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Getting Students Through the UNC System to Graduation Is the Goal of New Effort

June 04, 2018

By Jane Stancoll, The Herald Sun

CARY- UNC President Margaret Spellings announced a new innovation lab Monday, with the aim of improving student success on the path to graduation.

As part of her seventh stop on a statewide State of the University tour, Spellings said the Student Success Innovation Lab will fund and test initiatives to help students get through the university system. The project will be launched with $3 million from the ECMC Foundation and the John M. Belk Endowment.

The work began Friday with a gathering of faculty from across North Carolina, and the system will seek proposals from researchers and consultants.

It’s not enough to admit and enroll students in the state’s universities, Spellings said.

"By supporting promising initiatives at our campuses and funding researchers across UNC System institutions to rigorously evaluate those projects, the Student Success Innovation Lab will help us identify what works to raise completion rates and take those ideas to scale," she said.

In an address at Cary software company SAS, Spellings discussed ongoing efforts to improve on the university’s outcomes and its reach in boosting upward economic mobility. Among them: a statewide review of financial aid policies and practices, a statewide commission looking at the total education pipeline and "a full court press" on improving teacher training in UNC’s education schools.

"We are getting stronger. But that’s no cause for complacency," she said. "As I like to say, we’re pleased but not satisfied."

There’s a lot on the line, from the state’s economy to the future of thousands who currently have little hope of upward mobility despite North Carolina’s large network of universities and community colleges.

"Children born into poverty in the South have strikingly low odds of bettering their lives," Spellings said. "Too many of our rural counties have been left behind, despite a growing state economy."

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