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Press Release


October 26, 2018

CHAPEL HILL, NC – University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings announced her resignation today. She has agreed to continue serving through March 1, 2019.

“North Carolina’s public universities are the lifeblood of the state. They are pillars of communities, drivers of economies, and paths to opportunity for people of every age and background. The state’s commitment to higher education is what drew me here three years ago, and it’s what propelled me forward every day on the job,” said President Margaret Spellings. “I will forever be honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve alongside our terrific chancellors, faculty, staff, students and our Boards of Trustees and Board of Governors.”

“Together, we held tuition in check; opened the doors to more rural, low-income, and first-generation students; and earned deeper support than ever from our lawmakers and the public. We’ve kept our focus on the core challenges facing North Carolina, and we’ve made real progress.”

Under President Spellings’ leadership, the UNC System capped tuition and implemented NC Promise, created a new national model for accountability and transparency, modernized its data systems, and shifted its focus as a System to tackle key issues of upward mobility and economic impact in all 100 counties.

In partnership with the Board, President Spellings led the creation of a new Strategic Plan, Higher Expectations, which holds institutions accountable for hitting ambitious targets to lower achievement gaps, increase graduation rates, and broaden college access. In the plan’s first year, the System improved on nearly all performance metrics including graduation rates, rural and low-income student completions, research productivity, and critical workforce degrees.

“The Board is grateful and appreciative to Margaret for her service, commitment, and dedication to the University and the state,” said Harry Smith, Chair of the UNC Board of Governors. “Under Margaret’s strong and capable leadership, we have worked together to achieve a lot of great things – keeping college affordable, holding ourselves and our institutions accountable, and getting the facts, data, and details we need to be world-class. Moving forward, we’re focused on a healthy transition from President to Interim, a positive departure for the President, and continued progress on our shared goals and initiatives.”

In a meeting of the Board of Governors earlier today, the Board considered and adopted a separation package for the President. Following the meeting, the President and Board Chair spoke to press. Read the President’s remarks below.

“All leaders are for a time,” added President Spellings. “I  came into this position knowing that the most lasting contribution I could make was to help create a culture of higher expectations for the citizens of this state–and we have done just that.”

The UNC Board of Governors is working to identify an interim President and expects to announce details on the appointment in the coming weeks.


President’s Remarks to the Press, October 26, 2018

Good afternoon.

After nearly three years of significant progress on behalf of the citizens of North Carolina, I have decided to step down as President of the UNC System effective March 1, 2019.

All leaders are for a time. When I was hired in October of 2015, the Board made their expectations clear and over the past three years my team and I, in partnership with the Board of Governors, our Boards of Trustees, and our chancellors, have met those expectations.

I am proud of the people around me. I am proud of the faculty, the staff, and the students that make up the UNC System. I am proud of our Chancellors, and I am proud of my team here at the System Office. I am proud of the work we have done and all that we have accomplished.

Together, we have defied national trends on key issues of affordability and accountability.

Together, we developed a muscular and measurable strategic plan with institution-specific performance agreements and publicly available dashboards that have created accountability and transparency and laid the foundation for years to come.

Together, we put a lid on tuition, implementing NC Promise, implementing fixed tuition for students who are continuously enrolled, and passing two years of no tuition hikes for resident students.

Together, we strengthened each of our institutions, raising enrollments, raising graduation rates, increasing completions for underserved groups including low-income and rural students. We are graduating more students in critical workforce areas and increasing external research funding.

Our state’s confidence in this world-class System is clear. The General Assembly invested in us with the strongest budget in a decade, and taxpayers have invested in us through the ConnectNC Bond, the first buildings of which have now opened for students.

All of this has happened over the past three years in the midst of a changing landscape buffeted by the urgent issues of the day. As a System, we have adapted and evolved to meet the times.

We’ve elevated the System platform and rebranded as the unified, statewide System that we are. And we’ve used our platform to better tell the story of our University.

We’ve brought together thought leaders from across the state to connect the education continuum like never before. Initiatives like the myFutureNC Commission, our teacher preparation efforts, and the Financial Aid Study Group are examples of the statewide coalitions we have created.

I came into this position intent on creating a culture of higher expectations and that shift is underway.

But, times change and those changes demand new leaders and new approaches.

I will leave proud of the contributions made during my tenure and forever honored to have served.

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel this state and meet its best and brightest. This university is the state’s most important asset; its mightiest engine.

The students, the faculty, the staff, and the leaders of the UNC System are among the most dedicated, talented, and inspiring individuals I have known, and they are the lifeblood of what we do.

Great leaders have come before and great leaders will follow. Our public institutions are more important today than ever before, and when we are given the opportunity to steward them, to make them a little stronger than they were, we must take that responsibility solemnly and treat it with the gravity it demands.

I’m proud to have carried the torch during a period of reform and progress. A period when we’ve focused on extending economic mobility for every North Carolinian.

On higher expectations and accountability for our students and taxpayers.

And on serving and meeting the public good.

Tomorrow’s leaders are in our universities right now. They’re our graduates. And I hope they are watching and believing that leaders can put aside differences, work together for common goals, and put the needs of the institution first.

As I make this decision, my top priority – and the top priority of this Board – is to maintain and uphold the people, the mission, and the reputation of the UNC System and work to ensure a smooth transition.