UNC President Emeritus Margaret Spellings

Nationally known as an education thought leader and public policy expert, Spellings led the UNC System into a new period of performance, affordability, and growth, with a focus on improving economic mobility, ensuring accountability, and advancing the public good.

As president of the 17-institution UNC System, Spellings oversaw a strategic planning process that won unanimous approval from the UNC Board of Governors. The Strategic Plan’s roadmap, titled Higher Expectations, led to performance agreements at each UNC System institution, which outline measurable goals and metrics to advance key UNC System priorities, like improving graduation rates, reducing achievement gaps, and ensuring access for students of every background.

During her time as president, Spellings worked with the Board of Governors and the NC General Assembly to ensure college affordability. Their combined efforts put a lid on tuition and led to NC Promise, the state’s bold initiative to reduce tuition at three institutions to just $500 per semester for in-state students. The UNC System also moved forward the ConnectNC Bond, which is enabling transformational progress at each of the 17 institutions.

Spellings brought to the UNC System extensive experience at the highest levels of the United States government. From 2005 to 2009, she served as the U.S. Secretary of Education, where she oversaw the creation of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Her work shifted the national conversation around colleges and universities and led to the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a national bipartisan initiative to provide greater accountability for public K-12 schools. From 2001 to 2005, she was Chief Domestic Policy Advisor at the White House for President George W. Bush.

Beyond her service at the federal level, Spellings served as President of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, as President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and at the state-level in Texas politics. She served as a senior advisor to then-Governor Bush of Texas, as head of governmental and external relations for the Texas Association of School Boards, and in key positions at Austin Community College and with the Texas Legislature.

Spellings is a graduate of the University of Houston, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. She also received an honorary doctorate and Distinguished Alumna Award from the university in 2006.