UNC President Margaret Spellings standing under a spotlight

Higher Expectations, Higher Education

A look at the Spellings Commission Report then and now.

University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings says more work needs to be done to strengthen higher education and provide more educational opportunities for Americans, despite the progress made during the decade since “A Test of Leadership” report, also known as the Spellings Commission Report, was first released.

President Spellings made her remarks at a recent forum in Chapel Hill reflecting on the 2006 report. The event was co-hosted by UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt who addressed issues around basic research, innovation and entrepreneurship and the future of open and engaged public universities in the marketplace of ideas and public discourse. 

Panelists included University of Virginia President Terry Sullivan, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, United Negro College Fund President and CEO Michael Lomax, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Cheryl Oldham, New York Times’ columnist Frank Bruni as well as Carbon 3D co-founder and CEO Joe DeSimone.

During her keynote address, President Spellings reflected on the role that the Commission played in highlighting issues such as affordability, accessibility, data-driven educational strategies, quality and promoting innovation.

“Sure, we have a long way to go, but I have no doubt that we’re in stronger shape as a result of the discussion we started eleven years ago,” she added.

Spellings said the panel brought voices together at a high level and found overwhelming goodwill and agreement about the overall direction for higher education.

“I believe that same consensus holds today. You see it in the strategic plan our Board of Governors unanimously adopted earlier this year; you see it in the bipartisan agreement that everyone should have a fair opportunity to pursue the American Dream,” Spellings concluded. “The source of our strength has always been a vision of education that includes everyone — that reflects the country it serves. Making that a reality is our most urgent task, today’s test of leadership.”

Video Archive of Live Stream

Opening Remarks: UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt

Panel #1: Where Are We Now? Lessons learned about accountability, accessibility, and affordability since the Spellings Commission Report

Moderator: Frank Bruni, New York Times


  • Michael Lomax, President and CEO, United Negro College Fund of the United States
  • Cheryl Oldham, Senior Vice President, Center for Education and Workforce, US Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • Michael McPherson, Member, Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Watch Panel 1 and Opening Remarks:  http://www.ncchannel.org/higher-expectations-higher-education-accountability-accessibility-affordability/

Panel #2: What's Next? Discovery, entrepreneurship, and economic value of higher education

Moderator: Chancellor Carol Folt


  • Joe DeSimone, Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at UNC Chapel Hill and the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Chemical Engineering at NC State University and of Chemistry at UNC. Co-Founder and CEO, Carbon 3D, Inc.
  • Mark S. Schlissel, President, University of Michigan
  • Terry Sullivan, President, University of Virginia

Watch Panel 2:  http://www.ncchannel.org/higher-expectations-higher-education-2/

Keynote Introduction: The Honorable James B. Hunt, Jr.

Keynote: University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings

Watch UNC President Margaret Spellings' Keynote Address:  http://www.ncchannel.org/higher-expectations-higher-education/

Read full keynote address


Report: A Test of Leadership

Read the report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, "A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education".


Media Inquiries

Please address any questions regarding this meeting to communications@northcarolina.edu.


Brought to you by

University of North Carolina System Office logo
UNC-Chapel Hill logo 1000px
UNC-Chapel Hill Institute for the Arts and Humanities logo


And generous donations from

The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

and The Higher Calling Fund.

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