year Projected Income $387,920
20 Year Projected Income $775,840

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