Chapel Hill, N.C. — President Margaret Spellings said Thursday that she and other University of North Carolina administrators are working with state lawmakers to improve legislation that affects the 17-campus system.
In a brief report to the UNC Board of Governors, Spellings addressed bills dealing with tuition, a program to divert some students to community colleges and a cap on taxpayer support of university fundraising, as well as House Bill 2.
UNC leaders are "engaged in a conversation" with legislative leaders over a proposal that would set tuition at five campuses at $500 per semester for in-state students and guarantee no tuition increases for students at the other 11 campuses beyond what they pay as a freshman.
Fayetteville State University, UNC-Pembroke, Elizabeth City State University, Winston-Salem State University and Western Carolina University are the five schools targeted for the tuition reductions, and the first four have histories of serving minority students. Some oppose the idea, saying the cost-cutting will stigmatize the schools as lower quality.
Spellings agrees with bill sponsors that the aim is college affordability but says the idea needs some refinement.
"There is no doubt we share underlying goals of making college more affordable, making cost more predictable and stable and encouraging more students to pursue an education at UNC institutions that can and will welcome them," she said.
Lawmakers last year approved the fundraising cap, which restricts the amount of state funds each campus can use to support private fundraising, and the North Carolina Guaranteed Admission Program, or NCGAP, which calls on the university and community college systems to devise a program that would push some UNC students toward two-year schools at the start of their college careers.
Spellings said the cap needs to be removed, and the issues raised by NCGAP show that UNC "needs to craft a plan that focuses on bettering student outcomes."
She said House Bill 2 continues to hamper university operations. The law, which requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond to their birth gender and limits discrimination protections statewide for gay and transgender people, has led to a federal civil rights lawsuit and private lawsuits against the UNC system.
"We continue to hear concerns about HB2 and its various effects across the system," she said, noting that the Board of Governors plans to discuss on Friday hiring an attorney to represent the university system in the lawsuits.
Despite the legislative issues, Spellings said merit-based raises for faculty and staff is her top priority when working with lawmakers.
"(It's) a step we all know is needed to keep and develop the top talent we need in this university," she said.
Spellings recently wrapped up a tour of all 17 of the UNC system's schools.
"It's a thrill to see firsthand the kind of remarkable work that is happening every day across the university," she said.