Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center focuses on a new strategic plan for the UNC system.

In January of this year, the University of North Carolina (UNC) Board of Governors unanimously adopted a system-wide strategic plan commissioned by President Spellings. The plan, entitled Higher Expectations, provides an outline of specific goals and metrics that are aimed to help the University prioritize its efforts in the next five years, essentially functioning as the University’s decision-making “roadmap.”

The University’s goals and metrics are laid out in a clear and precise way, though little is known yet about actual policies except that much of the implementation will be pushed back to the constituent campuses. But the “devil is in the details,” and now that some of the specifics are known, it appears that many of the goals may be unrealistic.

In developing the plan, Spellings and her team consulted student, faculty, and public feedback via online surveys and public forums held at each of the 17 university campuses. One open forum was held at UNC-Chapel Hill on November 10, 2016. Yet, public feedback in such surveys and forums tends to come from those with vested and political interests rather than a true representation of the population.

The plan highlights five main themes: Affordability, Accessibility and Efficiency, Student Success, Economic Impact and Community Engagement, Excellent and Diverse Institutions. Within each of these broad areas, the plan lists two or three goals that it aims to achieve by the 2021-22 academic year.

The major impression of the plan and the subsequent discussion is that the current UNC administration is adopting an expansive approach similar to Spellings’s predecessors regarding the university system’s role in the state. This approach includes an aggressive commitment to system growth, expansion into new endeavors, and redistributive social policies.