UNC system rolls out plan

Jan. 10, 2013 @ 06:48 PM

UNC system officials rolled out a draft of a system-wide strategic plan Thursday for members of the UNC Board of Governors who generally gave it a thumbs up.

But board members warned that a proposal to increase the number of degrees produced in the state must not come at the expense of a quality education for students attending the states 16 universities.

And some urged system officials to more closely tie degree attainment goals to disciplines that are in high demand, focus more intently on non-traditional students and distance learning and consider hiring someone to oversee distance learning system-wide.

UNC system President Tom Ross said e-learning has to be a key component of the system’s effort to boost degree attainment and to ensure the state’s public universities remain accessible.

 ‘We hear you and it’s definitely has to be a part of our future,” Ross said.

The UNC Advisory Committee on Strategic Direction is set to recommend setting a state degree attainment goal of 32 percent for residents age 25 to 64 by 2018.

And by 2025, the committee wants North Carolina to be one of the top ten most educated states in the nation by pushing the degree attainment goal to 37 percent.

Officials said a benefit of having a highly educated population is that the state will be better prepared to meet workforce demands, a key to attracting top businesses to the state.

This week, the board has focused on three of the five priorities Ross set at the beginning of the process – setting a degree attainment goal, strengthening academic quality and serving the people of North Carolina.

It will tackle the other two – maximizing efficiencies and ensuring an accessible and financially stable university – in the coming weeks.

“We’re working on chapters four and five and we’ll be getting those to you early next week,” Ross said.

Meanwhile, the board is heading down a path to possibly adopt the plan, titled “Our Time Our Future: The UNC Compact with North Carolina, at its meeting next month.

Peter Hans, chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, urged his colleagues to continue to offer suggestions, because the plan at this stage is only a draft.

“This is the start of the conversation, not the end of it,” Hans said.

In other business Thursday, the board’s Committee on Educational Planning, Policies and Programs received the system’s enrollment report for fall 2012.

Overall, the enrollment increased 0.3 percent system-wide, bringing the total headcount to 221,010 students, 705 more than the 220,305 enrolled the previous fall.

Minority enrollment throughout the system also saw a small gain – 0.4 percent over the previous fall, increasing to 66,111 students, the equivalent of 249 students more than the 65,862 enrolled the previous fall.

Collectively, minority students make up 32.9 percent of the university’s enrollment.

African American and American Indian enrollment for fall 2013 dipped slightly, while Asian and Hispanic enrollment saw modest gains.