A public high school where talented students find their niche and realize their potential

Our mission: Advancing public education

The mission of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, an innovative and collaborative leader in secondary STEM education, is to advance our state, nation, and world by creating opportunities for broad access to exemplary public education that fosters, challenges, inspires, and empowers students and communities to design their future.

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I was fortunate enough to be able to go to North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. This was the first time I got a taste of something that I’ve tried to hold onto: using intimidation or feeling scared to actually fuel your success, to turn it around and use that as motivation to achieve what you might not have thought was possible before.

—Christina Koch ’97, NASA astronaut
Read her story

Innovation. It’s in our school’s DNA.

Our school’s three founders — former North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt Jr., senator and Duke University President Terry Sanford; and academician and author John Ehle — envisioned an institution that would invest in the state’s human and intellectual capital to build leadership and economic progress.

In 1980, during Governor Hunt’s first administration, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics opened on the grounds of the former Watts Hospital in Durham with 150 high school juniors. It was the first school of its kind — a public, residential high school welcoming students from across the state to study a specialized curriculum emphasizing science and mathematics but also offering humanities courses, athletics, and extracurricular opportunities.

The founders’ early vision has matured into a vital institution that models and advocates for excellence in public education. Eighteen similar schools have sprung from our model, in the U.S. and abroad.

A pioneering school evolves

1978  The North Carolina General Assembly establishes North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics to provide challenging educational opportunities for students with special interests and potential in the sciences and mathematics.

1980  The first class of 150 juniors enters the school, on the grounds of the former Watts Hospital in Durham.

1988  Together with peers at a handful of similar schools, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics leaders helps found the National Consortium of Specialized Secondary Schools of Math, Science and Technology, now the National Consortium of Secondary STEM Schools.

1994  NCSSM offers its first distance education classes, broadcasting on public television channels.

2007  NCSSM becomes the 17th constituent institution of the University of North Carolina system.

2008  The first cohort, the Class of 2010, enters NCSSM Online, earning certificates of completion by supplementing their education at local high schools with virtual courses.

2011  NCSSM sets the Guinness World Record for largest food drive in a single location in 24 hours, collecting 559,885 pounds of food to benefit the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, which serves 34 counties in our state.

2016  The Connect NC Bond package is approved by North Carolina voters, including $58 million toward a new second campus for NCSSM in Morganton, NC.

2019  NCSSM Foundation launches the historic Ignite + Transform fundraising campaign, seeking to raise more than $50 million to improve the NCSSM student experience in all programs on both campuses.

2022  NCSSM’s Morganton campus opens to the first class of 150 residential juniors with a second class of 150 following in 2023 to reach its capacity of 300 residential students. 

2023  NCSSM embarks on a multi-year renovation of its historic Durham campus, including residence hall refurbishment, dining hall upgrades, and the addition of an Academic Commons.

Launching our Morganton campus

NCSSM is committed to raising the bar, once again, on public education in North Carolina. After marking a huge milestone in 2022 by officially opening our doors to the first class of the residential program at NCSSM-Morganton, we have welcomed our second class and reached full capacity of 300 students. With this new campus, we double down on fostering talent, innovation, and entrepreneurship that will ignite and transform our state’s economic prosperity for decades to come.

How did we get here? In 2016, North Carolina voters passed the Connect NC bond package which included $58 million to grow a second campus of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Morganton (NCSSM). Planning commenced in late 2016 with the hiring of an architectural firm, educational program design consultants, and a planning director, Kevin Baxter, who now serves as Vice Chancellor and Chief Campus Officer for NCSSM-Morganton.

Expanding to our second campus in Morganton was accomplished with deep support from the region, state and UNC System leaders, NCSSM board leadership, Team NCSSM staff and faculty, and many others. Here are key milestone documents from that journey:

We are grateful for the support of North Carolina voters in passing the Connect NC bond package. For NCSSM, bond funding meant the start of a new chapter in our history of offering innovative STEM education. Expanding our school to a second campus allows us to offer the transformative NCSSM experience to hundreds more bright, young North Carolinians each year.