UNC President Margaret Spellings has signed performance agreements with the 16 public university chancellors with the aim of serving more low-income and rural students, improving graduation rates and making an economic impact on North Carolina.
The agreements are the next step in the university system’s five-year strategic plan, which was adopted by the UNC Board of Governors earlier this year.
Campuses and their leaders will be monitored for their progress on nine specific measures, including: more low-income and rural undergraduate enrollment; better college completion by low-income and rural undergraduates; improved five-year graduation rates; efficiency of degrees earned; reduced achievement gaps; heightened research productivity; and more credentials earned in key fields such as education, health and science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.
“It’s really a national model that isn’t being done very many places around the country, and when it is, it’s not as coherent and precise and focused, as I daresay as we’re doing it in North Carolina,” Spellings said Friday. “We have a strategic plan that means something. It’s not a document on a shelf. It’s now integrated into the daily work of every single institution.”
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Interactive dashboards will be developed to monitor progress at the state’s public campuses.
Spellings said the goals are aggressive but achievable. Campuses will be held accountable and she will be accountable by the Board of Governors, she said. “This is exactly the kind of thing that I think the taxpayers and students of this state want to see me and this board doing,” she said.
System leaders this week discussed ideas for improving affordability and efficiency. One idea was to better fund financial aid for summer school courses, so that students can graduate in a shorter time period. The UNC board is also embarking on a plan to set policy to standardize degrees to a 120-credit hour maximum, with exceptions allowed for some areas such as engineering where more hours could be required. That plan, which could draw concern from faculty, will be discussed in the coming months.
Also this week, UNC discussed tuition setting for the 2018-19 academic year. Campuses have been directed to hold the line on tuition increases and decrease tuition if possible. Fee increases will be limited to 3 percent.