Historically, the college-going rate in southern Virginia has been low. Chief factors contributing to the low rate of college attendance include financial and geographic barriers to pursuing post-secondary education in the region. The closest public four-year universities are more than two hours driving distance for most area residents. In response to the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the 1990s, local civic and political leaders identified the need for improved access to higher education and began to advocate for the establishment of a college in southern Virginia. Thus, the concept of New College Institute was born.

2004 – Initial legislation and financial support established to support a college in Southern Virginia

Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine, supported by a bipartisan coalition of state and local officials, spearheaded legislation to establish a college in southern Virginia. To sustain the legislative momentum, the Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont pledged $50 million towards the establishment of a state-supported, baccalaureate-level college in Martinsville-Henry County.

2005 – Commonwealth of Virginia funded research to determine the need for an institution of higher education in the region

Governor Mark Warner and the General Assembly committed more than $1 million to develop a comprehensive assessment of regional student and employer needs. Based on the findings of the needs assessment, state and local officials proposed the creation of New College Institute.

2006 – NCI officially established and enrolled more than 100 students in their pilot programs

New College enrolled more than 100 students in a pilot program of six bachelor’s degree completion and master’s degree programs in high demand fields. Academic offerings are augmented by an aggressive outreach program of community workshops, individual counseling, non-credit courses, and internship opportunities.

2007 – 08 – Expansion of classroom space, enrollment, degrees, teacher endorsements, and community programs

New College Institute offered eleven degree programs in 2007-08 with over 250 students. In addition, New College expanded services to include programs for internships, summer camps, and teacher endorsement in earth science and English as a Second Language. NCI also launched the Reading for Life initiative and the public lecture series. The first and third floors of the classroom building on Franklin Street were renovated to house the additional programs. New College Foundation (a separate 501(c)3 organization) began receiving private gifts and grants in support of NCI and organized a campaign to establish an endowment.

2008 – 09 – Continued expansion of degrees, enrollment, and classroom space

Fourteen degree programs (ten undergraduate and four graduate) were offered, and over 300 students were enrolled. NCI expanded to include the fourth floor of the Jefferson Plaza building. NCI also announced that the Piedmont Governor's School for Mathematics, Science & Technology will also be housed in the expanded space in the Jefferson Plaza. The classroom building on Franklin Street was renamed the King Building in honor of Dr. Mervyn King and his wife Virginia. 2009 – 10 – Expansion of programs; Increase in enrollment and community presence Academic programs increase to include 17 degree programs and four teacher education or certificate programs. Enrollment exceeds 400 students. As of spring 2010, a total of 135 students graduated with their bachelor's or master's degree through NCI. With the completion of renovations at the Jefferson Plaza, NCI now occupied approximately 30,000 square feet of space in uptown Martinsville.

2010 – 11 – NCI sustains success

To date, 244 students have earned Bachelors, Masters, and Education Specialist degrees through NCI in the institution's first five years of operation. Enrollment is approximately 410 unduplicated students.

2011-12 – Change in Leadership at New College Institute

After serving as NCI’s Executive Director since inception, Dr. Barry Dorsey retires and Senator William Wampler assumes leadership.  

2012-13 – Expanding Dual Enrollment Programs and Breaking Ground on New Building

NCI announced a new partnership with Virginia State University through the Academy for Engineering & Technology to provide high school students with an opportunity to take courses specialized in engineering and technology while receiving college credits.  

NCI also announced plans and began breaking ground to construct their new facility to be located on the Baldwin Block in uptown Martinsville. 

2013-14 – Creation of Telemedicine Program and Completion of Construction on New Building 

NCI partnered with the University of Virginia to offer the STAR Telehealth program, which provides instruction and certification for using advanced technologies for virtual healthcare.  

In the summer of 2014, the construction of the Building on Baldwin will be complete.