In 1924 High Point College opened as a cooperative venture between the Methodist Protestant Church and the City of High Point. The campus consisted of three partially completed buildings, there were nine faculty members, and student enrollment was 122. Today the University has 122 buildings, is attractively landscaped, the full-time faculty numbers nearly 300, and approximately 4,600 students are enrolled in a wide variety of daytime, evening, and summer programs. Much has changed over the years. Yet the mission of High Point University may still be best expressed in the words of its founders more than nine decades ago: “to help us to appreciate and to love our own, to know our needs and opportunities, and to make ourselves more efficient servants of Christ.”
The Methodist Protestant Church, which is now part of The United Methodist Church, first became active in educational pursuits in North Carolina in the middle of the 19th century. Of the various institutions which it sponsored, the most ambitious was Yadkin College, which operated in Davidson County from 1856 to 1895 but failed because of its isolated rural location.
At the turn of the century, the vision of a church-related college was revived by The Reverend Joseph F. McCulloch of Greensboro, who labored for nearly a quarter-century to make it a reality. The Annual Conference finally voted to proceed in 1921. Shortly afterwards it accepted an offer from the thriving city of High Point to contribute 60 acres of land and $100,000 to the project. Classes began in September 1924, even as the finishing touches were still being added to the original buildings.
The atmosphere of confidence which attended the birth of the College ended abruptly with the Great Depression. For many years thereafter, the struggle to survive was a severe one. Faculty salaries were eventually in arrears by as much as fifteen years, while students occasionally paid tuition in chickens, pigs, and vegetables. In 1934 the College underwent bankruptcy and reorganization in an effort to reduce its indebtedness. Yet slowly this situation began to improve. By the end of the decade, library and gymnasium facilities had been added, and (with W.P.A. assistance) an athletic stadium was constructed. During World War II, the College hosted the 326th College Training Detachment of the U.S. Army Air Force. Financial stability ultimately returned with the liquidation of the debt in 1945.
The postwar decades brought renewed prosperity and rapid growth. Under the influences of the GI Bill® and the “baby boom” of the 1940s and 1950s, enrollment more than tripled, with a corresponding increase in staff. The College’s programs received full regional accreditation in 1951. Additional facilities were added in response to this growth in size and professionalism: four residence halls between 1953 and 1968, two classroom buildings, a second gymnasium, an auditorium, a chapel, and a campus center. Crowning the physical expansion was Smith Library, completed in the spring of 1984, with a capacity three times the size of the former facility. The original men’s residence hall was replaced in 1987 with a 221-resident facility. The Millis Athletic/Convocation Center was opened in late 1992 and provides facilities for convocations, physical education, athletic, and health activities.
High Point University offers day and evening undergraduate degree programs (Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science) and evening graduate degree programs (Master of Arts, Master of Education, Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Business Administration, Master of Physician Assistant Studies, Doctor of Education, and Doctor of Pharmacy). In addition, HPU offers 64 study abroad destinations, including semester- and year-long exchanges, two- to four-week Global Experience “Maymesters,” faculty-in-residence programs and more.
High Point University announced in October 2007 that it was doubling its investment in academic programs, student life, scholarships and construction of new facilities. The university’s board of trustees approved doubling the investment in the university from $110 to $225 million over a period of three years. The campus transformation is made possible through gifts, bonds and operating revenues.
Since 2005, 90 new buildings have been built, acquired or are under construction on the HPU campus – including state-of-the-art academic schools, student centers, residence halls and athletic stadiums. The acquisition of more than 300 acres of land puts the campus now at 430 acres total. The board has approved the construction of an arena and conference center, undergraduate sciences building, parking deck, new restaurants, and two new residential facilities to accommodate the growth of traditional day students from 1,500 to 4,500 today.