Margaret Spellings came to North Carolina as president of the University of North Carolina system last year with an already-firm belief in making higher education accessible and affordable for as many students as possible.
She understands that by 2020, 65 percent of U.S. jobs will require some form of higher education, so it is vitally important that we equip more North Carolinians with degrees and/or skills. North Carolina businesses need the talent.
President Spellings took her positive outlook to all 17 university campuses and came to appreciate the unique niche each one serves.
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She then oversaw the drafting of a strategic plan for the University that places a renewed emphasis on access, affordability and completion – not just enrolling students but graduating them as well with the degrees that are key to a middle-class lifestyle today. The UNC Board of Governors participated in developing the plan and adopted it unanimously.
Now is not the time to deviate from that plan or undermine Margaret Spellings’ efforts.
The University System has been blessed in the past with quality leaders like William Friday. We have a quality leader in President Spellings, an experienced administrator on the national stage who was selected from a national pool.
Quality leaders need to be given latitude to operate. The boards of well-run companies give general direction and guidance. Then they step back and give their executives the freedom they need to implement the board’s plans and policies.
For the sake of our state’s economy, its public universities and most of all our state’s children, the UNC Board of Governors and all of us need to support Margaret Spellings and her efforts to remove barriers to a college degree.
Hugh McColl of Charlotte is the former chairman and CEO of Bank of America. He wrote this for Higher Education Works Foundation, which conducts research about public higher education in North Carolina.