A Vision of an Open Door: The Establishment and Expansion of the North Carolina Community College System

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After World War II, university extension centers and public junior colleges preceded the establishment of noncomprehensive community colleges and industrial education centers in 1957. In the establishment of these institutions and the passage of enabling legislation and funding for the industrial education centers in that year is the earliest beginning of the community college system in North Carolina. The decision to build and maintain these centers grew from the great need for education beyond the high school, a need that was not being met by North Carolina's public and private colleges and the desire to provide the state with a well-trained workforce to support the new industries being attracted to the state. Throughout their development and operation, the industrial education centers would be at the center of a controversy over how best to accomplish these goals. Yet their success in opening doors of opportunity to the state's disadvantaged adults and vocationally inclined high school students laid a foundation for the development of a system of comprehensive community colleges in 1963. With the election of a new governor, Terry Sanford, and the passage of the Omnibus Higher Education Act in 1963, the vision of a comprehensive community college system became a reality. The growth of the new system was phenomenal, especially in the turbulent era of the Sixties. The number of colleges doubled and the student population increased over 400 percent from 1963 until 1970. By 1970, the final year in our study, the value of the community college system in providing greater access to higher education for all residents of North Carolina was well established and recognized by the state's leaders and citizens alike.



history, North Carolina, community college





Higher Education Administration