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In the years following World War II, North Carolina began a rapid shift from an agricultural to an industrial economy. With that change came an awareness that a different kind of education was needed in the state. People who did not desire a four-year baccalaureate education nevertheless had the need for more than a high school diploma. In 1950, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction authorized a study of the need for a system of tax-supported community colleges. In 1957, the General Assembly adopted the first Community College Act and provided funding for community colleges.
The same (1957) General Assembly also provided funding to initiate a statewide system of Industrial Education Centers. These centers were to train adults and selected high school students in skills needed by industry. By 1961, there were five public junior colleges emphasizing arts and sciences, and seven industrial education centers focusing on technical and vocational education. The need to coordinate these two post-high school education systems led Governor Terry Sanford to appoint the Governor's Commission on Education Beyond the High School. In 1962, this commission recommended that the two types of institutions be brought into one administrative organization under the State Board of Education and local boards of trustees. The resulting unified community college system would provide comprehensive post-high school education. By 1966, there were 43 institutions with 28,250 full time equivalent (FTE) enrollments.
In 1979, the General Assembly changed the state control of the system. Provision was made for a separate State Board of Community Colleges. In 1988, the North Carolina Community College System celebrated its 25th anniversary, recognizing that in its first quarter century of service, the system had emerged as the nation's third largest community college network, educating millions of students during its 32-year history and employing thousands of faculty and staff. The North Carolina Community College System has had six presidents: I. E. Ready (1963-1970), Ben E. Fountain, Jr. (1971-1978), Larry J. Blake (1979-1982), Robert W. Scott (1983-1995), Lloyd V. Hackley (1995-1997) and Martin Lancaster (1997-present). Charles R. Holloman served in an acting capacity from September, 1978 to July, 1979.
Excerpted from the North Carolina Community College System Web site.