State of the University 2018, Margaret Spellings, UNC Charlotte

State of the University Address

Yesterday, I delivered the first State of the University speech to a crowd of more than 100 in the UNC Charlotte City Center auditorium and to an extended audience on Facebook Live. In case you missed it, you can watch the archived version or read the speech or join us when the tour comes to your own region.

The event served as a progress report and a reflection on the state of our great University. North Carolina has built, without question, one of the finest university systems in the nation. And it’s getting better every day.

Consider this:

We’ve raised our graduation rate more than six percentage points in the last five years.

We’ve increased our annual research funding by more than $300 million since 2012. Statewide, the UNC System now nets one and a half billion dollars in research investments every year.

We’re filling jobs in vital fields, producing nearly 21,000 graduates each year with degrees and certificates in health sciences, engineering, and STEM, an increase of 29 percent since 2011.

We are enrolling nearly 20 percent more Pell-eligible students each year than we did just five years ago, strengthening access and opportunity.

And this year we’ve held tuition flat at every institution. What’s more, the NC Promise Tuition Plan begins this fall — enabling in-state students at UNC Pembroke, Western Carolina University, and Elizabeth City State University to enroll for just $500 per semester.

If you want to know more, check out our new data dashboards online and our progress on key Strategic Plan goals in this 2018 snapshot report.

There’s no doubt that the System is strong, but that’s no cause for complacency. As I like to say, we’re pleased but not satisfied.

As we look ahead, I see three big issues that keep me up at night, while also giving me confidence in the urgency of our mission.

First iseconomic mobility. It’s the defining issue of our time, and the University has an essential role to play in addressing it. We must work to ensure that more North Carolinians have access to the tools they need to improve their lives. That means driving student access, student success, and serving everyone- not not just those who enroll at our institutions.

Our second key issue is ensuring accountability. In addition to the bold Strategic Plan the UNC Board of Governors unanimously adopted, we’ve signed 17 customized performance agreements with each chancellor in the UNC System to bring our strategic plan to life, all of them embracing measurable outcomes as a route to excellence.

And finally, fulfilling our historic mission to advance the public good. It’s our third big issue, and in many ways the most fundamental one. It’s the reason this University exists — the bedrock of everything we do.

What we do every day as educators and public institutions matters. It’s on us to create a college-going culture in this state and shape the next generation of our state’s leaders. As institutions, we must stand behind the core values of free expression, intellectual diversity, and patient engagement with new ideas.

It’s a bright future ahead. One full of opportunities if we’re ready to seize them.



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