UNC System President Margaret Spellings Celebrates Second Anniversary
On her second anniversary in office, UNC System President Margaret Spellings recently looked back on the achievements over the past year and what the future holds for the System with Deborah Holt-Noel of UNC-TV. Here are some of the questions President Spellings addressed.
Q: You’ve talked about the need to impress upon people the importance and value of higher education, particularly to policy makers and taxpayers. How is the System doing that?
A: We know that we live in an economy and a job market that requires post-secondary education for darn near everyone, and when I say that I mean at least two years of education beyond high school. And 70 percent of the jobs now require at least that level of education. So, what we’re doing is developing a plan that is broad for the University but also tailored to each individual institution to meet the needs of this state. What I mean by that is we’re holding ourselves accountable for low-income students, for rural students, for faster time to degree, for greater affordability – all of the things together that will make for a more educated workforce.
Q: One year ago, the Board of Governors adopted a strategic plan called Higher Expectations. How has that changed the System?
A: Very dramatically. That was a plan for the entire University and this year we’re negotiating institutional, individual pieces of that strategic plan that they will take responsibility for meeting. At UNC-Chapel Hill, one of their big commitments is growing their research, which is already one of the finest in the nation. At our HBCUs, they are more committed to affordability and to increased student retention and student completion. At our other institutions like ECU and UNC Greensboro and UNC Wilmington, they are making more of a commitment to rural students. So, it’s a variety of things that each of them is doing. The beauty of this System is that we have 17 institutions that are incredibly unique and, together, they meet the full needs of this state. And independently, they have a customized approach to their mission.
Q: Legislators have already made some big bets on the System, including NC Promise. As reduced tuitions at Elizabeth City State University, UNC Pembroke, and Western Carolina University are implemented, how will that impact the System.
A: NC Promise is a program that is really going to be a game changer for those three institutions. It will lower tuition to $500 a semester beginning this Fall, and of course, we are seeing in the enrollment and application patterns great uptake and great increases at those three institutions, which is just what we wanted to see. And this is because of a more than $50 million commitment from the legislature to invest in those institutions so that they can be more affordable. You know we have a constitutional mandate in this state to make college as free as practicable, and $500 is pretty darn close.
Q: You’re involved in so many projects. Is there one that you’re most passionate about?
A: I’m really excited about the Strategic Plan. We’ve been so clear, on two pages, about what we will do for the citizens of North Carolina and for the students who entrust their educations with us. That’s such a powerful message that will anchor our initiatives, our management decisions, and how we use resources. It’s so foundational, and that’s probably what’s most important to me now. As I look into my third year, we need to think about how are we going to harness technology in more effective ways. We’ve had a little bit of a thousand flowers blooming strategy as it relates to technology, and I believe we can really harness the power of that in more effective ways to meet those strategic plan goals.
The full interview airs on UNC-TV on the following dates and times:
Thursday, March 1 at 7:30 pm
Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 pm
Thursday, March 8 at 1:30 am
The program will air on the North Carolina Channel on the following dates and times:
Tuesday, March 6 at 8:30 pm
Wednesday, March 7 at 11:00 am and 8:30 pm
Thursday, March 8 at 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm
Watch the full interview