Local News

Spellings focused on affordability, access following first 100 days

Posted June 20, 2016 6:52 p.m. EDT

After 100 days on the job, University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings said she has pinpointed some specific problems that are in need of solutions.

Spellings spent her first 100 days getting acquainted with the university system by touring all 17 institutions and posing three key questions to students and faculty.

"What are people proud of? What do they see in those institutions? What are they worried about, and what are their hopes for the future?" Spellings said.

Spellings said the answers were not surprising, but affirming.

"I heard a lot about affordability, about access. I heard an understanding that people get that higher education is the ticket to the American dream today," she said.

Spellings said the answer lies in getting students in and out of college more quickly.

"Regrettably, now they are taking too many classes before they graduate. So, we need to be very efficient about how to map their progress to a degree for starters," she said.

From the start, vocal protestors have questioned whether Spellings is the right person for the job. She has been criticized for her role as federal education secretary and as a board member of a for-profit school, as well as her record on LGBT issues, which dominated her first few months in office.

"You haven't been to a dinner party or cocktail party or talked to your out-of-state relatives that haven't brought up House Bill 2," she said.

The Justice Department said in May that the law violates Title IX, a federal gender equity in education law, and warned enforcement could jeopardize millions of dollars in funding for schools. Spellings said she reached out to the attorney general for guidance.

"We are looking for clarity between the tension between the state and federal law, and obviously it is going to be a process in the court," Spellings said.

Spellings said her top priority is now to secure pay raises for staff and faculty members.