Catawba County is home to an educated and skilled workforce of 250,000.

Education and technical training continue to be high priorities for Catawba County.  This commitment is evidenced by the presence of three public school systems — Catawba County Schools, Hickory City Schools and Newton-Conover City Schools — in addition to 12 private schools.  In 2015, Newton-Conover City Schools achieved the highest graduation rate in the history of North Carolina at 97.1% and has ranked among the top five highest graduation rates in the State of North Carolina for the past three years.  Catawba County Schools' St. Stephens High School won the National Beta Convention senior division Quiz Bowl championship in 2017. In May 2018, Newton-Conover City School's Discovery High School in Newton received a silver medal from U.S. News & World Report in their ranking of the top U.S. public high schools, finishing in the top 10% across the nation.

K-12 Public School Enrollment - 2018-2019
District Schools Enrollment
Catawba County Schools 28 15,906
Hickory City Schools 9 4,057
Newton-Conover City Schools 7 2,954
Source:  NC Department of Public Instruction, NC Schools Report Card
K-12 Non-Public School Enrollment - 2019-2020
  Schools Enrollment
Non-Public Schools 12 1,645
Source:  NC Dept. of Admin., Div. of Non-Public Educ., 2019-2020 Directory of Non-Public Schools

Students at one of Catawba County's 43 public schools study math equations. - Photo by Eckard Photographic

Public Schools SAT Scores - 2019
  #Tested %Tested Math ERW Total
US 1,859,215 NA 515 524 1039
NC 47,842 44 542 549 1091
Catawba 374 31.9 560 552 1112
Hickory 134 47.3 523 537 1059
Newton-
Conover
68 31.1 530 548 1077
Source:  NC Department of Public Instruction, 2020 SAT Performance by District & School
Public Schools ACT Scores - 2018-2019
 
#Tested
Composite
Mean
English Mean
(Met
Benchmark)
Math Mean
(Met
Benchmark)
Reading Mean
(Met
Benchmark)
Science Mean
(Met
Benchmark)
Met all 4
Benchmarks
Writing Mean
(Met
Benchmark%)
Met all 5
Benchmarks
NC
101,830
18.4
16.7
(39.2%)
18.6
(25.4%)
19.0
(32.3%)
18.6
(24.6%)
15.9
5.6
(29.5%)
11.8
Catawba
1714
19.0
17.2
(43.3%)
19.4
(29.2%)
19.6
(33.9%)
19.5
(28.0%)
16.6
5.4
(21.7%)
8.4
Hickory
267
17.3
15.6
(34.6%)
17.6
(19.5%)
17.8
(26.4%)
17.7
(20.1%)
12.5
5.3
(24.2%)
8.0
Newton-
Conover
198
18.9
17.3
(38.9%)
18.5
(19.2%)
18.9
(30.8%)
20.2
(28.8%)
13.6
5.8
(27.4%)
8.1
Source:  NC Department of Public Instruction, ACT Results
Public School Post High School Intentions - 2018-2019
 
Catawba
Hickory
Newton-
Conover
      Total
Public Sr. Institution
298
(24.6%)
87
(31.5%)
51
(21.2%)
436
(25.3%)
Private Sr. Institution
162
(13.4%)
37
(13.4%)
41
(17.0%)
240
(13.9%)
Community College
455
(37.6%)
99
(35.9%)
107
(44.4%)
661
(38.3%)
Private Jr. College
3
(0.2 %)
2
(0.7%)
1
(0.4%)
6
(0.3%)
Trade Business School
20
(1.7%)
2
(0.7%)
1
(0.4%)
23
(1.3%)
Military
60
(5.0%)
6
(2.2%)
7
(2.9%)
73
(4.2%)
Employment
182
(15.1%)
43
(15.6%)
33
(13.7%)
258
(14.9%)
Other
29
(2.4%)
-
-
29
(1.7%)
Totals
1,209
276
241
1,726
Source:  NC Department of Public Instruction, Statistical Profile for 2018-19



Higher Education

An increased focus on higher education is seen in the development of the Appalachian State University Center at Hickory, a collaborative effort between Appalachian State University and Catawba County's two existing higher education institutes, Lenoir-Rhyne University and Catawba Valley Community College.

As mentioned above, Catawba County is home to Lenoir Rhyne University, a four-year liberal arts school and Catawba Valley Community College. Additionally, the Appalachian State University Center at Hickory is a joint education center offering graduate and undergraduate degrees, non-credit certificate courses, research, and specialized workforce training through such universities as Appalachian State University, NC State University, and the University of North Carolina. The new NC Center for Engineering Technologies provides facilities for applied research in engineering related fields and serves as a conduit to baccalaureate education delivered by the University of North Carolina system schools.

Lenoir-Rhyne University students take a break on the lawn outside the student center.

Colleges & Universities within 50 miles of Catawba County

University of North Carolina Campuses (Fall 2019)
 Institution  City Total Enrollment  Distance 
Appalachian State University (ASU) Boone 19,280 43
UNC - Charlotte Charlotte 29,615 50
Source:  National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator
Community Colleges (2017-2018)
Institution City Curriculum Enrollment Curriculum & 
Continuing Educ.
Distance
Caldwell CC & TI Hudson 4,688 10,709 11
Catawba Valley CC Hickory 6,126 14,307 -
Cleveland CC Shelby 3,888 9,243 44
Central Piedmont CC Charlotte 27,611 52,963 46
Gaston College Dallas 7,421 18,518 22
McDowell TCC Marion 1,428 5,867 46
Mitchell CC Statesville 4,325 8,982 17
Rowan-Cabarrus CC Salisbury 7,969 19,902 46
Western Piedmont CC Morganton 2,360 8,566 20
Source:  NC Community College System, Annual Statistical Report

 

Independant Colleges & Universities (Fall 2019)
Institution City Enrollment Distance
Belmont Abbey College Belmont 1,507 33
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences Concord 475 43
Catawba College Salisbury 1,324 43
Davidson College Davidson 1,837 32
Gardner-Webb University Boiling Springs 3,518 40
ASU Center at Hickory Hickory Seated - 105 -
    Online - 842 -
Johnson C. Smith University Charlotte 1,494 44
Lenoir-Rhyne University Hickory 2,742 -
Livingstone College Salisbury 1,122 46
NC Ctr for Eng. Tech. Hickory 50 -
Pfeiffer University Charlotte 1,277 47
Queens University of Charlotte Charlotte 2,463 47
Source:  National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator