University of North Carolina at Asheville

Written By Peter Cotell

The University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNC-Asheville) was founded in 1927 as Buncombe County Junior College by the public high school principal William Henry Jones and district superintendent Alonzo Carlton Reynolds. The junior college was tuition-free until the Great Depression forced the school to begin charging for admission.

The school would change its name numerous times, becoming Biltmore Junior College, Biltmore College, and Asheville-Biltmore College, before finally being given its current name in 1969. The original site for the college was in south Asheville before it was relocated to Overlook Castle in 1949. Finally, in 1961, the school would move to its present day location north of the city.

The school remained a junior college until it was accredited as a four-year institution in 1963. This change stemmed from an initiative by governor Terry Sanford called the Governor’s Commission for Education Beyond the High School. The commission was created to address the beginning influx of high school graduates as a result of the baby boom. Asheville-Biltmore was chosen to become one of the new universities.

UNC-Asheville’s first bachelor’s degrees were awarded in 1966. The school’s student body was desegregated in 1961, while the faculty was desegregated in 1981. The school has gained a reputation for being among the most liberal in the state, with social and political activism being a point of pride for the student body.

UNC-Asheville is the only institution in the University of North Carolina system specifically dedicated to the liberal arts and sciences. As of fall 2022, the school had 2,914 undergraduates studying over 65 majors and minors. UNC-Asheville also hosts 16 Division 1 athletics teams, known as the Bulldogs. Notable alumni include the manager of the San Diego Padres Mike Shildt, photographer Timothy Lee Barnwell, and actor Jason Faunt.