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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Private Education

by Chris Myers and Jaquelin Drane Nash, 2006; Revised November 2022.
Additional research provided by William S. Powell and Robert D. Weaver.

Private education has had a long, diverse, and distinguished history in North Carolina. The state's private schools, both on the preparatory and college levels, have grown from the initial efforts of a few individual teachers during settlement and the early colonial period to more than 600 academies and 36 colleges and universities. The success or failure of the earliest schools often reflected changing social and economic trends, with most surviving only a short time and a few serving as the first incarnation of some of the state's modern-day institutes of higher learning. In 2006 North Carolina had 36 private liberal arts colleges and universities, enrolling more than 75,000 students. The North Carolina Association of Independent Colleges and Universities represents these institutions in legal and professional matters at both the state and federal levels.

Keep reading >>  Part 2: Private Academies in Colonial North Carolina and Early Statehood Keep reading


R. D. W. Connor, "Genesis of Higher Education in North Carolina," NCHR 28 (January 1951).

Charles L. Coon, North Carolina Schools and Academies, 1790-1840 (1915).

Calvin Criner, "Non-Public Schools in North Carolina," Popular Government 42 (Spring 1977).

Rebecca Webster Graves, "Nonpublic Schools Revisited: A Comparative Study of Nonpublic Education in North Carolina from 1975 to 1985" (Ph.D. diss., UNC-Greensboro, 1988).

Eugene D. Owens, "Secondary Education in North Carolina in the Eighteenth Century" (Ph.D. diss., George Washington University, 1934).

William S. Powell, North Carolina through Four Centuries (1989).