History

UNC Charlotte, North Carolina’s urban research university, is integral to the social, cultural and economic fabric of the Charlotte region and beyond. The fastest-growing university in the UNC System, it delivers high value, high-quality education to a diverse population of nearly 30,000 students. UNC Charlotte was one of a generation of universities founded in metropolitan areas of the United States immediately after World War II in response to rising education demands generated by the war and its technology.

To serve returning veterans, North Carolina opened 14 evening college centers in communities across the state. The Charlotte Center opened Sept. 23, 1946, offering evening classes to 278 freshmen and sophomore students in the facilities of Charlotte’s Central High School. After three years, the state closed the centers, declaring that on-campus facilities were sufficient to meet the needs of returning veterans and recent high school graduates.

Charlotte’s education and business leaders, long aware of the area’s unmet needs for higher education, moved to have the Charlotte Center taken over by the city school district and operated as Charlotte College, offering the first two years of college courses.

Once Charlotte College became firmly established, efforts were launched to give it a campus of its own. With the backing of Charlotte business leaders and legislators from Mecklenburg and surrounding counties, land was acquired on the northern fringe of the city and bonds were passed to finance new facilities. In 1961, Charlotte College moved its growing student body into two new buildings on what was to become a 1,000-acre campus 10 miles from downtown Charlotte. 

Three years later, the North Carolina legislature approved bills making Charlotte College a four-year, state-supported college. The next year, 1965, the legislature approved bills creating the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the fourth campus of the statewide university system. 

The most important figure in UNC Charlotte’s history during these early years was Bonnie Cone. Affectionately known as “Miss Bonnie,” Cone was instrumental in the growth and success of the nascent university. She held the title of director of Charlotte Center, became president after its conversion to Charlotte College and served as acting chancellor during the college’s transition to UNC Charlotte. Her tireless advocacy for the establishment of a four-year, state-supported school in the Charlotte region is a foundation of the thriving university of today.

Now a research-intensive university, UNC Charlotte has the second-largest undergraduate enrollment of the 17 institutions in the UNC System and is the largest institution in the Charlotte region. The university comprises seven professional colleges and more than 3,700 faculty and staff, offering 75 bachelor’s, 65 master’s and 24 doctoral programs.

UNC Charlotte maintains a particular commitment to addressing the cultural, economic, educational, environmental, health and social needs of the greater Charlotte region, where the university creates a positive fiscal impact of more than $2.1 billion.

The University’s academic growth has been accompanied by a rise in its infrastructure and connection to the city of Charlotte. With the opening of the LYNX Blue Line extension in 2018, access to uptown Charlotte was now just a short train ride away. At the 9th Street Station, a gaze upward reveals the Dubois Center at UNC Charlotte. The distinctive, 11-story glass structure at the corner of 9th and Brevard Streets, which opened in fall 2011, is the only UNC System classroom building conceived and designed specifically to serve the business, organizations and people of an urban center.

On the eve of only 75 years since its founding, UNC Charlotte continues to grow exponentially, now boasting more than 140,000 living alumni and adding more than 8,400 new alumni each year.

UNC Charlotte Fact Card