Catawba County is home to Lenoir Rhyne University, a four-year liberal arts school and Catawba Valley Community College ranked #1 out of NC's 58 community colleges by in 2017 and ranked #3 out of all community colleges in the nation for 2019 by SmartAsset. Catawba Valley Community College has established a Furniture Academy and a Manufacturing Academy.

Catawba Valley Community College's commitment to solving workforce needs for local industries is evident in the creation of these academies and its Workforce Solutions Complex.  A culmination of many years of planning and collaboration with the three public school systems, this $23 million dollar, 86,000 square foot facility houses technology and engineering programs for college students, and junior & senior high school students from all schools in Catawba County.  Business-driven programs include:  Computer Engineering Technology, Electrical Engineering Technology, Computer Integrated Machining, Electronics Engineering Technology, Welding, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Mechatronics, and Robotics.

Head here to take a virtual tour of the CVCC Campus and the Workforce Solutions Complex!


Appalachian State University is planning to open its Hickory campus to students in the fall of 2023, making Catawba County one of the few communities in North Carolina with a 2-year community college, a 4-year private university and a 4-year public university in its bounds.

The university announced November 2021 it had purchased the former Corning Optical Communications building off U.S. Highway 321 for the purposes of converting it into a university campus.

“For those who want an App State education but choose to live and work in the Hickory area, for those who may have begun but not completed their undergraduate degrees, App State is here for you,” App State Chancellor Sheri Everts said at the time of the announcement.

The university is still developing plans for what programs will be offered at the Hickory campus.


The Catawba County Promise (CCP) is a guaranteed financial aid package worth at least half the cost of tuition at Lenoir-Rhyne University for full-time undergraduate first-year students and transfer students who meet these requirements:

  • Resident of Catawba County (at time of admittance)
  • High school weighted GPA of 3.5 or higher for first-year students
  • College GPA of 3.5 or higher and 30 attempted college hours for transfer students

​To learn more about the Promise program, click here.

12,798 (curriculum + cont. ed) 2,405 947 (seated & online) 50
Applachian State University (ASU) 20,641 University of NC Campus 43
UNC-Charlotte 30,448 University of NC Campus 50
Caldwell CC&TI 3,543 Community College 11
Catawba Valley CC 4,429 Community College -
Cleveland CC 2,704 Community College 44
Central Piedmont CC 17,559 Community College 46
Gaston College 5,240 Community College 22
McDowell CC 1,191 Community College 46
Mitchell CC 3,276 Community College 17
Rowan-Cabarrus CC 6,711 Community College 46
Western Piedmont CC 1,752 Community College 20
Belmont Abbey College 1,523 Independent College or University 33
Catawba College 1,297 Independent College or University 43
Davidson College 1,796 Independent College or University 32
Gardner-Webb University 2,362 Independent College or University 40
ASU Center at Hickory 105 (seated) Independent College or University -
Johnson C. Smith University 1,326 Independent College or University 44
Lenoir-Rhyne University 2,405 Independent College or University -
Livingstone College 1,204 Independent College or University 46
NC Ctr for Engineering Tech 50 Independent College or University -
Pfeiffer University 1,089 Independent College or University 47
Queens University of Charlotte 1,617 Independent College or University 47