An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Charlotte

by April L. Karbowsky
An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina – the “Queen City” – was first settled by the Scots and Irish and is now represented by a diverse ethnic population, including Greeks, African Americans, Asians, and Native Americans who have put down roots in the area. These citizens have helped to make Charlotte the largest city between Washington, D.C. and Dallas, Texas with a population of over 614,000.With its moderate temperature (average highs of 75 degrees and average lows of 69 degrees) plus its proximity to the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean on the state's eastern shore and the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains to the west of the city, Charlotte is the number one travel destination in the Carolinas. The variety of culture and activities in the city is diverse – people can view fine art at The Mint Museums, take tours of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) Botanical Gardens, or catch the spectacular thunder of NASCAR racing events at Lowe's Motor Speedway. History is not overlooked – the Levine Museum of the New South and the Historic Latta Plantation are two sources for learning about life in Charlotte in its earliest days.

The combination of a fantastic location plus a growing economic base has made Charlotte a desirable location for the home of several Fortune 500 companies. Companies such as Bank of America, Wachovia Corp., Duke Energy, Nucor Corporation, Sonic Automotive, SPX Corporation, Family Dollar, and Goodrich Corporation have their home offices in Charlotte, while over 280 other Fortune 500 corporations are represented in the area. Over the past 10 years, more than 8,400 new firms have opened in Charlotte. This increase caused an influx to the city's economy of $9.6 billion in the expansion of new facilities and an increase of over 77,000 new jobs for area workers.

As a result, educated workers are more in demand, and a new trend shows that students are graduating high school and continuing on to some form of higher education at rates that are higher than the state average. According to the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, in 2004 there were 6,172 students who graduated high school and of these, 87% are reported as continuing their education. In general, census figures indicate that 36.4% of the population of Charlotte age 25 and older have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to the statewide average of only 22.5%.

Going to School in Charlotte

Charlotte has eight private 4-year colleges and universities, and two public institutions (one of which is a community college), and six professional schools for future students to choose from:

Private Colleges & Universities

Public Colleges & Universities

Professional Schools

*Best Colleges 2005 - U.S.News & World Report
**According to numerous national and international surveys, The Babcock School consistently ranks among the nation's top accredited graduate schools of business

Students will find a wide range of subjects to study and major in at these institutions. Some examples are Food Service Management, Professional Accounting, Banking, Internetworking Technology, Sports/Entertainment/Event Management, Mechanical Engineering, Culinary Arts, Telecommunications, Music Business, Educational Management, e-Business, Architecture, Nursing, International Studies, Motorsport Engineering, Theology, Kinesiology, Social Work, Business Administration, Mathematics, Biochemistry, and Environmental Biology.


Tuition rates can be dramatically different depending on the type of school selected. Typically, public institutions have lower costs for tuition and housing than private institutions. For example, the combined costs for students earning a bachelor's degree at a public, state-funded school such as UNCC is $3,908 per year (with the highest room & board rate selected) for residents of North Carolina ($9,124 annually for non-residents). Rates at privately run institutions like Johnson C. Smith University run at approximately $19,000 per year for full-time students, and Johnson & Wales University charges roughly $29,900 per student per year for full time enrollment. These figures do not include those that are traditionally incurred for books, supplies, and other fees that are applied by schools, so students should be sure to check for these costs as well.

Financial Aid

Other than traditional funding sources like student loans and savings plans, there are tax credit programs, scholarships, and grant programs available to students attending school in Charlotte. Scholarships and grants are usually based on financial need. Students are encouraged to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their eligibility for such assistance.

Some scholarships specific to students attending school in Charlotte are as follows:

More information can be found at the College Foundation of North Carolina or the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools: Online Scholarship Guide.


Students will find that one of the most important parts of their education is gaining hands-on experience in the field that they plan to study. With the large number of corporations and businesses in the city, there are plenty of internship options to choose from. For example, students interested in pursuing occupations in the financial industry will find that Charlotte offers outstanding opportunities. The city is home to the headquarters of Bank of America – the nation's second largest bank, and Wachovia (fourth largest in the U.S.). In addition, Duke Energy offers internships in nuclear generation. Time Warner Cable has internships in entertainment, news, media, and telecommunications; internships in information technology and e-business are available at Rohm and Haas; and ARAMARK provides an internship in food service management.

Other fields are equally represented and offer unique internship opportunities. For example, the UNCC Criminal Justice Program has an expansive internship “portfolio” with options covering the various areas that fall within this field. When asked which types of internships in Criminal Justice were most popular, Dr. Vivian Lord, Chair of the Criminal Justice Department at UNCC said “We divide our criminal justice areas into law enforcement, courts, and corrections. They are further divided into local, regional, and federal agencies. For law enforcement, probably Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is the most popular agency. For courts, students are mainly interested in the public defender's office and private law firms. For corrections, adult probation and federal probation are the most popular. Students also are interested in juvenile court and juvenile diversion programs.”

Dr. Lord also related the long-term importance of interning to students of the CJ program: “We strongly encourage students to complete an internship. Several of the students have been offered employment in the agency in which they interned. All interns make invaluable contacts who can point them in additional directions to explore and/or become references for them later.”

As with any field of study, getting practical, real-world experience is considered key to a student's success. Students who are looking for internship opportunities in Charlotte are advised to check with the career center of the school they attend, contact local companies directly (see the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce for an excellent listing of area businesses), or explore sites like MonsterTrak or Yahoo! HotJobs to find current listings for internships in the Charlotte area.

Employment in Charlotte

Being that Charlotte is home to some of the largest corporations in North America, it should come as no surprise that it ranks high in many surveys:

  • 2nd largest banking center in the nation
  • 3rd best metropolitan area for businesses
  • 5th largest urban region in the United States
  • 6th largest trading and wholesale area in the states
  • 6th in number of Fortune headquartered companies
  • 8th best city for entrepreneurship

These factors, combined with the growth of the city due to so many new companies moving there, makes for an abundance of job opportunities in the city.

The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce reports that since May, 2004, the unemployment rate has fallen from 5.1% to 4.6% while the labor force has grown by about 16,000. The manufacturing sector has been fairly flat in terms of employment growth, however service producing sectors such as health care, social services, hospitality & leisure, and arts and entertainment have accounted of most of the employment gain. To a lesser degree, warehousing & utilities, transportation, and state government have helped to fuel job growth as well.


Due to its range of educational resources, ethnicities, culture, location, and social activities, Charlotte is a great place to attend school to further your education needs.

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