UNC system president discusses issues facing the state

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Monday morning on the uptown campus of UNC Charlotte, the UNC system president delivered the State of the University. In that address, President Margaret Spellings says the state is, "strong but getting stronger."

It was the kick-off of the UNC System's 2018 State of the University Tour, highlighting the need for more affordable education, more opportunities for low-income students and more funding for research and growth.

"Your odds of graduating should depend on work ethic and not your parents resources," said Spellings.

The report shows that graduation rates have increased more than 6 percent in the last five years across the state and annual research funding has increased by more than $300 million since 2012.

However, Spellings wants more opportunities for low-income students.

"In North Carolina, our metro areas rank among the very worst in the nation for upward mobility. And right now, Charlotte is at the bottom of that list," said Spellings. "A student from a family in the bottom income quartile who enrolls at UNC Charlotte is nearly six times more likely to reach the top income quartile than a student who doesn't pursue higher education."

At UNC Charlotte, they have crafted a plan that will graduate 30 percent more low-income students by 2022 though different certificate and degree programs and a variety of financial aid opportunities. People will be able to track that each year using data dashboards that will be available online.

Across the state, the UNC system is trying to reach students that are much more diverse than 15 years ago.

"Our universities must support apprenticeship programs, grant credit for military service and partner with employers to offer on-the-job training that counts toward a degree or a certificate," said Spellings.

Spellings says another large part of giving more opportunities to low-income students is to keep tuition low. North Carolina remains a national leader on college costs.

"Relative affordability offers little comfort to working parents staring at a $22,000 cost of attendance here at UNC Charlotte. That's why, through the leadership of the General Assembly, the UNC Board of Governors and our institution's Trustees and Chancellors, we've put a lid on tuition," said Spellings.

Spellings also says research funding at UNCC will increase by 44 percent, some of which will focus on creating a workforce in areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

Copyright 2018 WBTV. All rights reserved.