Our History

img_0005In the late 1950s, the North Carolina General Assembly approved funding for a new concept in higher education: industrial education centers for the purpose of training adults in vocational and technical skills needed by emerging industries.

In 1963, Rowan Industrial Education Center became one of the first of 58 colleges in the NC Community College System, under the leadership of founding president Merrill Hamilton. Dr. Richard L. Brownell followed Hamilton as president in 1977 and served in that capacity for thirty years. In 1991, under his leadership, the college earned distinction as the first multi-campus community college in the state of North Carolina.


The college experienced four significant name changes in its fifty year history: Rowan Industrial Education Center (1961); Rowan Technical Institute (1964); Rowan Technical College (1979); and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (1987).

In 2008, Dr. Carol S. Spalding became the third president of Rowan-Cabarrus. During her tenure, the college has continued to grow and thrive. Rowan-Cabarrus demonstrates a deep commitment to teaching excellence, student support, and affordable education and training. The college has expanded to include four campuses and three off-campus sites, all conveniently and strategically located.

img_0003Enrollment has grown to more than 20,000 students annually, and today, 50 years after its opening, Rowan-Cabarrus serves as a catalyst for local economic development by providing a skilled workforce for the region.

“Simply put, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is a way forward – for our students, our community, and our economy,” said Carl M. Short, chair of the Rowan-Cabarrus Board of Trustees.

The college offers fully accredited associate degree programs in more than 50 areas of study, including business, information technology, health and public services, motorsports, engineering technologies and biotechnology. Rowan-Cabarrus also offers numerous degrees entirely online, as well as accredited diploma and certificate programs focused on career and technical training, continuing education and adult basic education.

Additionally, the college provides a strong general education foundation and transferable credits for students advancing to four-year colleges and universities while helping many adults secure the additional training they need to start or change careers.


“Rowan-Cabarrus is the area’s largest workforce training resource and one of our largest employers. Most of our graduates continue to live and work in our local communities and provide essential and critical services in healthcare, public safety, manufacturing, government, business, and human services,” said Short. “Since its inception in 1963, Rowan-Cabarrus has changed the lives of many individuals in our region and is committed to building sustainable futures for our citizens through public higher education.”