Five-year Goals and Associated Interim Benchmarks

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, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has identified these contributions that University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill aspires to make to the UNC Strategic Plan over the next five years.


Rural Enrollments

By fall 2021, UNC-Chapel Hill will enroll 4,140 rural students, a 5.0% increase over 2016 levels (198 additional rural students over a base of 3,942).

From UNC-Chapel Hill: In fall 2018, 40% of new first-year undergraduates from North Carolina were from rural counties, and UNC-Chapel Hill is committed to increasing that number even as total undergraduate residential enrollment remains steady. This commitment is consistent with other efforts to increase college access for rural North Carolinians. The Carolina College Advising Corps, founded in 2007, helps thousands of rural North Carolinians find their way to college each year by placing recent UNC-Chapel Hill graduates as college advisers in 77 high schools statewide. This video highlights the program’s impact during its first decade. The Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP) partners with 14 North Carolina community colleges, most of them in rural counties, to foster access and success for low- to moderate-income students. C-STEP recently expanded, thanks to a $1.1 million grant from the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation. The program also added Richmond Community College to its partner ranks in 2019.

Low-income Completions

By 2021-22, UNC-Chapel Hill will produce 1,223 low-income graduates, an increase of 14.4% (155 additional low-income completions over a base of 1,078).

From UNC-Chapel Hill: UNC-Chapel Hill has found that increasing low-income completions requires evidence-based admissions practices, individualized, proactive academic and personal support, and financial aid that meets full demonstrated need. In 2003, UNC-Chapel Hill created the Carolina Covenant, which promises eligible low-income students the opportunity to earn their degrees without debt, provided they work part-time. The Covenant also offers mentoring, academic and personal support services, and other resources to help guide students to on-time graduation. Since the program started, the completion rate for Covenant Scholars has increased dramatically, from 57% to 78%, and Scholars have excelled at UNC-Chapel Hill and beyond. In 2017, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation awarded UNC-Chapel Hill its $1 million Equity in Education Prize as the first public university to be so honored for “doing an outstanding job of admitting and graduating high-achieving, low-income students.”

Five-year Graduation Rates

By 2022, UNC-Chapel Hill will improve its five-year graduation rate from any accredited institution to 94.0%. This is an improvement over a base of 91.7% for UNC-CH’s 2010 cohort.

From UNC-Chapel Hill: Although UNC-Chapel Hill’s graduation rates remain among the nation’s highest, the university is fully committed to further improvement. In support of this commitment, and as part of Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good, the new strategic plan, the university is working to strengthen the success of students even further by implementing significant improvements in support services.

Critical Workforces

By 2021-22, UNC-Chapel Hill will produce 3,769 critical workforce credentials, an increase of 11.9% (400 additional critical workforce credentials over a base of 3,369).

From UNC-Chapel Hill: UNC-Chapel Hill is among the UNC System’s largest contributors to the talent pool of professionals with degrees in health sciences, STEM fields, and education, which are vital to meet North Carolina’s workforce requirements. Among the initiatives in Carolina Next:  Innovations for Public Good, the university’s new strategic plan, is fully integrating career preparation into all students’ experiences, and extending career development to alumni. The university’s Quality Enhancement Plan, Connecting, Doing, Making, is improving learning in the sciences by engaging more students in hands-on, faculty-guided research, inside and outside of the classroom, well before they graduate. Over 60% of graduating seniors have conducted mentored independent research during college, and many students gain workplace experience serving as apprentices and collaborators in faculty labs. At the graduate and professional level, UNC-Chapel Hill awards a broad range of highly valued and sought-after post-baccalaureate credentials in health sciences, STEM, and education.

Research Productivity

By 2021-22, UNC-Chapel Hill will receive $905,349,456 in research and development sponsored program awards and licensing income, an increase of 7.4% ($62,700,000 additional over a base of $842,649,456).

From UNC-Chapel Hill: UNC-Chapel Hill is the nation’s 12th largest research university and ranks 5th for federal research dollars awarded. A diverse array of research includes strengths in biomedical, pharmaceutical and health sciences, computer and data science, social sciences, and physical and mathematical sciences. Supporting key themes in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Next:  Innovations for Public Good strategic plan, campus research has generated a total of 896 U.S. patents and 222 active start-up businesses. UNC research has produced 188 start-ups in North Carolina that provide jobs for 9,616 state residents. Research activity on campus employs another 10,210 North Carolinians in 81 counties. Faculty have included two Nobel laureates and over 150 members of the most distinguished national academies and learned societies. Research at Carolina ranges from ground-breaking cancer treatments developed at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center to the $230 million MEASURE Evaluation project, which assesses the global impact of U.S. foreign aid. In 2019, UNC-Chapel Hill researchers were awarded a $9.5 million National Institutes of Health grant to co-lead a new effort to detect autism in children sooner.


Low-income Enrollments

By fall 2021, UNC-Chapel Hill will enroll 3,508 low-income students, a 4.2% increase over 2015 levels (140 additional low-income students over a base of 3,368).

From UNC-Chapel Hill: Nationwide, less than 50% of low-income students who are admitted to a postsecondary institution decide to enroll. The Carolina College Advising Corps reaches 23% of low-income public high school students in North Carolina, offering assistance with admission, financial aid, and scholarship applications. UNC-Chapel Hill’s commitment to meet the full demonstrated financial need of admitted students is also  critical to enrolling more students from low-income households. The Carolina Covenant plays an important role in attracting students from low-income families by promising qualifying students a path to debt-free graduation, as well as providing a  supportive community and crucial academic services. As part of the Covenant, scholarships made possible through the Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge, including the recently announced Lt. Col. Bernard Dibbert Scholarships as part of the For All Kind: the Campaign for Carolina, offer financial support to low-income students who are  dependents of active-duty military or veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. UNC-Chapel Hill also partners with 14 community colleges across North Carolina through its Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP) to help community college students from financially challenged families transfer to and graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill. C-STEP currently works with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Southwestern Community College, expanding the program to the most economically distressed counties in southwestern North Carolina. Thanks to a $1.1 million grant from the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, C-STEP also recently expanded to foster more opportunity for low-income North Carolinians who are interested in STEM fields.

Rural Completions

By 2021-22, UNC-Chapel Hill will produce 1,108 rural graduates, an increase of 9.4% (95 additional rural completions over a base of 1,013).

From UNC-Chapel Hill: UNC-Chapel Hill is committed to enrolling and graduating more rural North Carolinians, using evidence-based admissions practices, individualized academic and personal support, and financial aid that meets students’ full demonstrated need. Proven programs such as Project Uplift, the Carolina Covenant, the Carolina College Advising Corps, and the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP) encourage students to prepare for the academic rigor of a research university and then enroll, succeed academically, and graduate on time. The university’s state-of-the-art classroom pedagogies and high-impact educational opportunities for students, in STEM and other academic areas, prepare students for success in their majors and for timely completion of their degrees.

Achievement Gaps in Undergraduate Degree Efficiency

By 2021-22, UNC-Chapel Hill will reduce by 50% the achievement gap in undergraduate degree efficiency between male students and female students.

From UNC-Chapel Hill: The most remarkable gains among Carolina Covenant Scholars have been made by men. These gains have been especially pronounced among black and African American men, whose graduation rates have nearly doubled since the Covenant was established in 2003. Support programs designed to students during all aspects of their college lives help address graduation and retention issues for students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in higher education and welcomes any individual interested in participating. Student-success professionals on campus support all students on their path to graduation by encouraging them to identify their individual strengths and to take full advantage of campus resources designed to help them succeed.


Undergraduate Degree Efficiency

By 2021-22, UNC-Chapel Hill will improve its undergraduate degree efficiency to 25.7 over a base of 24.6.

From UNC-Chapel Hill: Through admissions and financial-aid practices, as well as the commitment of faculty and staff, UNC-Chapel Hill encourages students to complete their degrees efficiently, thus reducing expenses to themselves, their families, and the people of North Carolina. One measure of this efficiency is UNC-Chapel Hill’s strong graduation rates. Among new first-year students who enrolled in 2014, 85.6% graduated in four years. Another indicator is degree efficiency, which is measured by the number of degrees earned per 100 full-time-equivalent students. Higher enrollments of transfer students tend to increase degree efficiency, as does summer study, which the university is working to expand through scholarships.

Click here to be notified when there are updates about the Strategic Plan and dashboards.