During her visit to Pembroke on Friday, UNC System President Margaret Spellings touted the NC Promise as a “game-changer” designed to transform The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
The NC Promise initiative reduces the cost of tuition to $500 per semester beginning in the fall.
“North Carolina remains a national leader on college costs. And with NC Promise, it’s a leadership role that is set to grow,” Spellings said. “It’s a market-driven approach to ensuring affordability. I am excited to see the growth and opportunity it unleashes.”
Spellings’ visit was part of her State of the University Tour which includes stops at eight universities in the UNC System. She spoke to university, community and business leaders, faculty, trustees and students inside the Thomas Center for Entrepreneurship.
The tour is meant to reflect on recent initiatives taking place within UNC-system schools.
Spellings’ speech focused on economic mobility, accountability and public good – shared concerns that must be addressed to meet the goals of the UNC System.
“Today, we face another moment of reinvention, a moment that holds more opportunity than downside if we embrace our legacy of change and set higher expectations for ourselves,” she said.
“But just as the Croatan Normal School has evolved to become UNC Pembroke today, it’s clear that change doesn’t threaten your mission, it enriches and empowers it. Change is not a threat, it’s an opportunity.”
Spellings also highlighted the system’s current successes, noting the graduation rate has risen more than 6 percent in the last five years. As a whole, the UNC System has increased its annual research funding by more than $300 million since 2012.
“We’re filling jobs in vital fields, producing nearly 21,000 graduates each year with degrees and certificates in health sciences, engineering, and STEM, an increase of 29 percent since 2011,” she said.
During his remarks, Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings called UNCP an “engine of change.”
“UNCP is driving this change on a number of fronts, most notably economic development, health care and access to education,” Cummings said.
“This place, the Thomas Center for Entrepreneurship, is a key part of our efforts to spark job creation and investment. By harnessing university resources and expertise, the Thomas Center enables entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into action.”
UNCP, Cummings said, is also meeting critical workforce needs – none more critical than health care.
“UNCP is producing a pipeline of professionals in a number of health-related fields, including nursing and clinical mental health counseling.”
Cummings said he is committed to producing more graduates trained in critical workforce areas like teaching, health care and STEM, along with increasing graduation rates of rural and low-income students.
The fact that Pembroke was among a select few stops on the tour speaks volumes about Spellings’ commitment to UNCP, said Dr. James Jones, chairman of the UNCP Board of Trustees.
“There are 17 campuses in the UNC System and she could have chosen others for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is she is very fond of our chancellor,” he said.
“She is also very fond of the Lumbee people and together we are going to form a partnership that will take advantage of NC Promise and will provide an opportunity for an affordable education for our young people to get a good education.”
Friday marked Spellings’ sixth visit to UNCP since being hired in 2016.