Enrollment at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University surged to 11,877 in the fall term that just began, expanding the student body to its largest size ever and adding significantly to a growth trend that began in 2013, school officials announced Wednesday.
The growth rate this fall of 6.3 percent means that over the past five years, N.C. A&T has added more than 1,300 students in direct response to A&T Preeminence 2020, the institution’s strategic plan, which A&T began implementing in 2011. That document calls for the Land Grant university to expand to an overall enrollment of 13,500 over the next three years.
This fall alone adds 700 students to A&T’s overall headcount – one of the single biggest increases in A&T history – and almost certainly cements the university’s status as America’s largest historically black college or university, a status it has held since 2014.
“The growth we’re experiencing this fall illustrates how much students, parents and families want to be part of the North Carolina A&T experience,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “We deliver an education that not only prepares our students for rewarding careers in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, we deeply value each and every individual who entrusts us with that responsibility. Our students know that their success matters here.”
The university’s growth was driven in large part by 2,309 new freshmen, the largest first-year class in N.C. A&T history, as well as its most academically accomplished, with an average GPA of 3.51, average SAT score of 1,023 and average ACT of 20.
And that’s not all. The university also enrolled 822 new transfer students, up from 730 last year, and 1,536 students at the masters and doctoral levels, up from 1,509 last year. Rated a doctoral university with higher research activity by the Carnegie Foundation, A&T offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a wide breadth of disciplines, with nationally recognized strengths in STEM education.
A&T’s enrollment growth comes not only in the university’s traditional student base, but in all other racial and ethnic demographics. While 78 percent of this fall’s student body is African American, the remaining 22 percent represent other races and ethnicities. About 7 percent of this year’s student body is white, a little more than 4 percent is Hispanic and over 3 percent are international students from a wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds.
University leaders say prospective students are increasingly drawn by educational opportunities at A&T in programs such as Engineering, Nursing and Biology, as well as by the return on investment for an A&T education. Earlier this year, for instance, the compensation analysis firm PayScale released data showing that A&T graduates earn more right out of school than those of all but one other North Carolina public university.
A&T’s relentless drive toward fulfillment of Preeminence 2020 is resulting in some of the plan’s goals already being realized, three years ahead of schedule. For instance, the strategic plan set an undergraduate enrollment goal of 10,000 by 2020, which the university has now surpassed, with 10,341 undergrads enrolled this fall.
Another goal calls for A&T to award 500 degrees annually across science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. Last year, the university awarded more than 660.
The university is not only growing by attracting new students, but by retaining those already enrolled. The percentage of first-year students who continued this fall from the 2016 cohort, for instance, increased by 3.5 percent over the cohort for the prior year.
To accommodate the university’s planned expansion, A&T is adding to its campus facilities. Under construction since 2014, the 150,000-square foot Student Center will open in the spring, providing a new home for student services, organizations, meeting rooms and amenities in a complex that will be the campus’s largest building.
Later this fall, demolition will begin to make way for the $90-million Engineering Research and Innovation Complex (ERIC), a facility made possible by the Connect NC bond referendum that voters passed in 2016. ERIC will be the primary home for the A&T College of Engineering, which already produces more African American engineers than any university in the nation.
Other facilities are due to be built or renovated in coming years, including additional student housing. Likewise, the university is planning additional degree programs that will further diversify its academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
“This is truly an exciting time to be an Aggie,” Martin said. “We are witnessing the benefits of the hard work invested by our faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as the guidance of our Board of Trustees and the investment of our private supporters. And there’s much more work to be done.”