Appalachian State University

In January 2017, the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina unanimously approved Higher Expectations, a five-year Strategic Plan for the UNC System. The Plan calls on the UNC System to achieve ambitious goals in access, student success, affordability and efficiency, economic impact and community engagement, and institutional excellence and diversity.

Progress on these goals and metrics will be achieved through the hard work and commitment of institutional leaders, faculty, and staff. In that spirit, Appalachian State University has identified these contributions that Appalachian State University aspires to make to the UNC Strategic Plan over the next five years.

From Appalachian State University: After the second year of the Strategic Plan for the UNC System, Appalachian State University is meeting, and in some cases exceeding, its five-year performance goals. When Appalachian Chancellor Sheri Everts signed a pledge with then-President Margaret Spellings to meet UNC System strategic goals over a five-year period, Everts noted that the initiatives were consistent with Appalachian’s mission to increase access to education for those students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to achieve a college education. Our world-class faculty and dedicated staff help make Appalachian a national leader in higher education. The value of our work can be measured in our students’ achievements in the classroom, laboratories and co-curricular activities, and in our graduates’ life and career success. As Appalachian continues growing at a slow and steady rate, the inclusion of some of the best young minds that our country has to offer strengthens the university’s academic mission and helps retain students, faculty, and staff.


From Appalachian State University: One important guiding value of the Strategic Plan is its emphasis on letting each institution’s unique mission within the UNC System drive its strategic metrics. Appalachian has prioritized five of the nine Strategic Plan metrics to evaluate its contributions to the UNC System’s strategic needs:

  • Rural enrollments
  • Low-income completions
  • Rural completions
  • Low-income achievement gaps in undergraduate degree efficiency
  • Critical workforce credentials

Rural Enrollments

By fall 2021, App State will enroll 5,715 rural students, a 7.3% increase over 2016 levels (387 additional rural students over a base of 5,328).

From Appalachian State University: Appalachian has already surpassed its 2021 goal for increased enrollment of rural students, by enrolling 5,833 in fall 2019. As members of a university community that is a leader in outreach and education in rural North Carolina, Appalachian faculty, students, and staff conduct research that builds and sustains relationships with North Carolina’s rural populations, particularly in northwestern North Carolina. Additionally, Appalachian’s community outreach and engagement efforts in rural areas have measurable impact.

To help attain our goal of increased rural enrollments, Appalachian has pursued recruitment efforts with community colleges and through student transition programs such as GEAR UP, the recently approved GEAR UP Guarantee program, and Upward Bound. Each academic year, more than 1,200 students at Appalachian participate in service-learning courses. These efforts build strong connections with the university’s surrounding communities. Since 2004, Appalachian contributed more than $25 million of value to communities in northwestern North Carolina through service-learning efforts. This commitment to community makes every student an ambassador for Appalachian in nearby communities, strengthening recruitment efforts. Other key recruitment tools that return value to rural communities in North Carolina include the addition of a police academy program in summer 2018 and the Appalachian State University Academy at Middle Fork in Walkertown, a partnership with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, which began in fall 2018, that offers services for grades K-5.

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Low-income Completions

By 2021-22, App State will produce 1,600 low-income graduates, an increase of 24.2% (312 additional low-income completions over a base of 1,288).

From Appalachian State University: Appalachian is on track in its efforts to increase the number of low-income graduates and compares favorably to its peer institutions in terms of value and affordability. Appalachian administrators are, however, keenly aware of the cost of a college education and the debt that some students incur while attaining an education at Appalachian. To this end, Appalachian has prioritized increasing the number and availability of need-based and merit-based scholarships for incoming and returning students. These are key fundraising efforts for the university as Appalachian seeks to provide students with the support they need for success in college and beyond.

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Rural Completions

By 2021-22, App State will produce 1,593 rural graduates, an increase of 16.2% (222 additional rural completions over a base of 1,371).*


From Appalachian State University: Appalachian is continuing its efforts to increase the number of graduates from rural areas. Data show strong rural enrollment and improved retention rates for rural students at Appalachian, with a narrowing gap between rural student retention and overall student retention.  Data also show that students are enrolling in and successfully completing the courses they need to graduate in four to five years. These are indicators for strong completion numbers in the next year, suggesting that this trend will hold. A key strategy for success in retention and completion rates is the university’s Early Intervention Team, a faculty- and staff-led entity that works with numerous support organizations and key campus personnel to intervene with students who are showing signs of difficulty adjusting to university life. This non-disciplinary process offers support and assistance, connecting students with resources that can help them address the challenges that arise in classes, residence halls, off-campus housing, or other contexts where students might face obstacles to success. Appalachian also has various wellness initiatives that encourage and support students’ holistic experience including physical, intellectual, social, emotional and financial health.

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Achievement Gaps

By 2021-22, App State will reduce by 50% the achievement gap in undergraduate degree efficiency among low-income students.

From Appalachian State University: Appalachian is aggressively pursuing ways to reduce the disparity in academic performance and time-to-degree between low-income and non-low-income students. Since fall 2017, the university has achieved significant improvement in this area. In addition to utilizing its Early Intervention Team model, Appalachian has increased its emphasis on workforce development at both undergraduate and graduate levels. The university’s Career Development Center staff conducted 195 classroom presentations on career exploration, planning, and readiness in 2018-19. The same year, 8,462 individual students participated in Career Development Center activities, such as career counseling, career fairs, and resume reviews. The center’s post-graduation data show that 98% of 2017-18 undergraduate alumni and 96% of 2017-18 graduate alumni are employed and/or enrolled in continuing higher education programs within one year of graduation.

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Critical Workforces

By 2021-22, App State will produce 2,257 critical workforce credentials, an increase of 29.6% (516 additional critical workforce credentials over a base of 1,741).*

From Appalachian State University: Appalachian continues to increase the number of critical workforce credentials in fields of health professions, teacher education, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Through rigorous academic program offerings, internationally recognized research, and extensive public outreach and engagement, Appalachian strives to position itself at the forefront of STEM education and activities in North Carolina. As demand in STEM fields increases, creativity is becoming the commodity of the future. Because of their reputation for creative problem-solving skills, curiosity, and on-the-spot innovation, Appalachian graduates are sought after by employers. Case in point: Appalachian’s Team Sunergy is setting the standard for leadership in the development of solar transportation technology, drawing international recognition to the university’s interdisciplinary approach to STEM education, and helping attract cutting edge companies like Tesla to its campus to recruit employees. Each year, on average, more than 500 individual employers visit Appalachian’s campus to recruit students of all majors.  Also, more than 6,800 employers are connected to Appalachian and approved to recruit students through the university’s online tool for job postings.

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From Appalachian State University: One important guiding value of the Strategic Plan is its emphasis on letting each institution’s unique mission within the UNC System drive its strategic metrics. Appalachian designated three of the nine metrics in the “Improve” category as secondary areas for increasing performance during the 2017-22 course of the UNC System Strategic Plan.

Low-income Enrollments

By fall 2021, App State will enroll 4,911 low-income students, a 9.3% increase over 2015 levels (419 additional low-income students over a base of 4,492).

From Appalachian State University: Appalachian is on track to surpass its 2021 goal for increasing enrollment of low-income students. Appalachian was founded on the principle of serving low-income and rural populations. The university offers need-based and merit-based scholarships, including the ACCESS Scholarship for students with high financial need. Keenly aware that more scholarships like this one are needed, Appalachian has prioritized increasing the number and availability of need-based and merit-based scholarships for incoming and returning students. These are key fundraising efforts for the university as Appalachian seeks to provide students with the support they need for success in college and beyond.

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Undergraduate Degree Efficiency

By 2021-22, App State will improve its undergraduate degree efficiency to 24.2 over a base of 23.3.

From Appalachian State University: Appalachian is on track to meet its goals for improving efficiency of degree completion for its overall undergraduate population. Appalachian’s “DegreeWorks” initiative sets a goal for all undergraduates to complete their degrees in four years. The initiative combines a web-based degree audit with face-to-face academic advising to provide constant organizational support for degree completion. Students can run scenarios using their current or potential degree programs to chart progress toward graduation and run “what if” scenarios to see how changing their current academic program (adding/deleting/changing majors, minors, etc.) would affect degree completion progress. Additional tools include real-time information, educational planning components, transparent course and credit transfer information, and GPA calculators to assist students in completing their degrees with the greatest possible efficiency. More efficiency yields faster time-to-degree, lower tuition payments, lower debt, and earlier entry into the job market — all of which bolster the value of an Appalachian education.

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Research Productivity

By 2021-22, App State will receive $18,279,664 in research and development sponsored program awards and licensing income, an increase of 15.8% ($2,500,000 additional over a base of $15,779,664).*

From Appalachian State University: Appalachian’s plans for expansion and improvements prioritize innovative research and learning, benefit the community, and position Appalachian as a leader among its peers. Appalachian’s faculty and staff are called upon for their expertise in areas as diverse as human performancerural health careinternational leadership training, student health and safety, and sustainability. In addition, Appalachian was a top producer in the nation of Fulbright Scholar awards in 2019. Appalachian’s students and alumni take their skills to the workforce and apply them to make real and powerful differences in their communities and beyond. Properties designated by the Board of Governors as having Millennial Campus status present opportunities to think and act creatively, quickly, and nimbly. They further Appalachian’s research capacity and its teaching and service mission, while also enhancing regional economic development. Appalachian’s Millennial Campus projects involve repurposing decommissioned property and re-envisioning inactive building sites, allowing the university to think strategically about how to operate as a campus while also meeting regional needs in the long term.

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From Appalachian State University: One important guiding value of the Strategic Plan is its emphasis on letting each institution’s unique mission within the UNC System drive its strategic metrics.  Appalachian designated one of the nine metrics in the “Sustain” category, a metric for continual monitoring. While this metric may not require additional resources for improvement during the 2017-22 course of the Strategic Plan, Appalachian seeks continual improvement in all areas and will work to improve in this category as well.

Five-year Graduation Rates

By 2022, App State will improve its five-year graduation rate from any accredited institution to 77.0%. This is an improvement over a base of 74.6% for App State’s 2010 cohort.

From Appalachian State University: Appalachian is well on its way to meeting this goal and employs numerous strategies to streamline the learning paths for its students. These include advising tools to help students “Finish in Four,” an early intervention team and financial literacy in the co-curricular experience. In addition to the statewide articulation agreements between North Carolina community colleges and state universities, Appalachian also has individual articulation agreements with 10 community colleges and a co-admission program with nearby Caldwell Community College. Appalachian’s faculty, staff, and students share a commitment to student success.

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