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Spellings looks back at time as UNC President, most proud of low-cost tuition plan

Posted November 28, 2018 5:54 p.m. EST
Updated November 28, 2018 6:11 p.m. EST

— After three years on the job, University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings officially steps down in January.

Spellings, who announced last month she would be leaving her post heading the 17-campus system, still has two years left on her contract. The UNC Board of Governors has agreed to pay her $500,000 for a research leave provision in her contract and a projected performance bonus, as well as $35,000 in relocation expenses. The money won't come from taxpayer funds.

Spellings' said her time leading the UNC system started with protest over her political past. She previously served as U.S. education secretary under President George W. Bush.

"I was in the grocery store the other day, and someone came up to me and apologized for being grouchy with me when I first got here," she said Wednesday. "People like me stand between kind of the red and the blue, if you will, and try to bring folks together."

That meant balancing controversies over transgender bathroom rights and Confederate statues while mediating between liberal faculty and conservative lawmakers.

But does that mean she would do anything differently?

"You know, all of us, you just have to be true to ourselves and what we think is the right thing to do," Spellings said.

Spellings prefers to steer clear of times to she butted heads with a strong-willed Board of Governors.

And, as for legacy, she's most proud of instituting a system-wide strategic plan for accountability, opportunity and affordability.

"That $500-a-semester tuition program that's available at Western (Carolina University), Elizabeth City (State University) and (the University of North Carolina at) Pembroke...and students who absolutely would not be in college but for that program," she said.

Her sprint about to end, Spellings will head back home to Texas.

"It's a personal decision and I feel good about it...different path," she said. "You know, I'm really proud about what's been accomplished, and I think it's just the right time for me. Leaders are for a time."