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Originally published: 2013-02-11 09:47:13
Last modified: 2013-02-11 12:55:28

UNC board OKs strategic plan, ASU tuition increases

by Anna Oakes

The University of North Carolina system Board of Governors on Friday approved a five-year strategic plan for the university system -- "Our Time, Our Future: The UNC Compact with North Carolina" -- as well as a slate of tuition and fee increases.

An advisory committee of administrators, chancellors, business leaders and one representative each for faculty, students and staff met from September to January to develop the strategic plan, which will set priorities and guide funding recommendations for the 17-campus system through 2018.

"We must strategically invest in areas that will most directly support progress toward degree attainment, educational quality, research excellence and heightened productivity and performance," states a letter from UNC Board of Governors Chairman Peter Hans and UNC President Tom Ross. "These investments must be grounded in demonstrated needs, as evidenced through close evaluation of reliable data."

The plan establishes five primary goals with strategies and action steps:

1. Increase attainment of bachelor's degrees or higher to 32 percent by 2018; 

2. Strengthen academic quality through admission requirements, core competencies, standardized assessments, e-learning and other means; 

3. Serve the people of North Carolina by investing in research that creates value and solves problems; translating discoveries and insights into action, policy and products; meeting health-care needs through innovative research, training and outreach; and forming seven consortia in pharmacoengineering, data science, advanced manufacturing, energy, defense and military, culture and tourism and applied public policy;

4. Maximize efficiencies by centralizing and consolidating some programs and administrative services and with performance-based funding; 

5. Ensure an accessible and financially stable university.

The plan includes budget recommendations for the plan's strategies and action steps; after cost savings, the total five-year investment would total $650.5 million, the plan states. However, state funding appropriations to the UNC system are ultimately determined by the General Assembly.

The plan says that by 2025, the system's returns on its investment will be $1.46 billion in economic activity, including $934 million in new grants and contracts, 125 new companies, 375 new patents, 23,000 jobs, 93,000 net new degrees and $350 million in enrollment costs avoided by reducing attempted hours to degree.

In January, members of Appalachian State University's Faculty Senate expressed concerns the plan, including a lack of value for liberal arts, problems with using standardized tests as a lone measure for student assessment and the lack of faculty representation on the strategic plan advisory committee.

Joni Worthington, UNC vice president for communications, said the final plan adopted Friday incorporated "considerable feedback from faculty," including strengthening language about the system's commitment to academic freedom. 

But many of the strategies about which faculty expressed concerns, including standardized testing, e-learning and the hiring of a few "rainmaker" faculty, mostly in the sciences, remain intact.

The Board of Governors also approved tuition and fee increases at the system's 17 campuses as presented, Worthington said.

According to board materials, the combined increase in tuition and fees for in-state students at ASU will be $394 in 2013-14, a 6.6 percent increase. Out-of-state increases will amount to $554, a 3.1 percent increase.