North Carolina was among the original 13 colonies and became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1789. Even before the birth of the United States, North Carolina was the site of a flourishing private university sector. Some of its smaller private institutions---Salem College and Louisburg College among them---date back to the latter part of the 18th Century. Quite a few others which populated the state at the time are now long defunct.
By contrast, the school's oldest public university remains very much in operation today. The University of North Carolina, chartered in the same year as the Constitution's ratification, opened doors to its first students in 1795. Now known as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the school accommodates nearly 30,000 students and is the flagship institution of a statewide UNC system encompassing no fewer than 17 public universities (which may help to explain why North Carolina is home to an impressive 75 public schools).
Chapel Hill is also one point of North Carolina's so-called Research Triangle, along with North Carolina State University (also the state's biggest school at 35,000 enrolled) and the highly-regarded Duke University. The latter, formed in 1835 by Quakers and Methodists, is today a non-denominational campus of 14,000 students spread across nearly 8500 luxurious acres. Noted for its Gothic architecture and its urban setting---in the fast-growing Durham metropolitan area---Duke is ranked as the 7th best school in the U.S. according to U.S. News & World Report.
Among the state's 50 non-profit private schools, there are a few standout liberal arts institutions as well. Davidson College, located on a 665 acre campus just north of Charlotte, was established in 1837 as an all men's school. It became coed in 1973 but is still distinguished for its intimacy, as implicated by its 10-to-one student-to-faculty ratio. Newsweek has called it the 3rd most rigorous academic college in the nation and U.S. News & World Report routinely ranks it as one of the Top Ten liberal arts schools in America.
Evidence suggests that for in-state students seeking a public education, North Carolina has a few good deals up its sleeve. The average in-state public tuition is roughly $6,223, which compares favorably to the national average of $8,070 per year. The state also performs above the national average of 56% with a 59.1% six year graduation rate.
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