The Morrill Land Grant Act, passed by the federal government in 1862, allotted state land for construction of colleges and universities. Even though the Act applied to the state, it was several years until North Carolina started building schools of higher education. North Carolina State University (NCSU) became the first land grant college in the state when it was established in Raleigh in 1887. The precursor to NCSU, North Carolina State University of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, was the result of a legislative proposal by the Watauga Club and the North Carolina Farmers’ Alliance.
The school was first opened to seventy-two incoming students in 1889. With Alexander Q. Holladay as its first president, NCSU’s purpose was “to provide theoretical and practical education in agriculture and mechanic arts (engineering) while maintaining a basic curriculum in classical (liberal arts) studies” (Powell, p. 832). The young school increased in its size by the start of the twentieth century with 250 enrolled students. Most students studied agriculture and in 1914 the agricultural program was enhanced with the passing of the Smith-Lever Act. The act provided federal funding to the school’s agriculture program, leading to an increase of students.
In 1917, the name of the university was changed to North Carolina State College of Architecture and Engineering. From 1900 to 1930, North Carolina State College continued to grow at a moderate pace, adding study programs such as textiles, education, and forestry. In 1931, the General Assembly passed the Consolidation Bill. The act merged the University of North Carolina with Women’s College at Greensboro and North Carolina State into the University of North Carolina System.
During World War II, the university expanded to include programs for servicemen and women. The GI Bill of Rights led to continued growth, and 5,000 students attended North Carolina State in 1947. However, the school experienced the most profound proliferation under Chancellor John Tyler Caldwell’s leadership.
In the year 1959, John Caldwell began his service as the college president and under his leadership a liberal arts school was added to the college curricula, the college gained university status, and racial integration occurred with limited tension. The liberal arts program was added in 1963, and the General Assembly changed the school’s name to North Carolina State University in 1965. In regards to the integration of schools in the 1950s and 1960s, the college went through an easy transition. The easy transition solidified North Carolina State as a national leader in higher education equality. According to William Powell, “By the time of Caldwell’s retirement, 12,800 undergraduates and 2,600 graduate students matriculated on the campus” (p. 832).
Today, North Carolina State University has become a national leader in higher education, providing top programs in engineering, design, and veterinary medicine. According to the institution’s website, over 34,000 students currently attend the university with almost 8,000 staff members. The Centennial Campus is a program that connects students with businesses and government organizations, and the school has an extension mission, making outreach a prime importance of every college at North Carolina State. Due to the prevalence of research and technological science programs, North Carolina State continues to rank as a top ten school in the nation for industry-sponsored research.