Getting to Know: North Carolina State University
I went on a ten-school tour of North Carolina colleges. North Carolina State University was our first stop. With over 26,000 undergrads, North Carolina State University is the largest public college in the Tarheel State. While North Carolina State is located in the state’s capital and technology center, it is also one of two Land Grant universities in North Carolina–North Carolina A&T is the other–with large programs in agriculture and engineering. Thirty percent of the undergraduates study engineering, high for a flagship state school. During the height of the pandemic I interviewed Jalen McGee, a 2020 engineering graduate of NC State. I hope that you will listen in to learn more about their engineering program.
Atop of this post you see the interior of the student center, which makes a strong impression as a doorway to the university. I dropped an exterior shot below that I took on the walk to the main academic quad..
Here are two more campus shots from the main academic quad and one for Shack-A-Thon, a student-led charity drive for Habitat for Humanity. I also collected some photos of the campus and Raleigh on a Pinterest page.
North Carolina State is also the only school in the Atlantic Coast Conference besides Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill to win the NCAA D-1 Men’s Basketball National Championship at least twice. Rutgers Graduate Jim Valvano, aka ‘Jimmy V’ won the title in 1983. It’s been 40 years, but those t-shirts were designed quite recently. Valvano, who died ten years later at the age of 47, lives on through his foundation that raises funds for cancer research. This year he will be inducted posthumously into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
North Carolina State is in a peer group with Rutgers-New Brunswick
I took a data dive into the Institutional research pages for the university. Rutgers is a good peer because of the academic offerings, test scores of the entering class, Land Grant status and commitments to the sciences and engineering. In addition:
- The average SAT and ACT scores for entering classes are about the same (1350/29), and both schools place importance on them in admissions.
- Both schools are also in close proximity to major employers in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries
- They retain the same share of their freshman classes. Most recently it was 94 percent.
- But Rutgers has done a better job of graduating a class on time (68 vs.64 percent)
- Each school can house just over a third of their undergraduate student body. NC State does a better job of housing first-year students closer to the center of campus and close to classes
- Both schools attract less than ten percent of their undergrads from other states
- Their campuses are similarly spread and rely on buses to help their students get around.
- Neither school appears to have “capped” or “restricted” majors when a student enters undecided to a school within the university
- Both school have fair rules and processes for internal transfer into their undergraduate business programs. Click here to see this for NC State.
- Greek life is not overly popular at either school. It accounts for less than ten percent of the undergraduates at Rutgers, less than 15 percent at NC State.
Aside from some academic offerings such as design-related majors and textiles and Exploratory Studies, the major differences are:
- Rutgers has 10,000 more undergrads (36,000 vs. 26,000)
- North Carolina State is in a relatively large city with nearly 500,000 people, Rutgers is accessible to New York by train.
- There is a popular Exploratory Studies track at NC State for students who are unsure about a major, though it will be extremely difficult to move into engineering, textiles or the design programs as a sophomore.
- Rutgers lacks the athletic traditions and sports rivalries that NC State has had with nearby universities
- North Carolina State is a great buy for North Carolina residents. Tuition and fees are less than $10,000. Rutgers charges over $17,000 for resident tuition and fees.
- NC State is also a better buy for non-residents versus other popular flagships that NJ residents consider
- North Carolina State is in a state that is expected to gain population over the next decade. Rutgers is not
- Engineering is a far more popular program at NC State, accounting for over a quarter of all bachelors degrees versus just over 10 percent at Rutgers
- North Carolina State has a veterinary school, so North Carolina residents have a more direct pathway to becoming a veterinarian.
- Rutgers has nicer freshman residence halls, though fewer are located close to the major social center of campus, and it offers a better selection of upper class housing options
- NC State could be perceived as the “second flagship” to an older state university, ,much like Virginia Tech is to the University of Virginia. Rutgers-New Brunswick is the flagship for New Jersey
As someone who lives in New Jersey and likes the idea of a college that is accessible to a major business center, I wondered why North Carolina State does not get on more lists for people from my home state.
- It checks a selectivity box for those who “want a school that denies a greater share of applicants than Rutgers.”
- North Carolina State is less isolated than other peers (by North Carolina State’s definition) such as Illinois, Purdue or Virginia Tech that are popular with Garden State students.
- Not to mention that the fall and winter weather in North Carolina is warmer than it is in Illinois, Indiana or Southwestern Virginia.
- Raleigh and the Research Triangle are growing business centers, though they are not as congested as major cities in the Northeast or the West Coast.
However, North Carolina politics have veered in a conservative direction.
Republican legislators have now gained a veto-proof majority in a state with a twice-elected Democratic governor. However, prospective students from blue states might have concerns about choosing a school in a red state. I will cover more about North Carolina politics and education in my next post about UNC-Chapel Hill. There are more political controversies around that school.
North Carolina State University is one of the best college values in America. I like that the university does not appear to be smothered by the city and vice versa. Academically, visually and location-wise, NC State looks and feels like a blend between Georgia Tech and Rutgers. Whether you are interested in business, design, government, textiles or STEM that’s a very good thing to be.
Report Card: North Carolina State University
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: B+/A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: A
- Curriculum: A
- Community: A
- Comforts: B
- Connections: A
Want to know more about me?
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
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