The North Carolina General Assembly founded NC State on March 7, 1887 as a land-grant college under the name "North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts." In the segregated system, it was open only to white students. As a land-grant college, NC State would provide a liberal and practical education while focusing on military tactics, agriculture and the mechanical arts without excluding classical studies. Since its founding, the university has maintained these objectives while building on them. After opening in 1889, NC State saw its enrollment fluctuate and its mandate expand. In 1918, it changed its name to "North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering"—or "North Carolina State" for short. During the Great Depression, the North Carolina state government, under GovernorO. Max Gardner, administratively combined the University of North Carolina, the Woman's College (at Greensboro), and NC State. This conglomeration became the University of North Carolina in 1931. Following World War II, the university grew and developed. The G.I. Bill enabled thousands of veterans to attend college, and enrollment shot past the 5,000 mark in 1947.
State College created new academic programs, including the School of Architecture and Landscape Design in 1947 (renamed as the School of Design in 1948), the School of Education in 1948, and the School of Forestry in 1950. In the summer of 1956, following the US Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that segregated public education was unconstitutional, North Carolina State College enrolled its first African-American undergraduates, Ed Carson, Manuel Crockett, Irwin Holmes, and Walter Holmes.
In 1962, State College officials desired to change the institution's name to North Carolina State University. Consolidated university administrators approved a change to the University of North Carolina at Raleigh, frustrating many student and alumni who protested the change with letter writing campaigns. In 1963, State College officially became North Carolina State of the University of North Carolina. Students, faculty, and alumni continued to express dissatisfaction with this name, however, and after two additional years of protest, the name was changed to the current North Carolina State University at Raleigh. The "at Raleigh" part is usually omitted even on official documents such as diplomas, but is part of the school's official name.
In 1966, single-year enrollment reached 10,000. In the 1970s enrollment surpassed 19,000 and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences was added.
Celebrating its centennial in 1987, NC State reorganized its internal structure, renaming all its schools to colleges (e.g. School of Engineering to the College of Engineering). Also in this year, it gained 700 acres (2.8 km2) of land that was developed as Centennial Campus. Since then, NC State has focused on developing its new Centennial Campus. It has invested more than $620 million in facilities and infrastructure at the new campus, with 62 acres (0.3 km2) of space being constructed. sixty-one private and government agency partners are located on Centennial Campus.
NC State has almost 8,000 employees, nearly 35,000 students, a $1.01 billion annual budget, and a $984 million endowment. It is the largest university in the state and one of the anchors of North Carolina's Research Triangle, together with Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center, located in D.H. Hill Library, maintains a website devoted to NC State history entitled Historical State.