A new commission of education, business, nonprofit, government and faith leaders launched Tuesday in an effort to create a statewide goal to get more North Carolinians better educated.
The commission, called My Future NC, was announced Tuesday at Davie County Early College High School in Mocksville. The effort is led by UNC President Margaret Spellings, who will co-chair a group of 30 leaders along with Dale Jenkins, chief executive officer of Medical Mutual Holdings, and Andrea Smith, chief administrative officer of Bank of America.
Spellings said it became clear to her that North Carolina needed a “shared vision” for getting more people better education, from pre-K to high school and beyond. National education players, from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation, had told the UNC Board of Governors that North Carolina was among a few states that had no common agreement on educational attainment, which is generally defined as the highest degree an individual has completed.
In 2015, 29.4 percent of North Carolinians 25 and older held a four-year college degree, and 86.6 percent had a high school diploma. Both measures have risen steadily in the past two decades, though North Carolina is behind the U.S. average.
Economic mobility – the chance that a poor child will rise to the middle class – is lower in North Carolina than in many other states, and the state’s per capita income is 34th in the country, according to U.S. data from 2010-14.
“If we’re going to be a top educated state, if we’re going to be a large and growing economy, what do we need in terms of developing human capital?” Spellings said. “Two-year credentials? Four-year degrees? Ph.Ds? How does that translate into high school graduation, third grade reading, and what are the barriers that are keeping us from doing that now?”
Previously, different sectors have had their own achievement goals, but there has been no overarching plan adopted by all the players.
“Until you get everyone at the table, it ends up being a footnote in a report,” Spellings said, adding, “It’s hard to get a game plan for doing something if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve.”
The first step is to arrive at the goal, she said. The second is to craft specific strategies for getting there. Spellings envisions more clear pathways between community colleges and universities, better transitions between K-12 and community colleges or universities, better ways to help high school students understand college options and financial aid. She said higher education has to make sure it is doing all it can to train teachers and provide research to help the state reach third-grade reading goals.
One item that Spellings has been keen on is having a standardized credit acceptance policy at colleges for Advanced Placement courses taken by high school students. She said the state has invested a lot in AP and then students don’t end up getting credit based on individual college policies.
Part of the strategy is getting stakeholders on board and invested in the process, Spellings said.
The commission includes some heavy hitters in North Carolina business, education and philanthropy, including representatives from Republican leadership in the state House and Senate and Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat.
The commission will begin its work next month and continue for the next year to 18 months, producing two reports. One will recommend goals for educational attainment and outline obstacles that could stand in the way of those goals. The other report will put forth specific policy recommendations to achieve the goals.
“Higher education is an absolute imperative for the future of our state and our workforce,” Smith, one of the co-chairs, said in a statement. “Two of every three new jobs now require some form of post-secondary education – whether that’s training credentials, an associate degree, a four-year degree or higher. This reality underscores how critical education is to career growth and how important it is to increasing economic mobility.”
My Future NC Commission
Dale Jenkins, chief executive officer of Medical Mutual Holdings
Andrea Smith, chief administrative officer of Bank of America
Margaret Spellings, president of the University of North Carolina
Ann Goodnight, the Goodnight Education Foundation, co-chair
Jennifer Haygood, acting president of the N.C. Community College System, co-chair
Mark Johnson, state superintendent
Anna Spangler Nelson, UNC Board of Governors
MC Belk Pilon, John M. Belk Endowment
Gus Agudelo, member, Asheboro City Schools Board of Education
Weston Andress, regional president – Western Carolina, The PNC Financial Services Group
Peter Barnes, reverend, First Presbyterian Church, Winston-Salem
David Belcher, chancellor, Western Carolina University
Jim Blaine, chief of staff to President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, N.C. Senate
Jack Cecil, CEO, Biltmore Farms LLC
Liz Chen, co-founder, MyHealthEd Inc.
Jeff Cox, president, Wilkes Community College
David Dodson, president, MDC
Beverly Emory, superintendent, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County
Don Flow, CEO, Flow Automotive
John Fraley, representative, N.C. House of Representatives
Sonja Gantt, executive director, Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Public Schools
Dan Gerlach, president, Golden LEAF
James Gilliard, pastor, Word Tabernacle Church, Rocky Mount
Rocio Gonzalez, executive director, Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte
Maurice “Mo” Green, executive director, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
Mary Hall, chief academic officer, Carolinas Healthcare System
Venessa Harrison, president, AT&T – North Carolina
Nicole Hurd, CEO, College Advising Corps
Darryl Moss, mayor, Creedmoor
David Mounts, chairman and CEO, Inmar
Jenni Owen, policy director, N.C. Office of the Governor
Art Pope, president and chairman, John William Pope Foundation
Donald Porter, retired U.S. Army Colonel, former chair of Fayetteville State University Board of Trustees,
Todd Roberts, chancellor, N.C. School of Sciences and Mathematics
Ricardo Romero, AVP of Business Development, First Bank
Tammi Sutton, executive director, KIPP Eastern North Carolina
Hope Williams, president, N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities
Stelfanie Williams, president, Vance-Granville Community College
Brad Wilson, president and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield
Mary Winston, former CFO, Family Dollar
Oscar Wong, founder, Highland Brewing Co.
Tracy Zimmerman, executive director, N.C. Early Childhood Foundation