The University of North Carolina is a multi-campus public university system composed of all 16 of North Carolina's public universities, as well as the NC School of Science and Mathematics, the nation's first public residential high school for gifted students. Commonly referred to as the University of North Carolina system or the UNC system to differentiate it from the original campus in Chapel Hill, the university has a total enrollment of over 183,001 students and confers over 75% of all baccalaureate degrees in North Carolina in 2008. UNC campuses conferred 43,686 degrees for 2008–2009, the bulk of which were Bachelor's level with 31,055 degrees awarded.
Founded in 1789, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the oldest public university in the United States. In 1877, the State of North Carolina began sponsoring additional higher education institutions. Over time the state added a women's college (now known as the University of North Carolina at Greensboro), a land-grant university (North Carolina State University), five historically black institutions (North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, Winston-Salem State University, Fayetteville State University, and Elizabeth City State University) and one to educate American Indians (the University of North Carolina at Pembroke). Others were created to prepare teachers for public education and to instruct performing artists.
During the Depression, the North Carolina General Assembly searched for cost savings within state government. Towards this effort in 1931, it redefined the University of North Carolina, which at the time referred exclusively to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the new Consolidated University of North Carolina was created to include the existing campuses of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The three campuses came under the leadership of just one board and one president. By 1969, three additional campuses had joined the Consolidated University through legislative action: the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
In 1971, North Carolina passed legislation bringing into the University of North Carolina all 16 public institutions that confer bachelor's degrees. This round of consolidation granted each constituent institution a Chancellor and a Board of Trustees. In 1985, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, a residential high school for gifted students, was declared an affiliated school of the university. In 2007, the high school became a full member of the university.
The legal authority and mandate for the University of North Carolina is contained in the State's first Constitution (1776), which provided in Article XLI
That a school or schools shall be established by the Legislature, for the convenient instruction of youth, . . . and all useful learning shall be duly encouraged, and promoted, in one or more universities,
The state legislature did not get around to granting a charter for the University until 1789.
Article IX of the current version of the North Carolina Constitution deals with all forms of public education in the state. Sections 8 and 9 of that article address higher education. Sec. 8. Higher education.
The General Assembly shall maintain a public system of higher education, comprising The University of North Carolina and such other institutions of higher education as the General Assembly may deem wise. The General Assembly shall provide for the selection of trustees of The University of North Carolina and of the other institutions of higher education, in whom shall be vested all the privileges, rights, franchises, and endowments heretofore granted to or conferred upon the trustees of these institutions. The General Assembly may enact laws necessary and expedient for the maintenance and management of The University of North Carolina and the other public institutions of higher education.
Sec. 9. Benefits of public institutions of higher education.
The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of The University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.
Statutory provisions stipulate the current function and cost to students of the University of North Carolina.
Within its seventeen campuses, UNC houses two medical schools and one teaching hospital, ten nursing programs, two schools of dentistry, one veterinary school and hospital, and a school of pharmacy, as well as a two law schools, 15 schools of education, three schools of engineering, and a school for performing artists. The oldest university, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, first admitted students in 1795. The smallest and newest member is the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, a residential two-year high school, founded in 1980 and a full member of the University since 2007. The largest university is North Carolina State University, with 34,340 students as of fall 2012.
While the official names of each campus are determined by the North Carolina General Assembly, abbreviations are determined by the individual school.
The enrollment numbers are the official headcounts (including all full-time and part-time, undergrad and postgrad students) from University of North Carolina website: http://www.northcarolina.edu/web/facts.php . This does not include the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, the figure for NCSSM is taken from its own website: http://www.ncssm.edu/about-ncssm/facts.php .
The following universities became four-year institutions after their founding (date each became a four-year institution in parentheses):East Carolina University (1920)
North Carolina Central University (1925)
Winston-Salem State University (1925)
Western Carolina University (1929)
Appalachian State University (1929)
Elizabeth City State University (1937)
University of North Carolina at Pembroke (1939)
Fayetteville State University (1939)
University of North Carolina at Asheville (1963)
University of North Carolina at Charlotte (1963)
University of North Carolina at Wilmington (1963)
With the exception of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, the institutions that joined the University of North Carolina in 1972 did so under their current name. As of 1972, all public four-year institutions in North Carolina are members of the University.
An asterisk (*) denotes acting president.