This plan grew from public discussions with students, faculty, staff, alumni, Chancellors, members of the Board of Governors, elected officials, business and civic leaders, and the citizens of North Carolina through town halls, surveys, planning meetings, and written contributions over the course of several months. We appreciate all of those who gave their time, energy, and careful thought to this plan, and we look forward to the results ahead.

North Carolina has long been known for its visionary approach to higher education. A sustained commitment to college access, cutting edge research, and public service has established the University of North Carolina System as one of the most productive public higher education systems in the country.

But the University must continue to adapt if it is to help North Carolina face today’s challenges and those on the horizon, from shifting economic demands to an increasingly diverse population. We must find new ways to keep college affordable, help more students succeed, and enhance the University’s contributions to communities across the state.

The strategic planning process established a set of System-level goals, identified the strategies that can help us achieve them, and provided the means to measure progress toward those goals. Our objective: strengthening our institutions, improving student outcomes, and expanding access to affordable high-quality degrees.


Continue North Carolina’s proud heritage of providing students from diverse backgrounds access to higher education

Affordability and Efficiency

Ensure that a UNC System education remains among the most affordable in the nation

Student Success

Increase degree attainment and ensure that these degrees have long-term value and professional relevance

Economic Impact and Community Engagement

Expand and strengthen the partnerships that improve local communities and benefit the state’s economy

Excellent and Diverse Institutions

Help institutions achieve excellence as they fulfill their individual missions

System-Level Dashboards


Access guarantees the opportunity to pursue a university education to all North Carolinians who are prepared for rigorous learning experiences. Providing North Carolinians access and encouragement to pursue higher education is not confined solely to helping students gain admittance to college. It also includes:

  • Providing multiple access points into the University, including pathways for transfer students and students who benefit from online courses;
  • Offering academic, financial, cultural, and other knowledge-based services to help all students — particularly those who are underserved for any reason — aspire to, enroll in, and graduate from institutions that match their interests and capabilities.

Increase Low-Income Enrollment

Increase Completions by Low-Income Students

Increase Rural Enrollment

Increase Completions by Rural Students

Improve Transition from K-12 to College

Student Success

Student Success is a combination intellectual, personal, and social development facilitated by a high-quality university education. It includes:

  • The development of competencies essential for meaningful engagement in 21st-century life, including critical and creative thinking, technological mastery, resilience, effective communication, flexibility, collaboration, and an appreciation for the value of life-long learning, among others;
  • The timely acquisition of a degree.

Increase 5-Year Graduation Rate

Increase Undergraduate Degree Efficiency

Close Achievement Gaps

Implement a Survey of Current Students and Alumni

Affordability and Efficiency

Article IX, Section 9 of the North Carolina State Constitution requires that “The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of The University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.”

That constitutional mandate encourages a working compact among the state’s elected officials, taxpayers, and the UNC System to deliver the University’s multifaceted mission at the highest levels of quality in a cost-effective manner without regard to a student’s ability to pay.

Commit to Affordable Tuition

Increase Operational and Financial Flexibility

Economic Impact and Community Engagement

Our institutions have sustained impact on state and regional economies through the students they attract and teach, the research they perform, the innovation they encourage, the people they employ, the services they offer, and the partnerships they build with their communities and across the world. The University can enhance economic impact and community engagement by preparing graduates to be well-rounded citizens and lifelong learners; improving quality of life; investing in foundational research; speeding the discovery, application, and translation of research; and deepening sustained partnerships that strengthen local communities and the state’s economy.

Increase Critical Workforce Credentials

Increase Research Productivity

Increase Investment in Strengthening North Carolina Communities

Excellent and Diverse Institutions

The University’s constituent institutions are individually distinct and mission-focused. Collectively, they form an inclusive and vibrant university system, committed to excellence and the fullest development of a diversity of students, faculty, and staff.

Identify Academic “Areas of Distinction”

Focus on Human Capital

Performance Agreements and Institution Dashboards

In 2017, all 17 Strategic Plan Performance Agreements were inked at each of our universities and signed by UNC System President Margaret Spellings and each institution chancellor.

These unique performance agreements are how and where the Strategic Plan comes to life. Through nine measurable metrics under the themes of access, student success, and economic impact, we’ve created plans that build on each institution’s distinctive strengths and priorities.

This was an iterative process, with campus leaders working with Andrew Kelly and Margaret Spellings’ team to rank the 9 measures and then using existing institution-level strategic plans, historical data, and future projections, to generate aggressive but realistic targets for each metric.

Our Strategic Plan is only as good as its implementation, and this is a significant step for the System towards transformative growth and a coordinated strategy that capitalizes on each institution’s diversity and unique mission and context.

A set of interactive dashboards monitor System and institution-level progress in pursuit of these goals.

This is an exciting step forward that will further accelerate our work. You can find the unique institutional agreements below.

Read the News Story

Signed Agreements and Institution Dashboards

North Carolina A&T State University

North Carolina Central University

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics