State Budget Brings Tuition Freeze Across UNC System

UNC’s graduating class of 2020 – the incoming freshmen of this year – can budget their four years of college spending a little easier than their older siblings. Now, the math is simple – just multiply tuition by four.

For the first time in the UNC system, students will pay the same amount of tuition during their first year of college as they will during their last, thanks to a new policy in the state budget that includes a tuition freeze across the system.

“For first year students, what it will mean is that the tuition he pays when he enrolls, when she enrolls, will be the tuition the student pays for four years,” said Steve Farmer, the vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions at UNC.

The in-state tuition freeze for all schools in the system, will create a guaranteed amount for all four years – which Farmer said translates to stability and consistency.

“There’ll be great predictability from start to finish of what a student will pay in terms of tuition.”

Farmer said the university will strive to keep tuition costs low over the course of the coming years, adding that adjustments to the tuition should be small and predictable.

“We’re going to have to work hard to make sure that we establish the right tuition levels for each entering class so that we can continue to fund the kind of experience our students want.”

UNC is currently limited by a cap on financial aid. No more than 15 percent of the revenue produced by tuition can be redistributed to students as financial aid. Despite the new tuition freeze, Farmer said the amount of financial aid given to students will not be affected.

“I don’t think financial aid is at risk in the legislation at all. And at the same time I think it’s not the price that we publish buts it’s the price they can afford to pay.”

Farmer said there are several factors that influence a student’s decision to attend a certain school. He listed the cost of tuition as one factor, but said student diversity, academic rigor and extracurricular programs are also important to the student body.

“We also pay attention to cost, but we’re also obligated to pay attention to something else. And that something else is the quality of the experience that we offer our students, so every single student at Carolina benefits from our ability to make sure every student gets into Carolina to attend.”

The tuition freeze is effective this fall across all 16 universities in the system, affecting more than 40,000 incoming students.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/state-budget-brings-tuition-freeze-across-unc-system

Spellings Completes ‘Inspiring’ 100 Day Tour of UNC System

A lot has happened around North Carolina since Margaret Spellings was installed as UNC System President on March 1.

Protests were held across the state to mark her first day on the job and those have continued at UNC Board of Governors meetings. And Spellings pushed for those board meetings to be streamed live to increase accessibility and instituted the first public comment sessions in board history.

While Spellings could anticipate protests continuing during the early portion of her tenure, there were some things she could not foresee when taking the job – including North Carolina being thrust into the national spotlight over House Bill 2, which was passed by the General Assembly in late March.

While the legal battle continues over the controversial legislation that requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facility that matches their birth certificate rather than their gender identity, Spellings has now visited all 17 campuses in the UNC System, traveling 3,877 miles on her “Around the State in 100 Days” tour.

Spellings said in an interview on Monday, “The incredible diversity of the system really stands out, from a world-class – literally world-class – school of the arts to HBCUs to research institutions, healthcare innovators…anything you could possibly think of in your little pea-brain about what might be at issue in our world is really being tackled in these institutions.

“And it’s inspiring.”

Listen to the full interview with Spellings below:

 

Spellings said she has “loved” meeting with students across the system and that “if you don’t like working with students, this is the wrong business for you.”

Spellings said she has been impressed with how informed and engaged students have been with issues impacting each campus.

“It strikes me how much young people really are in touch with their voice, their views, their opportunities to speak out and be heard by the adults, to be partners, to understand that they own these institutions.”

Some students protested during Spellings’ visit to campuses, saying that she was only meeting with previously selected students and was not getting a full picture of concerns at the university level.

Spellings said the selections of student representatives were made at the university level and acknowledged “I know that’s just the tip of the iceberg and there’s more to do,” while saying she wanted to continue engaging with students, faculty and staff across the system.

One new avenue of engagement has been the institution of public comment sessions at the Board of Governors meetings; the first of which was held on May 30 – the Friday before Memorial Day.

“It really surprised me when I first got here that this entity – a public entity – did not really have a formal process for public and citizen input,” Spellings said.

Spellings added she expects the public input session to “develop” as there are more opportunities and students are back on campus in the fall.

Some protesters have maintained their objection to Spellings being chosen as the System President to replace Tom Ross, to which Spellings said, “And I suspect they’re going to say that for the next, you know, five years.”

Others have voiced specific concerns to the direction of the University System under Spellings’ leadership, specifically, integrating performance-based metrics to evaluate faculty. Spellings said that she welcomes discussion on policy concerns that stakeholders may have through the public comment sessions or reaching out directly to the President.

Spellings added she did sense a common concern when on her system tour.

“What I heard over and over and over is that our students and taxpayers and families and citizens want and expect us to be transparent about price and cost and financial aid and value in life and in the marketplace.

“And I think we owe them that.”

http://chapelboro.com/featured/spellings-completes-inspiring-100-day-tour-of-unc-system

A jackass or a carpenter?

“Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build one.”

Using a saying from UNC President Margaret Spellings’s native Texas, one attributed to Sam Rayburn, the long-time speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tom Lambeth was beginning his tribute to Spellings’s predecessor, Tom Ross.

In an evening filled with irony, Spellings and the UNC Board of Governors, with genuine grace, hosted a dinner last Thursday honoring Ross with the university’s highest award, the University Award.

Tom Ross UNC System

Tom Ross. Photo via Blake Hodge.

The words describing Ross’s leadership and demeanor as a judge, foundation executive, and higher education leader contrasted profoundly with the styles of some currently competing for the nation’s highest office.

In an eloquent opening prayer, Ross’s minister, Robert Dunham, gave God thanks, “This night, among all the gifts you provide, we give particular thanks for the life and of the mind in the pursuit of truth and for learning as a doorway to a civil society. We give particular thanks for Tom Ross, who has embodied such gifts throughout his life, and especially his leadership of the University these last years. We give thanks for his integrity, his wise heart, his embodiment of decency and civility, his passion for justice and fairness. And we pray that you would strengthen him for the important task now before him in the arena of public policy and government. We pray, too, for President Spellings and the Board of Governors, whose charge it is to keep our universities true to their heritage, get poised for the future ever opening before them. In these demanding and contentious times we pray for their good judgment and wise discretion.”

Later came Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation director emeritus Tom Lambeth’s tribute to Ross that began with Sam Rayburn’s story. Lambeth continued, “Throughout our history we have never suffered from a lack of jackasses; but we have found our salvation in a host of accomplished carpenters.  Tom is one of those carpenters.

“Two legendary North Carolina governors provide for us the best human summation of the state that Tom Ross has served so well. In quoting them I can describe Tom as well. One, Zeb Vance, found us a people of sober second thought; the other, Terry Sanford, found us a people of outrageous ambitions.

“We meet tonight at a university that was this state’s first outrageous ambition. Its creation dared to assert that a relatively poor state could build a university that is both excellent and accessible. And so it is. Tom has had something to do with that.

“Somewhere between the sober second thought of North Carolinians and their outrageous ambitions we have…in the main…in the long run…come down on the right side of history. We will go there again.”

Focusing on Ross, Lambeth continued, “With his grace, his good sense, his courage and his commitment to public service, he provides for us a model of that noble aspiration to serve others. Along the way he has paid us the greatest compliment one in public life can pay to those whom he serves: he has asked us for our best.

“Tom Ross has a victorious heart. Tonight we celebrate his accomplishments of today and we can only imagine what will come with tomorrow. We can, however, be certain that there will be more to celebrate. There will surely be more.”

As I left the dinner, I had the distinct feeling that every other person there, of whatever political persuasion, was wishing that candidates for our country’s presidency would show promise to lead like Ross, with “grace, his good sense, his courage and his commitment to public service” and with “his integrity, his wise heart, his embodiment of decency and civility, his passion for justice and fairness.”

http://chapelboro.com/columns/one-on-one/a-jackass-or-a-carpenter

HB2 and HBCUs Among Topics at First UNC Board of Governors Public Comment Session

For the first time ever, public comment was taken at the conclusion of the UNC Board of Governors meeting just before the Memorial Day Weekend.

About 30 minutes after the regular meeting wrapped up on Friday, several members of the board migrated to another room at the Center for School Leadership Development at the Friday Center to hear from members of the public.

Over the last 18 months, the board has come under increased scrutiny following the removal of Tom Ross as System President, the subsequent search for his replacement that led to Margaret Spellings and controversial pieces of legislation from the General Assembly that some feel has targeted the HBCUs across the 17-campus system.

The first person to speak was no surprise to those who have been following the contentious board meetings in recent months – Altha Cravey, a professor at UNC – Chapel Hill.

Cravey has been a constant face at board meetings and rallies on the UNC campus to voice opposition to the newly installed President Spellings.

“I want to thank the board,” Cravey began, “and I want to thank the individual members here today, each of you, for being here with us and for listening to public comments.

“I think this is a really important step.”

Cravey asked the board to move at a slower pace when making changes to the system. Cravey was also critical of laws that were recently passed or are currently being considered by the North Carolina General Assembly.

“They are a thinly veiled attack on our historically black universities,” Cravey said. “And we will defend them; the public will defend will defend them and professors and students will defend them.”

Cravey also asked the board not to hire outside legal counsel to fight HB2, which the board announced just moments before that they had done, but instead to ignore the state law and follow federal guidelines.

Public comment period at UNC Board of Governors meeting. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Public comment period at UNC Board of Governors meeting. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Several themes developed among the nine speakers. Many said thank you to the board for installing the public comment sessions before voicing grievances over legislation and what some view as the “corporatization” of the University System.

Spellings told reporters that there is a policy in place to get the comments in front of the entire board for future consideration.

“Our plan is for a readout of the public comment period to be presented to the board at the subsequent meeting,” Spellings said. She added there are “boundaries” to the public comments being allowed, saying it would not focus on “grade assignments or anything like that” but rather “public policy that we can deal in.”

Board chair Lou Bissette said these sessions will be a mainstay going forward.

“We’re going to do this at every regular meeting,” he said. “And I think it’s going to be great for us and for people who want to come in and give us their thoughts.”

Nine speakers signed up for the public comment session on Friday, but that number is likely to grow as the fall approaches and students are back on campuses across the state.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/hb2-and-hbcus-among-topics-at-first-unc-board-of-governors-public-comment-session

UNC Board of Governors Hires Legal Counsel, Asks Attorney General to Pay For It

With the ongoing legal battles over North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, the UNC System has hired outside legal counsel.

UNC leadership announced on Friday that the system had hired two Washington D.C.-based law firms to represent the system and the Board of Governors concerning the lawsuits over HB2; the law, which was passed in late March, requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom and shower facility that matches their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.

Left to right: Lou Bissette, Margaret Spelling and Thomas Shanahan speak to reporters. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Left to right: Lou Bissette, Margaret Spelling and Thomas Shanahan speak to reporters. Photo via Blake Hodge.

The system is locked in a legal fight with the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal, which are representing a group of plaintiffs including a transgender UNC – Chapel Hill employee – and a lawsuit from the United States Department of Justice.

Board chair Lou Bissette said after the board meeting on Friday that there were no assumptions over how much these services would cost the UNC System.

“If we, somehow, find a way out of these lawsuits early on, the cost would be less,” Bissette said. “If we’re in there for a long time – you know what legal fees are today – so the sky would be the limit.”

UNC general counsel Thomas Shanahan said that the two firms – Jones Day and WilmerHale – were chosen because of their expertise in the areas where UNC will require guidance.

The board has hired the outside legal services after the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office has refused to represent the state in any legal proceedings involving HB2.

Bissette sent a letter to Attorney General Roy Cooper on Friday asking that his office “begin setting aside funds sufficient to pay the attorney’s fees and expenses that the University will incur in defending these matters and work with us to ensure that the expenses are paid in full.”

“I’m not picking on him,” Bissette said of the request. “It’s a serious matter for us. It’s a lot of money.

“When you’re involved in lawsuits with the US Justice Department, you have to have adequate representation. And we intend to have adequate representation, but it’s not inexpensive.”

The board also passed a motion asking for the AG’s office to respond to the letter within 60 days. At that point, the board would ask the General Assembly to direct Cooper’s office to refund the legal fees.

A spokesperson with Cooper’s office issued a statement to WCHL after receiving the letter from Bissette saying, “The Attorney General would encourage the UNC Board of Governors to help fight HB2 by urging the governor and legislature to repeal the law which would quickly solve the problem.”

Margaret Spellings. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Margaret Spellings. Photo via Blake Hodge.

UNC System President Margaret Spellings reiterated what she has said before regarding HB2, saying that the 17 campuses are stuck between complying with state and federal law. Spellings added that there has been no change in policy at the UNC System and, therefore, they have not violated federal law, as the lawsuits claim they have.

“It is our position, as we’ve said repeatedly, that our policies that commit to a free and open atmosphere of nondiscrimination certainly stand,” Spellings said. “We are not in violation of Title IX or Title VII and do not believe that we have committed any acts against Title IX or Title VIII or any of the federal laws.

“There’s really no issue.”

A motion was filed on behalf of the UNC System in federal court on Friday asking for a stay of the proceedings on the grounds that there is no enforcement policy in HB2 and that the University System has no plans to enforce the law.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-board-of-governors-hires-legal-counsel-asks-attorney-general-to-pay-for-it

Tom Ross Honored with University Award by UNC Board of Governors

UNC President Emeritus Tom Ross is the 2016 recipient of the University Award.

It is the highest honor given by the UNC Board of Governors and recognizes exceptional service to higher education in North Carolina; the award is coming from the same board that came under fire for removing Ross as System President over the last 12 months.

Ross was honored with a banquet Thursday where friends, family and NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson spoke about his accomplishments.

A Greensboro native, Ross graduated from Davidson College and the UNC – Chapel Hill School of Law. He became UNC System President in 2011 after serving as the president of Davidson and executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. He also served 17 years on the bench as a Superior Court Judge and worked as the director of the NC Administrative Office of the Courts.

Ross served as the UNC President from 2011-2016, during which time he recommended new chancellors for 11 UNC campuses and broadened system-wide efforts to maximize efficiencies such as expanding online offerings, promoting shared services and increasing private fundraising. He also commissioned the first statewide analysis of the economic impact of higher education in North Carolina, which affirmed UNC’s critical role as an economic driver for the state economy.

Ross’ other honors include the Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, Distinguished Alumni Awards from both Davidson and the UNC – Chapel Hill School of Law and the UNC – Chapel Hill Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award.

He will continue his public service as the President of the Volker Alliance. On July 1, he joins the New York-based, non-partisan organization that seeks to advance effective implementation of public policies and rebuild the public’s trust in the government.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/tom-ross-honored-with-university-award-by-board-of-governors

Tom Ross Chosen to Lead Group Hoping to Rebuild Public Trust in Government

UNC System president emeritus Tom Ross has been named president of the Volcker Alliance.

The organization announced the move on Tuesday. The Volcker Alliance is a “nonpartisan organization formed in 2013 to address the challenge of effective execution of public policies and to rebuild public trust in government,” according to its website.

Volcker Alliance founder and chairman Paul Volcker released a statement announcing the appointment:

“The strains and pressures on government at all levels are plain to see. Tom Ross’s broad experience in education, government, and philanthropy will be brought to bear on all our efforts to improve government performance.”

Ross led the UNC System until January 2016, following a tumultuous 2015 that began with the UNC Board of Governors, appointed by a GOP-led General Assembly, announcing it would be looking for a replacement for Ross, a Democrat.

Ross is quoted in the release:

“I admire and am inspired by Mr. Volcker’s vision in creating the Alliance. It will be an honor for me to work alongside of him and the other outstanding board members to catalyze the development of a new generation of public servants and improve the effectiveness of our federal and state governments.”

Ross was named the first Terry Sanford Distinguished Fellow at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy in January. In that role he is leading an effort from a bipartisan group of retired North Carolina judges to show a model of what state election maps may look like if the General Assembly were to implement an independent redistricting commission. A federal court forced the legislature to redraw North Carolina’s congressional district map earlier this year after it ruled the prior rendering was unconstitutional.

Ross will continue in his position at Duke while leading the Volcker Alliance. He will begin his new position on July 1.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/tom-ross-chosen-to-lead-group-hoping-to-rebuild-public-trust-in-government

Margaret Spellings: UNC System ‘Can’t Operate’ Without Federal Funding

The UNC Board of Governors met in a special session on Tuesday to discuss the University System’s legal options following a flurry of litigation on Monday over House Bill 2.

The controversial North Carolina legislation was the subject of three federal lawsuits filed on Monday.

Board chair Lou Bissette echoed the words of System President Margaret Spellings, saying that the system is stuck in a difficult situation between complying with federal and state law.

“We are committed to resolving the legal issues in the university’s favor as quickly as possible,” Bissette told reporters after the board spent nearly three hours in a closed session meeting.

Governor Pat McCrory started off the legal action Monday by suing the United States Department of Justice over the agency’s claim HB2 violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger also sued the DOJ on Monday; the lawsuit from the legislators expanded the scope to the DOJ claim that HB2 violated Title IX of the Education Amendments and the Violence Against Women Act. United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch then capped off the festivities announcing the agency was suing the state, the governor, the Department of Public Safety and the University System for violating federal law.

The biggest economic downfall from the litigation could be the pulling of federal dollars from public schools in North Carolina, including the University System. Spellings said she and the board know those funds are “essential” to the 17-campus system’s operation.

“The board and I are completely committed and very clear that we can’t operate this place without federal funding,” Spellings said.

Bissette said turning off the faucet of federal dollars was a very real concern for the board but could not occur over night.

“And we would certainly be in contact with the Department of Justice long before any eventuality like that occurred,” Bissette said.

Spellings did say there had been an open channel of dialogue between the system and the DOJ before the lawsuits were announced Monday. Bissette added there has been continued conversation with the state General Assembly in the days since letters were sent from the DOJ to the University System, Governor Pat McCrory and the state Department of Public Safety notifying the agencies they were out of compliance with federal law.

Bissette described the conversations with lawmakers as “constructive” and “frequent.”

“The [lawmakers] we’ve talked to are very supportive of the University System,” Bissette said. “And many of them share some of the same frustrations that we do.”

Bissette did acknowledge that it has been a frustrating time for the entire board trying to navigate these legal waters.

Bissette said the board will now go forward retaining legal counsel to represent the University System in the lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice.

Bissette reiterated that the University System has not changed any of its antidiscrimination policies and would not going forward. Spellings then said that there is no enforcement mechanism in House Bill 2, and, therefore, the system campuses have taken no action to implement or enforce the law.

“We’ve not violated any provision of Title IX [of the Education Amendments] or Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act],” Spellings said, “as it relates to House Bill 2.”

The legal process form here may be a long one; with the University System trying to figure out which laws it must follow.

Watch the full press conference with Lou Bissette and Margaret Spellings:

http://chapelboro.com/featured/margaret-spellings-unc-system-cant-operate-without-federal-funding

President Spellings: What Should Her Agenda Be For UNC?

2016 has been a tumultuous year for UNC – with protests still ongoing against new system president Margaret Spellings, even before she’s had a chance to get into the job.

Will she be able to do her job, with those demonstrations continuing? What do university leaders see as being her agenda as system president? And what do they think she can – and should – try to accomplish?

“I think she’s absolutely going to be able to do her job,” said UNC-Chapel Hill faculty chair Bruce Cairns at last week’s WCHL Community Forum.

Cairns added that he doesn’t expect Spellings to pursue an agenda much removed from what we’ve seen before. “When you listen to President Spellings talk about what she would like to see happen,” he said, “I think it’s really about allowing us to continue to be a great public university system.”

But what agenda should Margaret Spellings be pursuing as system president? What should she be trying to do?

UNC senior Hayley Fowler is a reporter for the Daily Tar Heel who’s been following the controversy from the beginning; she says Spellings needs to assure students that they do have a voice in how the university is run.

“I think for students, it’s becoming increasingly important that she continue to build their trust and reach out to them personally,” she says. “The students that have been protesting don’t feel that they have a voice and they haven’t had access to the Board of Governors or Margaret Spellings herself…

“I think they’re working on opening that line of communication and dialogue, and that’s something that should be a priority moving forward, if they want to engage students in the conversation.”

But it’s not just students who want to build stronger relationships. Durham Tech president Bill Ingram says there’s also an expectation that Spellings should be working to build closer ties between the UNC system and North Carolina’s community colleges.

“She’s not the only new higher-education leader in North Carolina – Jimmie Williamson will be the new community college system president on July 1,” Ingram says. “Her ability to work with Dr. Williamson and others, and for her to encourage relationships between the (UNC) campuses and the community colleges, will be essential to her success.”

Even if Spellings is able to forge those relationships, it’s not likely the protests and demonstrations will be going away anytime soon. Many in the UNC system say they see Spellings’ appointment as political – Republicans on the Board of Governors selecting one of their own – and that concern is never going to go away, regardless of what Spellings does or doesn’t do on the job.

But is a political appointment necessarily a bad thing? John Locke Foundation communications director Mitch Kokai says there may be a benefit to having a Republican as UNC system president, even if the university’s agenda doesn’t change.

“Margaret Spellings comes in as someone that the Republicans who run the General Assembly will listen to,” he says. “I think a lot of folks (in the NCGA) saw Tom Ross as part of the Democratic establishment…(and) there was always a level of distrust that they won’t have with Margaret Spellings…

“And so I think she may come in, not even have any major, drastic differences in what she wants to see for the UNC system – but you’ll see doors be opened more often, just because of her pedigree.”

Kokai, Ingram, Fowler and Cairns made those comments during the “Higher Education” panel of the WCHL Community Forum. Revisit the entire forum here.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/spellings-what-should-her-agenda-be-for-unc

Chapel Hill Among 5 UNC System Schools Ranked Top 50 for African-Americans

UNC has been ranked the ninth best public university in the United States for African-Americans in a new list compiled by MONEY and Essence magazines.

The ranking methodology included the percentage of African-Americans in the student population, graduation rates for African-Americans, net price of a degree, early career salary and student debt load.

UNC was the ninth-ranked public university and registered 23rd among public and private schools.

UNC associate vice chancellor for diversity and multicultural affairs and chief diversity officer Taffye Benson Clayton said in a release:

“We are pleased to be acknowledged as one of the top institutions of higher education for African American students. As the nation’s first public university, with a distinct southern history and a global footprint, we are gratified by the growth and important milestones achieved in matters of race, diversity and inclusion at Carolina. We are encouraged by this recognition and aspire to accomplish even greater successes for African American students and all students on our campus.”

Several other institutions in North Carolina made the list. Duke ranked third overall. North Carolina A&T State University was ninth overall and second among public universities. Elizabeth City State University (37), North Carolina Central University (43) and Winston – Salem State University (48) also made the Top 50 list.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/chapel-hill-among-5-unc-system-schools-ranked-top-50-for-african-americans