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Press Release

More than 242,000 Students enrolled at public universities in North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, NC — Despite the unprecedented challenges of this academic year, the UNC System welcomed a record-setting class this fall. This marks the third year in a row that the University has reached record-high enrollment.

There are now 242,464 students enrolled across the UNC System — an increase of 1 percent compared to 2019’s enrollment of 239,981. Undergraduate enrollment is up 0.2 percent, while graduate enrollment increased by 4 percent.

“It’s a remarkable achievement, and it reflects the determination of our students, the dedication of our faculty and staff, and the enduring value of public higher education,” said UNC System President Peter Hans. “Every one of those students is making a critical investment in their own future and in the future of our state.”

Record enrollment reflects an ongoing commitment to keep North Carolina’s public universities affordable for students of all backgrounds, especially those from low-income families and rural counties. Welcoming and graduating more students from every part of the state is a core goal of the UNC System’s Strategic Plan. Another major factor in growing enrollment is improved retention — ensuring that students already enrolled remain on track to graduation.

Fall 2020 marks the fourth year that in-state undergraduate tuition has remained flat across the UNC System. Students have also benefited from two affordability initiatives passed by the General Assembly in 2016. The NC Promise Tuition Plan reduced in-state tuition to $500 per semester and out-of-state tuition to $2,500 per semester at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Elizabeth City State University and Western Carolina University. The fixed tuition program ensures tuition costs at all of the state’s public universities will hold steady for North Carolina residents through four years of continuous enrollment. 

Eight institutions all have record enrollments (Appalachian State University, Fayetteville State University, N.C. A&T State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, UNC Pembroke, UNC Wilmington, and Western Carolina University). Four institutions have enrolled their largest new transfer class ever (ECSU, NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill, and UNC Pembroke).

EnrollmentFall 2018Fall 2019Fall 2020Difference Between 2019 and 2020
Appalachian State University19,10819,28020,0233.9%
East Carolina University28,71828,65128,7980.5%
Elizabeth City State University1,6771,7692,00213.2%
Fayetteville State University6,3186,5516,7262.7%
N.C. A&T State University12,14212,55612,7531.6%
North Carolina Central University8,2078,0118,0780.8%
North Carolina State University35,47936,30436,042-0.7%
UNC Asheville3,7623,6003,363-6.6%
UNC-Chapel Hill30,01129,87730,0920.7%
UNC Charlotte29,71029,61530,164*1.9%
UNC Greensboro20,10620,19619,764-2.1%
UNC Pembroke7,1377,6988,2627.3%
UNC Wilmington16,74717,49917,9152.4%
UNC School of the Arts**1,0421,0861,070-1.5%
Western Carolina University11,63912,16712,2430.6%
Winston-Salem State University5,1905,1215,1690.9%
UNC System236,993239,981242,4641.0%
*UNC Charlotte’s Fall 2020 census data is not available yet, so its Fall 2020 beginning of term data is substituted as an estimate.
**These enrollment numbers do not include UNC System high school students.
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represents record

Notable Milestones: 

  • ECSU enrollment exceeds 2,000 students for the first time since 2013.
  • Appalachian enrollment exceeds 20,000 students for the first time ever.
  • UNC Charlotte enrollment exceeds 30,000 students for the first time ever.