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 School of the Arts has identified these contributions that University of North Carolina School of the Arts aspires to make to the UNC Strategic Plan over the next five years.


Rural Enrollments

By fall 2021, UNCSA will enroll 150 rural students, a 7% increase over 2016 levels (10 additional rural students over a base of 140).*

Update: UNCSA has increased rural enrollment 9% since fall 2015; while this falls just short of the annual benchmark for fall 2019, UNCSA is on track to meet the plan’s 2021 goal.

From UNC School of the Arts: UNCSA is North Carolina’s only university devoted entirely to training talented students to become professional artists in the fields of dance, design and production, drama, filmmaking, and music. To ensure that every young artist from Cherokee County to Dare County considers the unique opportunities available at the School of the Arts, UNCSA has instituted new admissions and recruitment strategies. Admissions hired two new counselors to expand the school’s geographical reach within North Carolina and increase the depth of experience for each arts discipline. In addition, UNCSA is participating in the Carolinas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (CACRAO) recruitment tours and conducting private visits in rural counties. Strategic Communications manages robust digital marketing campaigns to reach and inform a more diverse audience of prospective students than ever. These leads are managed with Technolutions’ Slate, a recently established comprehensive admissions management platform. This system has centralized our admissions communications, allowing print, email, and text messages to be sent to targeted prospective students, timed at key moments throughout the recruitment and admissions cycle. Slate’s integrated admissions-specific tools help UNCSA address strategic enrollment goals by providing a small admissions team with accessible, robust, and cutting-edge technology.

* Numbers were re-estimated due to technical errors. 

Rural Completions

By 2021-22, UNCSA will produce 21 rural graduates, an increase of 31.3% (5 additional rural completions over a base of 16).

Update: UNCSA is ahead of its 2018-19 target and on track to surpass the 2021-22 plan goal.

From UNCSA: Given the rigorous artistic training that is at the heart of the UNCSA student experience, the artistic lens is infused in every aspect of our student success matrix. Now in its third year, Student Advantage Week (SAW) is designed to help incoming students meet new challenges, hone their artistic identities, foster community, and build a network of support systems on campus. Again this year, 40 percent of SAW attendees were from rural counties. These students continue to engage with support systems throughout the year, including regular intersections with a graduate student coach. Graduate student coaches engage in ongoing training in motivational interviewing and other student support techniques. A UNC System Student Success grant facilitated the design and implementation of the program, which is now fully funded by the university.

A substantial reorganization of our Student Affairs division has allowed us to imagine new ways of building collaboration between Academic and Student Affairs, with a critical focus on student well-being, mental health, and student success. We are currently seeking to add an academic case manager to the student support staff, in order to proactively monitor and support students.

Five-year Graduation Rates

By 2022, UNCSA will improve its five-year graduation rate from any accredited institution to 70.6%. This is an improvement over a base of 67.6% for UNCSA’s 2010 cohort.

Update: UNCSA has a five-year graduation rate of 77.3%, surpassing the 2021-22 plan goal by almost 7 percentage points.

From UNCSA: Every new undergraduate student at UNCSA has applied directly to one of five majors and has undergone a personalized application process that includes an interview with faculty and either an audition or a portfolio review. This process allows faculty to build a specific cohort of students for study in their discipline. The cohort model builds a shared experience for students, creating strong success norms. Individual development occurs within the construct of a larger group process, where the entire cohort advances together. A specifically tailored Academic Early Warning system, utilizing a case management software already in use in Student Affairs, allows for timely communication and tracking of any academic concerns.

Achievement Gaps in Undergraduate Degree Efficiency

By 2021-22, UNCSA will reduce by 50% the achievement gap in undergraduate degree efficiency between rural and non-rural students.

Update: UNCSA has surpassed its 2021-22 plan goal to graduate rural students more efficiently.

From UNCSA: Emotional well-being is critical to closing achievement gaps in undergraduate degree efficiency among rural students, who may not have had access to adequate mental health care growing up. UNCSA received a UNC System Behavioral Health grant for $29,800, which paid for the JED Foundation to create a comprehensive strategic plan for mental health and well-being on our campus. Based on this proposal, Student Affairs is creating its own strategic plan that focuses on “student well-being.” In addition, the division has created a “male students of color” group to provide emotional health support as part of the Equity in Mental Health initiative through JED Campus and the Steve Fund. This initiative has been well-received and is helping to build relationships across the five arts schools. 

In addition, three staff members in Student Affairs have begun to train and certify members of the campus community in “Mental Health First Aid” so that faculty and staff will be ready to assist someone experiencing a mental health or substance-related crisis. Participants in the program learn risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, strategies for how to help, and information about where to find expertise. The Mental Health First Aid approach teaches about recovery and resiliency and is guided by the core belief that individuals experiencing these challenges can and do get better, and use their strengths to stay well.

Critical Workforces

By 2021-22, UNCSA will produce 14 critical workforce credentials (14 additional critical workforce credentials over a base of 0).

Update: Achievement of this goal has been postponed due to delays in the establishment of two new programs targeting critical workforces.

From UNCSA: The latest figures by the National Endowment for the Arts show that the creative economy contributes $804 billion to the U.S. economy. UNCSA is training a highly skilled workforce for a multibillion-dollar global enterprise, which has unbounded potential for wealth and job creation in North Carolina. Supported in part by a $10-million private gift directed toward performance innovation, UNCSA is in the final stages of development for a new two-year MFA concentration in its School of Filmmaking in Immersive Technologies, focusing on augmented and virtual reality and gaming, and a new three-year MFA concentration in its School of Design and Production in Animatronics, using robotics to bring inanimate creatures/creations to life on stage, film, television, and in themed entertainment. In their final year of study at UNCSA, all students build school-supported connections to the profession through interview/audition training, showcases, portfolio reviews, and on-campus job fairs. The School of Dance continues to garner national recognition for its Choreographic Institute, while the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute in the School of Music launches young opera singers directly into the industry. To support these efforts, UNCSA’s comprehensive campaign has set a goal of $18 million for innovation, designed to combine fundamental training with advances in technology and technique.


Low-income Enrollments

By fall 2021, UNCSA will enroll 182 low-income students, a 7.7% increase over 2015 levels (13 additional low-income students over a base of 169).

Update: UNCSA surpassed the plan goal last year and met this year’s bench mark goal to increase low-income enrollment 7.7%.

From UNCSA: To ensure that UNCSA is selecting the best and brightest student artists from North Carolina, regardless of their financial resources, scholarship support was prioritized to make up the largest pillar ($25 million) of the university’s current comprehensive campaign, which was publicly launched in 2019. Institutional scholarships constitute an important segment of financial aid packages. At UNCSA, scholarships can be awarded for artistic merit or demonstrated financial need. In fall 2019, 48% of undergraduate students received institutional scholarships averaging more than $4,200 each for the school year. During the same time, 81% of undergraduates who had demonstrated need received scholarships and grants. 

UNCSA is also bolstering its outreach to disadvantaged areas. Dedicated to serving its neighbors through the power of artistic engagement, the Office of Community Engagement’s ArtistCorps program currently has 37 student members serving in our local community with ongoing arts instruction, integration, and exposure. This year, ArtistCorps is serving 186 resource-challenged pre-K children with daily to twice-weekly instruction; 1,072 elementary students at Title I schools with weekly engagement; and 519 middle and high school students at Title I schools and charter schools with weekly arts services. Since 2015, participants in ArtistCorps have served 60,608 hours in total. While the work is valuable on its own, we also understand that it increases awareness of the opportunities that a college education affords, especially in underserved communities.

Low-income Completions

By 2021-22, UNCSA will produce 43 low-income graduates, an increase of 30.3% (10 additional low-income completions over a base of 33).

Update: UNCSA surpassed the plan goal last year and maintained that number of low-income enrollments this year.

From UNCSA: Known for its high-performing students and top-caliber performances, UNCSA offers a rigorous training program for student artists who seek to become professional artists. UNCSA has implemented an “early warning program” in each of its five arts schools to engage students who are in danger of failing to make progress in their art or their liberal arts requirements. 

UNCSA has also implemented an early intervention program to identify and assist students at risk due to personal issues. Student Affairs is currently serving more than 40 students through the Pickle Pantry food bank and is expanding services to students who have meal plans but may be in need of personal hygiene items or snacks. A partnership between Aramark and Auxiliary Services, aided by donated meal credits, has resulted in more than 200 meals for food-insecure students during the academic year. UNCSA’s volunteer group, The Associates, has set up monthly food drives for low-income students. 

The university has also been assisting several students through its Student Affairs emergency fund, which assists with short-term emergency grants for such basic needs as rent, utilities, car repairs, and medical bills. The financial aid director and case management work with these students to develop a long-term plan of sustainable budgeting.

Undergraduate Degree Efficiency

By 2021-22, UNCSA will improve its undergraduate degree efficiency to 20.0 over a base of 19.1.

Update: UNCSA has exceeded both its 2018-19 target and the 2021-22 plan goal.

From UNC School of the Arts: Due to the structure of UNCSA curriculum, the four-year graduation rate is highly correlated with degree efficiency. Efforts to improve graduation rates are provided in Prioritize: Metric 3.


Research Productivity

By 2021-22, UNCSA will receive $151,018 in research and development sponsored program awards and licensing income, an increase of 5% ($7,171 additional over a five year average base of $143,847).

Update: UNCSA received $262,000 in 2019, more than the 2018 goal of $143,800 and more than the 2021-22 plan goal of $151,000.

From UNCSA: Through its highly ranked schools of Filmmaking and Design & Production, UNCSA has developed partnerships with industry leaders, resulting in guest lectures, internships, and in-kind gifts of hardware for current students. UNCSA is exploring research and development opportunities with these organizations and corporations. Specifically, UNCSA’s filmmaking program has launched the Media and Emerging Technology Lab (METL) as part of its foray into immersive technologies, and the program is led by Ryan Schmaltz, who was recruited from successful start-up technology leadership positions on the West Coast. UNCSA’s Design & Production program is developing the Institute for Performance Innovation as part of its venture into animatronics. The potential for building out these programs to supply emerging regional workforce needs is significant, according to a study by Boston Consulting Group, commissioned by UNCSA to examine the role of emerging technologies in the arts and related research and development opportunities. From medicine to national defense, industries are in search of creative content, and UNCSA graduates can provide this content through the perfect marriage of art and engineering. 

The recently established Division of Institutional Integrity will spearhead an initiative to curate the support of industry leaders and companies – partnering with UNCSA to change a culture that tolerates sexual exploitation, harassment, and discrimination in the performing arts and creative industries. Working in partnership with industry to effect this change will allow our students to start their professional careers in safer and more productive workplaces, which adhere to model business practices. Our students and industry partners will change the culture from within, by acting with purpose and ethics.

* The UNCSA results for several metrics are subject to substantial year-to-year variation reflecting the relatively small size of the UNCSA student population (about 1,300). Modest headcount variations often contribute relatively large percentage changes, contributing to fluctuations.

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