2025 Enrollment Plan

NC State’s Enrollment Strategy

This enrollment plan outlines primary strategies for fulfilling NC State’s mission to serve the people of North Carolina and its special role within the UNC system as a research-extensive university.  Our strategic initiatives include growing our tenured and tenure track faculty numbers while expanding our research and thus enhancing our economic impact in the state, region and world.  Our intent is not to predict future enrollment passively by applying historical trends to demographic trends.  Rather, this enrollment plan suggests strategies for actively managing the University’s enrollment to achieve the following aims:

  • Improve the quality and standing of NC State’s academic programs;
  • Enhance the success of our students;
  • Enhance diversity to encourage interactions among students from different racial and ethnic, social and economic, geographic, and religious backgrounds;
  • Develop new academic programs with an emphasis on interdisciplinary fields of study;
  • Improving the planning process to reduced “volatility” in enrollment growth thus establishing a manageable growth pattern;
  • Ensure sufficient access for North Carolinians to programs that are relatively unique in the UNC system, while emphasizing competitive excellence in programs offered by other campuses; and
  • Increasing globalization engagement.

Consistent with NC State’s strategic plan, this long-range enrollment plan calls for changes in the composition of the student body, notably expanding the proportion of graduate students particularly at the doctoral level in the STEM areas and in professional master’s degrees in high-impact areas needed for the workforce of tomorrow.  Among undergraduates, while continuing to provide access to NC State programs that are unique in the UNC system, we will encourage the enrollment of well-qualified external undergraduate transfers. To broaden our students’ perspectives, we will increase non-NC resident undergraduate enrollment within the limits set by the UNC Board of Governors. For all undergraduates we will strive to facilitate their internal transfer among colleges.  Growth will be managed in a way that maintains the University’s strength in science and technology while honoring its commitment to excellence in a comprehensive range of disciplines, particularly those that enrich our responses to the grand challenges facing society.  Growth will also be managed in a way that enhances student diversity and improves the quality of our academic programs and student population. In order to insure continued alignment of this enrollment plan with the University Strategic Plan and in response to the changing nature of the economy and its impact on the University Budget, this plan be reviewed (and updated if necessary) on a regular basis during the biennial planning process.

Total Size

Continued growth is an enrollment option that would accommodate the expanding North Carolina population and potentially provide new faculty positions and other resources to expand and enhance programs and services.  However, to protect the quality of the educational programs at NC State, we must manage enrollment growth to fit available resources, invest in strategies to increase non-state funding, and better align enrollment with resources.  To this end, this enrollment plan is based on the following strategies:

  • Manage growth in undergraduate programs, where state appropriations and tuition are the only sources of support.  Instead, emphasize growth in graduate programs whose funding are enhanced by federally and privately funded research initiatives or that are supported with premium tuition, or where students are self-supporting;
  • Alleviate pressure on colleges with high service teaching responsibilities and on student support services by limiting lower division enrollment growth and targeting transfer students;
  • Grow programs that are unique to NC State University and are in high demand relative to employment opportunities while focusing on improving the quality of all programs; and
  • Grow programs that have a demonstrated commitment to student success.

Baseline Assumptions

This 10 year Enrollment Plan is based on the following assumptions: (1) the UNC System enrollment change funding formula will remain in effect and be fully funded; (2) the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Programs will continue to result in hiring outstanding interdisciplinary tenured faculty who teach or assist with graduate and upper division undergraduate instruction; (3) the university is not short of general classroom space but renovation of instructional laboratory space may be required, and (4) no net additional classroom space is currently under construction.  But, approval of the 2016 Bond means that two new construction requests – Engineering Oval and Plant Sciences will be completed by 2020.  A third priority, the Science Commons, is not likely to provide new classroom space until very late in this planning cycle.

Graduate Education

Because NC State is one of only two research-extensive universities in the UNC system, the expansion of graduate education – particularly doctoral education – is our highest priority for enrollment growth.  Our goal is to increase graduate enrollment as long as there is sufficient demand that we can meet with resources adequate to sustain the quality of education.   In particular, this plan calls for these strategies:

  • Create ambitious doctoral enrollment targets, especially those related to strategic research initiatives and those that strengthen interdisciplinary initiatives;
  • Build professional master’s programs that provide career development opportunities for working adults and that address unmet economic development needs;
  • Leverage degree-granting authority and faculty expertise through partnerships with other universities; and
  • Provide sufficient resources needed to support graduate enrollment projections, including GSSP and stipends, as well as tenure-track faculty and research space.

Many of NC State’s doctoral graduates join the faculties of universities across the nation and world.  We share with other doctoral institutions a responsibility for building a faculty diverse in background and perspective, ready to teach and mentor new generations of students, which will be increasingly diverse themselves.  To that end, NC State will recruit and mentor graduate students representing a variety of academic perspectives and racial, ethnic, gender, and geographic backgrounds.

Undergraduate Education

At the undergraduate level, NC State’s focus will continue to be on improving student success and the quality of the undergraduate experience.  The greatest threat to student success and program quality is continuing erosion of the resources necessary to provide adequate faculty, academic support services, and equipped classrooms.  Undergraduate education depends on state appropriations, tuition, and private support, all of which will likely see limited increases in the foreseeable future.  Accordingly, NC State will manage enrollment growth in undergraduate programs in the following ways:

  • Limit new freshmen enrollment to improve selectivity and student success;
  • Expand co-curricular programs and student support services, such as advising, counseling, and career services;
  • Sharpen our competitive edge for the most highly qualified students by providing sufficient merit aid needed to recruit more highly qualified freshmen; and
  • Provide sufficient capacity to meet demand for unique programs, while emphasizing quality in all academic programs.

Nonetheless, NC State is committed to providing access for North Carolinians to NC State’s undergraduate programs as much as possible through improved student retention and graduation rates, and through increased transfer enrollment.  First, by reducing time to degree, we will free up capacity to serve more students, and, over time, award as many undergraduate degrees as we do now.  We will be able to manage course offerings more effectively and provide financial aid to a larger number of students.   While we redouble our efforts to support students’ success in their original college of choice, we will also facilitate and plan capacity for the nearly 20% of students who change colleges during their undergraduate career.  Second, by holding relatively flat freshmen and increasing transfers, we can provide degree opportunities for the same number of students while relieving pressure on service departments and academic support services.  The following steps would support these strategies:

  • Develop institution- and program-specific articulation agreements to facilitate the transfer of students prepared to be successful at NC State;
  • Develop recruiting, orientation, and student support programs designed especially for transfer students;
  • Provide sufficient financial resources to provide access to all qualified North Carolinians including transfers;
  • Take deliberate steps to improve graduation rates; and
  • Reduce barriers faced by undergraduates wishing to change majors (intra campus transfers).

A diverse student body strengthens the educational experience by encouraging interactions among students from different racial and ethnic, social and economic, geographic, and religious backgrounds.  In and outside of the classroom, diversity enhances the commerce of ideas, values, and perspectives.  At the undergraduate level, NC State will expand diversity by encouraging transfers from community colleges and by increasing the proportion of non-resident freshmen.  The following strategies would support these purposes:

  • Develop transfer programs with feeder institutions best positioned to contribute to the diversity of NC State’s student body;
  • Increase out-of-state recruiting and enrollment; and
  • Increase resources available for scholarships and need-based financial aid.

Teaching and Learning with Technology

Instructional technology can contribute substantially to the quality of teaching and learning.  Technology can stimulate innovative teaching, enrich learning resources for students, facilitate interactions among students and faculty, and help us leverage our resources to give access to more students.  Achieving the appropriate combination of distance education, blended courses and programs, and high-impact educational content will raise program quality, student engagement, student success and efficiency of course offerings.

The following steps will be taken to enhance success of on-campus students:

  • Provide high quality on-line course offerings to address the growing demand and need for scheduling flexibility, particularly during summer;
  • Work towards achieving and appropriate balance of face-to-face and online offerings;
  • Leverage technology-enabled pedagogies (e.g. flipped courses) that improve student learning outcomes;
  • Develop a strategy to improve efficient use of classrooms for increasing numbers of blended learning courses and programs; and
  • Leverage learning analytics to provide early warning indicators.


The following steps will be taken to grow and support world-class online programs, especially at the graduate level:


  • Develop distance education programs in high-demand disciplines where NC State has strength;
  • Enhance national reputation and thus bring attention to our best graduate programs;
  • Leverage distance education as a recruiting tool; and
  • Take advantage of the trend of shifting demand from for-profit online providers to online offerings from traditional public and private institutions, and position our best programs to capture market share.