UNC System President Margaret Spellings Presents State of the University Address

Friday, March 23, 2018

University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings touted the UNC System’s progress to increase access to education and improve student success during her State of the University address March 21 on the UNCW campus.

UNCW is one of the stops on Spellings’ 2018 State of the University Address Tour, which began March 19 at UNC Charlotte. The UNC System has released a self-evaluation report, which provides a snapshot of the system’s progress, to coincide with the tour.

“With her guidance, the UNC System is focusing on harnessing technology to meet strategic goals, modernizing data systems for greater accountability, and improving access and affordability for students and families across North Carolina,” said UNCW Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli.

According to the report, the System’s accomplishments include:

  • Graduation rates increased more than six percent in the last five years;
  • Annual research funding increased by more than $300 million since 2012;
  • Production of nearly 21,000 graduates each year with degrees and certificates in health sciences, engineering and STEM, an increase of 29 percent since 2011;
  • Enrolled nearly 20 percent more Pell-eligible students each year since 2011, strengthening access and opportunity;
  • Maintained affordable costs for North Carolinians; tuition is flat or falling at every school.

“North Carolina has built, without question, one of the finest university systems in the nation,” said Spellings. “And it’s getting better every day.”

Spellings commended UNCW on its work to expand access to higher education and to meet the needs of the region and beyond. The U.S. Department of Education has identified UNCW as being among 13 four-year colleges that have significantly expanded access to low-income students.

UNCW more than tripled the number of health sciences graduates between 2010-11 and 2016-17, growing from 213 to 655, the report states. UNCW’s production of STEM and health science credentials increased by 80 percent over the last six years.

“This university has long been an institution on the rise — one that embodies what a public university in North Carolina can be,” said Spellings. “UNC Wilmington is an institution defined by its close ties to the region and its tailored work to serve local needs, but its successes emanate far beyond the Cape Fear region.”

Strong partnerships with community colleges improve retention and graduation, drive opportunity, and build a college-going culture for all North Carolinians, Spellings said, and UNC Wilmington is leading the way.

“UNCW is not only drawing in growing numbers of transfer students, they consistently rank in the top three in the System for graduation rates of those students,” she said.

Spellings focused on key issues that the UNC System must address to fulfill its obligation to North Carolinians: economic mobility, accountability and public good. Economic mobility is the defining issue of our time, she stated.

“When we meet our core mission – reaching talented students from all backgrounds, getting them in the door and helping them graduate – college changes lives, lifts families and transforms communities,” she said.

Spellings said getting more students “across the finish line also means changing how we teach.”

“Your work scaling applied learning throughout the curriculum is having a major impact, she said. “The idea of applied learning —enabling students to learn through experience and not confining an education to books and lectures — is fairly simple in theory. But implementing it is hard, and UNC Wilmington has done it well.”

The university’s focus on applied learning means student retention is up, graduation rates are up, and students are leaving with skills and knowledge that serve them well in the workforce, she said.

The UNC Board of Governors’ Strategic Plan and 17 institution-specific performance agreements will be used as a guide to expand opportunity for all North Carolinians and meet the needs of the state.

“I know I’ll be standing before you again in a few years to report an even stronger, more effective University of North Carolina System,” she said.

-- Venita Jenkins


UNC System President Margaret Spellings and UNCW Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli.

UNC System President Margaret Spellings and UNCW Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli address the crowd following Spellings' State of the University address in Lumina Theater on March 21, 2018.