Free Online North Carolina Schools

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North Carolina offers resident students the opportunity to take online public school courses for free. Below is a list of no-cost online schools currently serving elementary and high school students in North Carolina. To qualify for this list, schools must meet the following qualifications—classes must be available completely online, they must offer services to state residents, and they must be funded by the government.

North Carolina Virtual Public School

North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) was established by the state legislature to provide e-learning opportunities to students. “NCVPS shall be available at no cost to all students in North Carolina who are enrolled in North Carolina’s public schools, Department of Defense schools, and schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” the legislature said in creating the school.

The school's website notes:

"NCVPS benefits students through expanded academic options in teacher-led, online courses aligned to the North Carolina Common Core Standards and the North Carolina Essential Standards. Regardless of students’ geographic location or economic circumstances, they can enroll in quality online courses taught by highly qualified, North Carolina licensed teachers. NCVPS provides students online courses in many subject areas including mathematics, science, English language arts, social studies, arts, advanced placement, honors, and world languages. Other courses include test preparation, credit recovery, and (an) Occupational Course of Study (OCS)."

To take part in the virtual learning program, students enroll through their local public school. Grades are reported to their local school, which awards them credit. The North Carolina Virtual Public School has served over 175,000 middle and high school students since launching in the summer of 2007.

North Carolina Virtual Academy

North Carolina Virtual Academy (NCVA), an online public charter school authorized by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, offers North Carolina students in grades K-12 individual, online learning. A relatively new program, the virtual school says it offers a combination of individualized learning and flexible scheduling, delivered through:

  • A K-12 curriculum that covers the core subject areas and electives.
  • Experienced, highly qualified North Carolina-certified teachers, who are connected to students and parents by phone.
  • Online planning and assessment tools and resources, and hands-on materials ranging from textbooks to telescopes, from rocks and soil to illustrated classic children's stories.
  • An active, supportive school community which organizes monthly activities where North Carolina parents, students, and staff socialize and share their experiences.

​​North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Online

NCSSM Online—the second-largest state virtual school in the United states—is a tuition-free two-year online program sponsored by the NC School of Science and Mathematics for junior and senior high school students. The program is not completely online: The school offers a supplemental program that serves students who remain enrolled at their local schools.

"Highly qualified" students can apply to either the online program or the onsite school, which offers the same curriculum free of charge to students who are accepted. The school, which emphasizes innovation, has also won awards for excellence. In 2015, NCSSM won the Spaces for Innovation Challenge sponsored by the North Carolina State University's Institute for Emerging Issues. 

North Carolina Connections Academy

North Carolina Connections Academy is a tuition-free, public online school. "NCCA gives students the flexibility to learn at home with an online curriculum that meets rigorous state education standards," the school says on its website.

NCCA says it helps students through a learning program featuring:

  • A challenging curriculum developed by leading education experts
  • Instruction from state-certified teachers experienced in online instruction
  • Support from trained counselors, principals, and administrative staff
  • Curriculum materials needed to participate in an online learning environment

Tips for Choosing an Online Public School

When choosing an online public school, look for an established program that is regionally accredited and has a track record of success. Be wary of new schools that are disorganized, are unaccredited, or have been the subject of public scrutiny.

If you or your children are considering choosing a tuition-free online high school, make sure you ask questions before deciding on a program, such as graduation rates, school and teacher accreditation, and what expenses you might incur, such as books and school supplies.

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Littlefield, Jamie. "Free Online North Carolina Schools." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Littlefield, Jamie. (2021, February 16). Free Online North Carolina Schools. Retrieved from Littlefield, Jamie. "Free Online North Carolina Schools." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).