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A History of Transforming Lives

College of The Albemarle (COA) is proud of its history of serving the academic needs of the Albemarle region since 1961. The first comprehensive community college in North Carolina, COA continues to expand its programs and services throughout the seven-county Albemarle area. We look forward to continue serving this great region.

Following World War II, the seven Albemarle coastal counties of Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Pasquotank and Perquimans faced major economic challenges as a surge of Veterans returned home to North Carolina. While the population and demand for jobs continued to grow, the four largest local industries remained seasonal: agriculture, fishing, lumbering and tourism. According to a report entitled “To Take a Chance,” published in 1972 by the college, “…transportation was difficult in the region; the high school drop-out rate was high; unemployment was consistently higher than the rest of the state; and over one-half of the region’s families earned less than $3,000 in 1960.”

By 1957, these pressures created the demand for an educational facility to help teach residents the skills needed to succeed in a changing world. The Elizabeth City Chamber of Commerce formed a special committee and began the work of surveying potential students, planning a facility, developing funding and selling the idea to local residents.

By the fall of 1960, Pasquotank County voters decisively passed a special tax of 15 cents per $100 valuation to support a new college. Approval and additional funding from the State of North Carolina soon followed. The official charter was issued on December 16, 1960, making COA the first college chartered by the state under the Community College Act of 1957. On Sep. 21, 1961, COA opened its doors to 113 students in the remodeled former Albemarle Hospital on Riverside Avenue in Elizabeth City.

Today, COA is one of 58 community colleges in the North Carolina Community College System — helping to meet the needs of college transfer, career education, training, retraining, literacy and personal enrichment students throughout the seven-county area. Students taking credit courses may earn an associate degree, diploma or certificate. Other educational services include college transfer programs, career education/occupational programs and workforce development.

More than 60 years after receiving its charter, COA presents a striking contrast from its rather humble beginnings. From our initial enrollment of just 113 students, to today’s annual enrollments of more than 3,350 COA students and 5,550 Workforce Development and Career Readiness students, the growth of our programs, faculty, campus space, buildings and equipment is astounding. We look forward to a bright future as COA continues to expand its services throughout our region.

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